British Universities Film & Video Council

moving image and sound, knowledge and access

The Lost World of Friese-Greene

The Lost World of Friese-Greene. 2006. GB. DVD. 177 minutes. £19.99

N.B. This review originally appeared in issue 64 of Viewfinder in October 2006.

Vanessa_ToulminAbout the reviewer: Professor Vanessa Toulmin is Director of the National Fairground Archive at the University of Sheffield and Chair in Early Film and Popular Entertainment. She is a leading authority on Victorian entertainment and film, and has completed extensive research on travelling showpeople. She also acts as a leading authority on new variety and circus and has acted as creative advisor to leading festivals in the United Kingdom including the Roundhouse in London and Showzam in Blackpool. Her recent publications include: Blackpool Illuminations: The Greatest Free Light Show on Earth (2012); Blackpool Tower: Wonderland of the World (2011); Blackpool Pleasure Beach: More Than Just an Amusement Park (2011); Blackpool’s Winter Gardens: The Most Magnificent Palace of Amusments in the World (2010); Electric Edwardians: The Story of the Mitchell & Kenyon Collection (2006);

Owing to the success of The Lost World of Mitchell & Kenyon – coproduced by the BBC and the British Film Institute – two additional projects have been launched under the Lost World franchise: The Lost World of Friese-Greene, broadcast earlier this year, and the soon to be released The Lost World of Tibet. The underlying motivation behind these programmes is to use archival collections held in the BFI Archive that take the viewer on a journey – in the case of the Mitchell & Kenyon Collection, the world of Edwardian Britain, and with the Claude Friese-Greene series, the colour film he produced from 1924/5 of his car journey through the United Kingdom. At this point I must declare a vested interest as the University of Sheffield acted as historical consultants for the BBC and also produced the additional archival DVD, Electric Edwardians, with the BFI.

The format for these programmes is simple, combining archival footage with reminiscences of viewers’ memories to show the impact of documentary footage from the first part of the 20th century and to produce a social history and in the process generate an educational resource that enlightens the general public as well as attracting viewers for the programme. The Friese-Greene series followed the same format, combining archival footage with interviews but differs in its historical approach to the subject. The rationale for the Friese- Greene documentary was both to identify the people filmed in the 1920s and to also reconstruct the journey, with the admirable Dan Cruickshank once again acting as a guide and commentator for the viewer.

The series works well on some aspects and the archival footage as backdrop to personal experience is used to its full advantage. However, my greatest reservation with the production as an educational resource is the limited amount of screen time actually given to the archival footage, as opposed to the recreation of the journey itself, and the overall lack of historical context. Fully unedited archival sequences are rarely used in the programme, with most of the material used as a backdrop for the interviewees or Cruickshank’s comments. This was the technique for the previous Mitchell & Kenyon production archive as well; however the original footage sequences were no longer than two minutes in length whereas with Friese-Greene some archival sequences last up to eight or even ten minutes and deserve fuller coverage.

The DVD’s extras include a wonderful interview with famed cinematographer Jack Cardiff talking about his relationship with Friese-Greene and full interviews and archival footage not used in the original. My particular favourite is the interview with Thomas Ferguson, filmed by Friese-Greene as a child, interviewed talking about his father Hughie Ferguson, who played for Cardiff City and scored the winning goal in the FA Cup Final in 1927

Professor Vanessa Toulmin

Delicious Save this on Delicious |