Network DVD and Strike Force Entertainment / Region 2
In this age of instant global communication it is easy to forget how hard it was in the pre computer era to find out info about what was actually going on in the world, take yourself back even further to 1916, pre talking pictures and when cinema was still very much in its infancy and the first world war was leaving bloody casualties by the million and you might begin to get some idea of the power that the amazing Battle of the Somme would have had on its audience when it was first seen.
Network have teamed up with the Imperial War Museum to release a completely digitally restored version of this landmark and pioneering documentary, made by Geoffrey Malins and John McDowell (who were the official British documenters actually working at the front line) and intended to be a piece of propaganda that would show the folks back home what was going on and hopefully persuade even more Tommy’s to join up, it ended up becoming so much more than this, showing the full reality and horror of war for the first time.
You can guarantee if you have ever seen iconic images of WWI soldiers “going over the top” or trudging wearily with a blank look in their eyes then the images have come from BOTS, the fighting on the Somme started on 1 July 1916 but the battle lines had been drawn for some time and the over the top footage shot by Malins and McDowell was actually one of the few staged moments in the whole thing, being shot a few days previously during a test run, most of the action shot by the pair though was from the first frantic day of battle including the attack on Hawthorn Ridge Redoubt.
An incredibly important and moving piece of film making, easy to see why UNESCO have added the doco to their “memory of the world” list, which is part of a project to ensure that the collective consciousness of the world doesn’t forget what war is really about.
Looking absolutely spot on, the release also includes a 36 page booklet, some previously missing footage, interviews with key members of the restoration team, a full orchestral score by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra as well as a collection of the songs of the time that were recommended as accompaniment by trade journals of the time.