Monday, June 21, 2010

Search for Captain Thunderbolt

Australia's National Film and Sound Archives has launched an international search for a full copy of the Australian film Captain Thunderbolt. I have mentioned the movie before because it has both New England and family connections.

Captain Thunderbolt Trailer Sneak Peek from NFSA on Vimeo.

Filmed around Armidale and Uralla in 1951, the film made its international debut at the Capitol Theatre in Armidale in 1953. It attracted little interest from Australian cinemas, but finally made its money back from international sales.

Never a long movie, around 69 minutes in the original, the only copy that survives is a shortened TV version.
NFSA is looking for a full copy because it was one of a very few feature films made in Australia at the time, and is also seen as social commentary.

While the film does tell the story of one of Australia's bushrangers, one who has since acquired almost mythic proportions, it should not be read as history: New England historian Robin Walker rudely remarked that the film only connected with fact by accident!

From my perspective, the film was a very big thing. I don't remember it being made, I was very young, but I do remember the showing at the Capitol Theatre. Later I saw it again at school, but I don't know whether the second was the full or shortened version.

It wasn't just the fact that it dealt with a New England story, but also the interlocked connections between the film and all the extras that appeared in it, including my father and aunt. I was very young, but I should record my full memories at some point, including the things that I was told. Who knows whether or not the information was accurate, but it provides a feel.

When I went through the stills provided by the NSFA, I could remember some of the locations.


Mark said...

There are quite a few stories on Thunderbolt and then there are many more versions of those stories.

I've also learnt that he may have even fled to Canada his poor brother was strung up for the cameras!

Jim Belshaw said...

It's quite fascinating, Mark, how certain stories or characters can reach mythic proportions. Then the story of the stories really becomes the story. Thunderbolt is one such!

David Donaldson said...

True that any novel, drama or film will make the best effect from the "facts".
This film has a notable place as early work by people who gained distinction in the later development of Australian film making. Back then, all the distribution companies, and the two major theatre chains, were overseas owned and Very Uninterested.
Also as an early statement in popular media about the situation of indigenous people -- and this element is now largely missing from the version shortened for TV!
Keep an eye on the extensive link-filled pages from National Film and Sound Archive:
Make contact with the Search for the proper film through

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi David. How nice to get a comment from you! I will run another, fuller, post, including the Aboriginal linkage. I actually rememember that from the original film, but not from the second showing I saw at school.

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi again, David. I have an extras photo that matches one of the shots from the film!