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Guinea Pig Club
The Reconstruction of Burned Airmen in WWII (1x60)



Through the eyes of the most painfully exclusive club in the world, this documentary tells the WWII story of two pioneering plastic surgeons, Sir Archibald McIndoe and Dr. Ross Tilley. Their revolutionary and holistic approach to reconstructive surgery changed the face of history, bringing airmen so badly burned and broken they were ready to die, back into the world of living.

In a hospital just south of London, England, the two doctors set about restoring their patients confidence and will to live. Plastic surgery was in its infancy yet they perfected radical skin graft techniques still used today and prevented the amputations so common to burn victims of that time. There were also major changes to the hospital environment: no psychiatrists, no self-pity, and no shortage of attractive nurses. The doctors philosophy was to get their patients up and socializing as soon as possible, and the small town of East Grinstead earned a new name: “The Town That Never Stared”.




The Guinea Pigs reunited in East Grinstead half a century later for what was likely their final gathering. Interwoven with startling archival footage and still photographs, British and Canadian members of “the old sty” tell the dramatic stories of their accidents and injuries, treatments and surgeries performed, and the influence of the Club on their recovery – all with one underlying theme: it’s not about having the courage to die, but finding the courage to live.

Shot on 16:9 digital betacam by a team of creative storytellers, including award-winning director Shel Piercy (Leo’s Journey: the Story of the Mengele Twins).

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developed by RB Productions