On Sunday 19 April at 8pm, Electric Palace Cinema in Hastings will be screening the UK premiere of Les Croix de Bois (Wooden Crosses).
To coincide with the centenary of the First World War (1914-1918), the Electric Palace cinema in Hastings has been showing a season of war films for the past year, curated by Paul Sargent, former head curator of the Imperial War Museum Film Archive.
Raymond Bertrand’s 1931 classic Les Croix de Bois, restored by Pathé in 2014, was screened as part of the official archive selection at Cannes 2014. Recently released in the UK, the Electric Palace is showing it as the ninth film in its First World War film season.
Les Croix de Bois is a pacifist work of enormous empathy and chilling despair - a cinematographic masterpiece which was France’s answer to All Quiet on the Western Front. Using a masterful and innovative arsenal of film techniques, it harrowingly depicts the pointlessness of war. One of the most underrated films in French cinema of the 1930s it merits a specific place in the history of cinema as among the most terrifying portrayals of World War One.
On 1 July 1916 one of the greatest catastrophes ever was inflicted on the British Army. This was the opening phase of what became known as the Battle of Somme and the British casualties on the first day alone were in excess of 57,000. What is not so well known is that parts of this battle were filmed by two men – J B McDowell and Geoffrey Malins. An even lesser known fact is that Malins was born here in Hastings.
Malins was born in Russell Street in Hastings on 18 November 1886. His father was a hairdresser and his mother a maid. He originally trained as a portrait photographer, although little is known of his early life. He moved to London around 1910 where he found work in the film industry and by the outbreak of war in 1914 he was working for one of the early newsreel companies as a cameraman. His ability as a cameraman assisted in his being nominated as one of two official cameramen to go to the Front at the end of 1915 to film alongside British Forces. His filming, together with McDowell, of the opening phase of the Somme resulted in some of the most iconic images of the First World War.