Back in June last year, I carried a story on the Search for Captain Thunderbolt. Launched by the National Film Sound Archive , the aim was to find a full copy of this historic film.
This post drew a comment from David Donaldson who helped inspire the search from the film. In turn, I followed this up with New England Story - the making of Captain Thunderbolt, a purely personal perspective on the making of the film.
Through the miracles of blogging, this drew comments from the Australian family of New Zealander Colin Scrimgeour whose Australian company provided the vehicle for the film. Now there is an important sub-text here in terms of of the politics and intellectual life of both Australia and New Zealand, for both Cecil Holmes and Colin Scrimgeour were significant figures on the left and both suffered for their views. I mean to write something on Colin on my personal blog at some point.
The National Film and Sound Archive commentary on the film noted the influence of Holmes's views on the film. Not that that mattered with Captain Thunderbolt from a local viewpoint, for the locals who participated including my father and aunt just saw it as a film. Indeed, there is a fascinating juxtaposition in that Thunderbolt played by heart throb Grant Taylor actually rode, or so the story goes, my grandfather's horse. My grandfather was then the the Country Party member for New England. In this context, David Donaldson wrote:
In the original post, Jim said "Certainly I didn't see it as an explicit political statement, nor (I think) did those locals who took part in its making or watched it. Certainly I have never heard comments along those lines. It was just a film, part of our history."
Having observed some Cold War applications in Sydney in that time, I can say that some of us certainly did read in those themes then. I think that Holmes was trying to make relevance and interest. He saw the world in those political terms, so that was the way he thought in the film. It was not explicitly intended as a political statement, as the NFSA note perhaps suggests.
It may be that Holmes' vigilators would have seen it that way, though!
I suspect that when I first saw the film and then later I saw it simply as the normal Australian expression of support for the underdog. I also think that David may be right in his views.
In a recent comment on the post, David said that the NSFA search for the film appeared to be dragging. Here he wrote:
So far as I know, the NFSA has to date (April 2011) done nothing to advance the Search which was purportedly launched at Sydney Film Festival. It is up to the non-professionals to work outside NFSA to find the film, as well as to press the NFSA cushion.
Can you help? The original full copy of the film may well be in a store somewhere. If you don't know would you mind re-transmitting this message.