Colin Ross film prints in archives

Ross’s fame during the interwar years, both in Germany and abroad, led us to believe that we might find a sizeable number of prints of his six feature-length travel films in German and foreign film archives. Records of their screenings—announcements, advertisements, reviews— in, for example, Amsterdam, Budapest, Łódź, Luxemburg, Paris, Prague, Riga, or indeed in Berlin or Munich, pointed us to possible repositories. Except for the fiction films on which he worked, notably the 1926 psychological drama Geheimnisse einer Seele for which he was credited as co-scenarist (and in which he appeared in a cameo role), only a few prints of his travelogues could be retrieved, despite an inquiry sent to c. 60 film heritage institutes worldwide. One reason for this may be that access is restricted to these materials, for instance because they are still considered enemy property. Furthermore, Ross’s enthusiastic, longtime association with National Socialism could have led to suppression, if not elimination in deaccession procedures, of his film oeuvre. In fact, for that reason distribution of his films, whether explicitly partisan or not, may have been prohibited in some countries.

Ross’s type of travelogue constituted a singular brand in the interwar years: on one hand it was (geo)politically programmatic and increasingly propagandistic, while on the other his custom to travel with his family provided easy spectator identification. For those reasons we find it worthwhile to know of any other prints. We would like to repeat our request of the abovementioned inquiry for any information about Ross’s travelogues, in whatever shape or form.

NB. The English translations listed, of course, are literal; distributors were wont to liberties in deciding on local release titles.

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To date, our inventory of materials retrieved—or unretrieved—is as follows:

Of Ross’s first travel feature, Zentralasiatische Reise v. Colin Ross (Colin Ross’s Central-Asian journey; Germany │ Deulig │ 1922) and its 1923 version Der Weg nach Osten (The Road to the East) no materials at all have been found.

Of his breakthrough film Mit dem Kurbelkasten um die Erde (With the film camera around the world; Germany │Ufa │ 1925) two incomplete, partly overlapping 35mm nitrate prints, each c. 40’ long, are held by the Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv, Berlin, and Gosfilmofond, Moscow. Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv also holds two reels of the film’s Bali section, with intertitles mostly in English.

A fairly complete 35mm acetate print of his African sojourn Die erwachende Sphinx (The awakening sphinx; Germany │ Ufa │ 1927) is held by the Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv; the sequence of events suggests a mix-up in the montage of this print. During the same trip Ross also shot footage, with additional studio-shot material, for a family film titled Als Dreijähriger durch Afrika (Through Africa at age three; Germany │Ufa│ 1928). Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv also holds a complete 35mm acetate print of this film. A virtually complete, yet decaying 35mm nitrate print is held by the Austrian Film Museum, Vienna.

Of Ross’s first feature-length sound film Achtung Asien! Achtung Australien! Das Doppelgesicht des Ostens (Attention Asia! Attention Australia! The double face of the east; Germany (Ufa) 1930), Gosfilmofond holds an incomplete 35mm acetate print. Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv holds two 35mm nitrate prints. One is virtually complete, although its montage, for one reason or another, has been  mixed up in one instance; in a planned restoration the original montage will be restored; the other is a shorter French-language version. Furthermore, the same archive has one spin-off for the educational market, consisting of excerpts compiled in 1931 by Felix Lampe of Ufa’s Kulturabteilung, titled Australien und Neuseeland.

Finally, of Das neue Asien (New Asia; Germany │ Tobis-Degeto │ 1940) a fairly complete 35mm acetate print is held at Gosfilmofond. An incomplete 35mm nitrate print is deposited at the Imperial War Museum, London. As this print is held under the Enemy Property Act, access is restricted; for research purposes a 35mm acetate print has been struck in the 1980s.

For more detail on the examined prints, see the Library folder "Ross film prints in archives".

Nico de Klerk / Joachim Schätz



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