19 October 2014 | allenrogerj
This is the biggest electric train set a boy ever had!
...said Orson Welles of a film set. Walter Summers had a couple of battleships and several cruisers as bonuses. A restoration of a silent film depicting these two battles. The ships which played the originals are named, the human actors are not, which shows their comparative importance. As far as there is a hero, it is the German Admiral von Spee, who is shown as knowing his fate almost from the start, but the film is remarkably fair in its depiction of people. The only comic aspect- its portrait of the Falklands Defence Force as food for powder who'll fill a pit as well as better- shifts to recognition that like Falstaff's men they show a raggle-taggle courage as admirable as it is absurd. But it is the ships and machinery that dominate the film. There is an extra-ordinary collage sequence depicting the fitting-out of the battle-cruisers at Devonport which is a feat of virtuosity worthy of Eisenstein; there are repeated shots of the engines and the stokers' feats in getting up steam in H.M.S. Kent's pursuit of the nominally faster SMS Nurnberg are concentrated on as exercises in co-operative skill and dedication. The ships themselves- real ships, we are constantly reminded- shown on the ocean and the pattern of guns across the screen could come from futurist paintings. Finally, the specially commissioned score, played, appropriately, by a Royal Marine band, is a fine accompaniment.