I recently sent Kevin Brownlow a film he had requested for a friend who is writing a book on the director, Clarence Brown, that they hadn’t seen.
I included in the package to him another film that I had recently acquired and that I thought may be of interest to him, this was the 1924 silent documentary film ZEEBRUGGE by H. Bruce Woolfe and A.V. Bramble.
The film was made by British Instructional Films Limited, runs for around 60mins and captures the brilliant and heroic raid of April 23rd 1918. It’s aim, combined with a raid on Ostende, was to block the Flanders U-boat and destroyer flotillas in their Belgium bases. The print I had received appeared to be restored, it was colour tinted and had been given a sympathetic orchestral score.
Here is Kevin’s email to me about the film:
“Gosh, Neil, your package had more impact than you could imagine. When I was a kid, I acquired a 9.5mm film cut down to 1 reel about the Zeebrugge operation. It had a shot in it that I’ve never forgotten because I couldn’t work out how they did it. An officer is shot in a night scene and you can see the silver flash as the bullet goes in his back. There was no CGI in those days, and there was no other way it could be done. It stayed in my memory, puzzling me until last night when I looked at your dvd of ZEEBRUGGE. Of course – the simplest methods are often the best. They scratched the negative horizontally at exactly the right moment for just one frame!.
It was so nostalgic to see those scenes – and in much better quality, and beautifully tinted. I thought the 9.5mm was an abridgment of HEARTS OF OAK (1933) although I could never work out what happened to the actors – Frank Cellier etc. This explains it all Despite the naff miniatures, it is done with a sense of bravura rare in these reconstructions. Every time I go to Belgium, I try to get to Zeebrugge just because of that film…
Thank you so much,