Monday, 2 June 2014


The British Film Institute’s wonderful Flipside[1] series has done it again. Released in April 2013 Captured highlight’s some of the rediscovered work of British screenwriter and film director John Krish.

The main film on this DVD is a film that was classified as restricted and not declassified until 41 years after it was made. Captured (1959) was allegedly based on the experiences of soldiers captured by the North Koreans/Chinese Armies during the Korean War which took place between 1950 and 1953 between the Republic of Korea supported by the United Nations and the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea who were supported by China and the Soviet Union. It highlighted ‘the bad treatment’ of prisoners and was meant to show what to expect if soldiers were captured and interned in a prison camp. This Military Training Film was supervised by an officer appointed by the General Staff and produced for the Army Kinema Corporation by World Wide Pictures and was approved and given a Crown copyright number B1131. The movie also had a civilian advisor who had previously been a captive himself, but after ten days the man started to experience fits. It all became to real for him and he was taken off the film, Krish finished the film without him.
The brainwashing begins!
We are in a prison camp in North Korea in 1950; it has no bared wire and no watchtowers. Twelve UN prisoners are held in huts, built to hold three, therefore tensions run high between the men which in theory makes it easier for there captors to brainwash and interrogate them! Mine you if you invade someone else’s country you got to be pretty naive to think they are going to welcome you with open arms. It was actually made over a six-week period with the exteriors shot in a purpose made village in an isolated part of Surry to closely resemble a Korean village. The idea was to make the conditions as real as possible for the actors that in turn created a very life like situation this was done in a purpose made studio in Barnet where we also witness the ‘water boarding’ which was carried out on actor Alan Dobie for real. The Korean/Chinese, all non-actors, were culled from local students and restaurant workers. 
Some where in Surrey.
A very strong and dramatic drama with actors that manage to convey a real and horrid situation, although Dobie tends to over egg the role of the brave British soldier that with save his fellow inmates from the brutal brainwashing of the Communist guards! John Krish hoped that this film would enable him to break into feature films but the fact that the War Office put a restricted notice on it did not help his case!

Also included, as part of the BFI Flipside release is a very interesting fantasy film that was eventually banned for 21 years. The Finishing Line (1977) was made for British Transport Films to deter children from vandalising and playing on the railway’s. It starts with a wee lad sitting astride a railway bridge over looking the tracks he imagines a children’s sports day which involves races and games that include railway vandalism and trespass which results in horrendous injury’s or death for the school kids willingly taking part. The ‘games’ include breaking through the railway fence and running across the line, playing chicken with an oncoming train and throwing large stones and bricks at a passing passenger train. Finally we have the great tunnel walk where the children walk through a dark 4 mile tunnel with a train approaching. With each of these action’s the consequences are graphically depicted with the walking wounded, the injured in side the train and dead children laid out along the track side. This allegedly is amongst the most daring public safety films ever made and generated an awful lot of public debate, which you can understand after watching the film. A surreal and bizarre piece of film making, if it was not meant to be so serious would remind you of a Pink Floyd video or a Monty Python sketch? 
These children will never cross The Finishing Line.
Two very short Public Information films are also included Sewing Machine (1973) where we witness the last minutes of a little girls life as she runs into a road and gets killed by a passing car. Controversially this was the first time a black child was seen in a government commercial which coursed letters of complaint to be written by the ‘wonderful British public’! Keep matches away from children was the subject of Searching (1974). It shows the interior of a completely burnt out family home and Krish uses a soundtrack of people and children screaming, when they realise that they cannot escape from the burning building, to great effect!
This wee child will be dead in 30 seconds. 

The danger of matches.

Maidstone Prison.
The final film on this DVD is H.M.P (1976), which was made as a recruiting film to attract men to work in Her Majesties Prison Service. Krish was allowed a free hand to work in any prisons other than Brixton - he chooses Maidstone. Using non-actors he shows what is involved in the job of a prison warden. The men spend four weeks in various departments observing what constitutes prison life. We are witness to some very interesting discussions between our trainees and the man that work in the prison and we learn that if the new men are to succeed then they will have to show humanity towards the people in their charge. But it was agreed by the majority of the people involved in this documentary that we have no idea how to deal with crime and criminals!

John Krish Director and Screenwriter.  
Born in London in 1923 John Krish never wanted to be a film director, he wanted to be a musician. But when he was 13/14 years old he saw Night Mail (1936) and fell in love with one of the sequences, so by the time he was sixteen he decided he wanted to earn his living in the film industry and managed to get a job at the old Denham Film Studios, coincidently as second assistant to Harry Watt, the director of Night Mail, on the movie Target for Tonight (1941). Also working in the cutting room as assistant editor. Called up for National Service he went to work for the Army film unit at Pinewood where he was assistant editor on The True Glory (1941) a co-production of the US Office of War Information and the British Ministry of Information that documented the victory on the Western Front from Normandy to the collapse of the Third Reich. As well as the army he made documentaries for other film units including The Crown and British Transport.  He also worked for the Children’s Film Unit on The Savage Gang in 1958. Making in all four feature films none of which he was particularly happy with, including The Man Who Had Power Over Women (1971), which stared Carol White. He also worked on the TV series The Avengers in 1967. But it was with documentaries that John Krish made his reputation and now thanks to BFI Flipside we get a chance to rediscover and reassess a section of this director’s body of work.

[1] FLIPSIDE: rescuing weird and wonderful British films from obscurity and presenting them in new high-quality editions.

No comments:

Post a Comment