To commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of World War One, the BFI National Archive has restored one of the finest films of the British silent era: The Battles of Coronel and Falkland Islands is a thrilling reconstruction of two decisive naval battles from the early stages of the conflict.
The BFI’s new restoration will be released in cinemas nationwide on 17 October following its world premiere Archive Gala screening with live score at the BFI London Film Festival on 16 October.
This virtually unknown film commemorates two key battles faced by the Royal Navy in the early days of World War One – the Battle of Coronel which took place on 1 November 1914 and the Battle of the Falkland Islands on 8 December 1914.
The Battle of Coronel, off the coast of Chile, was a triumph for German Admiral von Spee – the first defeat of the British navy for a hundred years. The retaliatory strike was instigated six weeks later by ace British tactician Admiral Fisher who sent two large battle cruisers, Invincible and Inflexible, to the South Atlantic to restore British supremacy. Summers’ film was originally released on Armistice Day to act as a memorial to the thousands who died. Filmed on real battleships supplied by the Admiralty, this monumental production was shot mostly at sea near Malta, with the Isles of Scilly a convincing stand-in for the Falklands. Scenes of naval warfare have rarely been captured on film with such a degree of authenticity. No models and no trick photography were employed, although some interiors were recreated in the studio. It is an astonishingly effective piece of filmmaking, which glories, like Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin, in the power and beauty of the machine.
Certificate: PG Dsistributor: BFI Distribution
Dir. Walter Summers, UK, 1927, 105 mins
Cast: Roger Maxwell, Craighall Sherry