The film was the first to be directed by Walter Summers who went on to great success with battle recreations for British Instructional Films such as Ypres (1925), Mons (1926), Nelson (1926) and the marvelous The Battles of Coronel and Falkland Islands (1927) (reviewed here).
|Rex Davis and friend|
In addition to Bryony Dixon, the film was also introduced by Sir Sydney Samuelson whose father, GB Samuelson not only produced the film but also photographed it and played a role in the writing. Samuelson Senior had an extraordinary career and was involved in over a hundred films of which, sadly, only around a tenth survive, so when this film was rediscovered in a loft somewhere in Holland there was much cause for celebration.
Now restored by the BFI from this last surviving print (now held by EYE) the film has English intertitles and is a delight for the eye.
|Summers staged some huge reconstructions for the film|
That easy going, clear-eyed great Britain can spot a phoney a mile off and someone in need of genuine help all at the same time: war-hardened and quick-witted there was no time to be wasted on fripperies.
|A Britain still mourning|
Danny can’t find work and traipses around hoping for the best when it seems society has passed him by. At the docks, where he has once again failed to find work, he spots a familiar-looking horse… It’s one the animals used by his unit to pull the guns and he recognises not only its distinctive white head and “socks” but also the scar it gained when they were both wounded in battle.
|Danny takes action and the pals escape|
The scenes at the dock are an evocation of trade past and as Danny rides through narrow terraced streets we can see the wider environment – Wapping? – he knocks over a peeler on his escape but manages to find a house with a stable.
|Molly confronts the strange man in her yard|
By the time the Police come calling she’s already decided whose side she’s on… As she makes Danny some of her excellent coffee we learn the story in flash back. There are scenes from Jutland – mighty battle cruisers firing their 18 inch guns – where her brother died and then on the front where Danny and the horse fought. Some of this may be stock footage but its assembly and production clearly foreshadow Summers' later work.
The film is a balm for an audience still feeling the losses of the conflict as well as the economic impact. There’s a telling moment at the dock when Danny sneers at boxes of toy soldier all “Made in Germany”… then, as now the problem was always what the other fellas are doing but, in truth, the situation in Germany was far worse. But since when have facts influenced local sentiments?
|Here to help: George Foley|
John Sweeney accompanied with his usual verve – foot-sure improvisations that moved with the surprisingly sentimental and optimistic subject. He’d earlier improvised over a few minutes of footage showing the studios used by this and other Samuelson films. Sight-unseen he produced the perfect background for set painting, dancing rehearsals and directing: he could play along to accounting or even marketing and make it interesting!
The film is available on the EFG portal which shows the EYE copy with Dutch subtitles although an English translation is available.