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The Enemy Within

The Enemy Within (Roland Stavely, 1918) dp Franklyn Barrett; Reg L. 'Snowy' Baker (Jack Airlie), John Faulkner (Henry Brasels), Lily Molloy; spy actioner; at 5500 ft (about an hour) this is the earliest feature film to survive complete (Pike & Cooper: 76)


The main purpose of the film however was not to express concern about subversion in Australia, although it does incidentally reflect current paranoia; rather it was a Boy's Own adventure designed to display the heroic feats and daring stunt-work of one of Australia's most popular sportsmen, Reg L 'Snowy' Baker. During the course of the film he performs several amazing leaps in pursuit of the enemy, from horse to horse, and from a rooftop to a moving wagon. He also dives eighty feet into a bay to rescue the heroine from the tide, and soundly defeats a pack of hoodlums in hand-to-hand fighting. Pike & Cooper: 77.

This is the earliest film I've seen almost complete. I didn't see Snowy jump from one car to another, but ticked all the other boxes. The silly heroine is lying on a rock, not actually tied up, wearing her swimming costume, and only metres from the shore—but still she has to be 'rescued'. Standards of beauty must have changed: she's so 'plain' (to be polite) that she looks like a female impersonator!

References and links

Pike, Andrew & Ross Cooper 1998, Australian Film 1900-1977: A Guide to Feature Film Production, OUP, Melbourne: 63-64.

Reade, Eric 1975, The Australian Screen: A Pictorial History of Australian Film-making, Lansdowne Press, Melbourne: 81 (image), 82, 84.

Garry Gillard | New: 28 October, 2018 | Now: 26 November, 2019