Australasian Cinema > films > The Exploits of the Emden, 1928

The Exploits of the Emden

Exploits Of The Emden, The (Louis Ralph, 1926, Ken G. Hall, 1928) Munchner Lichtspielkunst A G (Emelka) wr. R. Werner, dp Ewald Daub, Werner Bohne, Arthur von Schwertfuhrer, Josef Wirsching, 9000 ft; Louis Ralph, Fritz Greiner, Jack Mylong-Munz, Charles Willy Kayser, Maria Minzenti, and former officers and marines of Emden, including Kapitanleutnant von Mucke;—First National Pictures, prod. wr. ed. Ken G. Hall, dp Claud C. Carter, asspro Victor Bindley; dramatised history: reconstruction of the battle Sydney vs Emden which the latter lost, 9 November 1914

Hall recut and added to a German film, Unsere Emden (Louis Ralph, 1926) to make this reconstruction of its battle with HMAS Sydney - which resulted in the Emden being beached - with the full cooperation of the RAN.

The National Film and Sound Archive (Screensound) has a copy of this film, but does not advertise it nor make it easily available to buy on DVD.

Having written, produced and directed the new sequences for about half the Emden film, all I had to do was edit it, write subtitles, cut them in and then merge the whole with the German sequences we had retained. Everything to do with Sydney was new, expanded footage. With that done and the work-print at the laboratory for negative matching, my major remaining chore was to get back to the job I was really paid for and create the Australia-wide publicity and advertising campaign to sell the film to the theatres and the public. Ken G. Hall, Australian Flm: The Inside Story, Summit Books, Sydney, 1980: 37.

This semi-documentary reconstructs Emden's career during the First World War and her final confrontation with HMAS Sydney in November 1914. A romantic sub-plot involves a German officer in China who sends for his wife to join him. When war is declared, he is assigned to Emden. He meets his wife again by chance when Emden takes aboard passengers from the doomed Diplomat in the Indian Ocean. The officer is one of the survivors of the final engagement with Sydney.
The 9000-foot German film, Unsere Emden, made in 1926, was bought for distribution in Australia by First National Pictures, but when prints arrived in 1927, the use of model ships and the casting of heavily Teutonic types to play Australians caused First National some concern. In an attempt to make the film presentable for Australian audiences, John C. Jones, the managing director of First National, assigned his publicity director, Ken G Hall, to the task of reshooting the sequences dealing with Emden's encounter with Sydney. Hall was later to become a major figure in Australian film production (see On Our Selection, 1932), but at this time his experience was limited to publicity and exhibition, and he had only handled film physically when re-editing silent films to meet the demands of Australian censorship.
With assistance from a participant in the Sydney-Emden engagement, Hall prepared a scenario, which introduced some characteristic touches of broad humour, including a sequence of an Australian sailor on Sydney who busily collects his debts before the battle with Emden begins. In January 1928, Hall approached the Australian Naval Board in Melbourne, and found its members eager to co-operate because of the potential propaganda value of the film. In March, Hall and two newsreel cameramen, Claud C. Carter and Ray Vaughan, began shooting at Jervis Bay, where Sydney was exercising. Naval officers and ratings filled the necessary acting roles. Six thousand feet of film were exposed in one week, and when edited by Hall, increased the length of the German film to over 10,000 feet. After approval from the Naval Board, Hall launched a thorough publicity campaign and the film was released on 21 September 1928 at the Prince Edward Theatre, Sydney, with strong commercial results. Pike & Cooper: 146-7.

References and Links

Hall, Ken G. 1980, Australian Flm: The Inside Story, Summit Books, Sydney.

Pike, Andrew & Ross Cooper 1998, Australian Film 1900-1977: A Guide to Feature Film Production, revised edition, Oxford University Press, Melbourne.


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