Review, Tomb Raider I: Tomb Raider I – III Remastered, 2024, Aspyr/Crystal Dynamics/Saber Games, RRP: £24.99 (Steam/PC version)

Llewella Chapman (University of East Anglia, UK)

17 February 2024


‘Made by the fans, for the fans’ very much sums up this lovingly-crafted and faithful remaster of the first three games and their accompanying expansion packs of the Tomb Raider franchise, originally developed by Core Design and published by Eidos Interactive between 1996 and 1998.

Fans of these games have been calling for them to be remastered for many years. Following the publishing takeover of the franchise by Embracer in 2022 and the commission that shortly followed, Aspyr employed fans experienced in creating their own Tomb Raider engines, renders, mods and artworks in order to achieve this, including Timur ‘XProger’ Gagiev, Yousef ‘Troye’ Shaqqouri, Michael Chaban (Arsunt), Giovanni Lucca, Konrad Majewski, Monika Erosova (Raina Audron), Ian Turner, Axel Hatté (Delca) and Jason Chester, as well as others.[1] As XProger tweeted on the day of the remaster’s release, aptly on Lara Croft’s fictional birthday:

I am grateful for the heads of @SaberGames for trusting me to lead the project and assemble a dream team of true fans … From the beginning, we had complete freedom and set ourselves an impossible goal, which could only be approached by a small ‘Development Team’ of crazy people, ready to work 24/7 [over the] next year with an absolute vision of what and for whom we [were] doing. Thanks to all the original developers and community, we eagerly read ALL your comments, interviews, reviews and reactions. The responsibility to all of you was higher than the fear of deadlines and the insane amount of work.

(Twitter, 14 February 2024, 10.20pm, https://twitter.com/XProger_san/status/1757892574092636206)

 

Besides XProger’s tweet thread acknowledging fan involvement in the remastered games, the admission of working ‘24/7’ and the ‘insane’ amount of work over the period of a year echoes the pressures of the small development team who originally worked on Tomb Raider (1996). This included crunch and tight deadlines, leading to the high levels of exhaustion that some of the original team experienced, which have often been overlooked when discussing and celebrating the ingenuity of what made this game, and its subsequent sequels, remake and now a remaster, special and appreciated by many.

It is with this understanding that I review the remaster of Tomb Raider. This will be followed by further reviews of Tomb Raider II (originally released in 1997) and Tomb Raider III (originally released in 1998). In some ways, it is difficult to review the first game, owing to my familiarity with it and its ‘tank controls’, although this has also helped me to make a comparison between how the original was/is played, versus what is offered by its remastered version.

‘Take a look at this, Lara’: The design

The remastered Lara model is certainly a beauty; it is clear that this is one of the elements that has received a lot of time and investment, and it shows. Lara (designed for the original game by Toby Gard) now retains the same model in all three remastered games (Figure 1). The model, designed by Konrad Majewski, was inspired by the three games FMVs, and in the first game Lara now also wears her hair in the bubble braid style. The hair extension doesn’t always work; at points it flicks over her backpack in an awkward way, at other times, it thins out and sometimes passes through her body, which was one of the reasons the original development team removed the unruly braid from Tomb Raider in the first place. But, nonetheless, the model has been beautifully rendered, and no longer does Lara need to source her bras from Jean Paul Gaultier.

Figure 1

On reviewing the original game’s levels in 1996, Charlie Brooker praised ‘now, thanks to Core Design, it’s possible to be an explorer without leaving your seat … Tomb Raider’s environment is utterly believable. Architecturally, it’s often stunning … some of the architecture is prettier than Lara herself’ (emphasis in original, PC Zone, December 1996: 75, 78). Many of these textures and environments have been respectfully and creatively upscaled, in keeping with the look and feel of playing the originals, with a few, rather lovely, environment additions. For example, in ‘The Cistern’, there are now puddles of reflective water on floor tiles, as well as dripping water that falls from the ceiling. When you kill Egyptian mummies and Atlantean enemies in the later levels of the game, they not only explode beside Lara, but also form a cloud of blood around her (Figure 2), enhancing the experience of being in the environment as a whole – something that the original version achieved so admirably in 1996, and has been wonderfully captured and updated in the remastered version.

Figure 2

Admittedly, I believe that some of the upgraded (and AI-upscaled) textures do not quite work, particularly in the ‘Atlantis’ and ‘Great Pyramid’ levels. In the original Tomb Raider, the textures, attributed to Heather Gibson, and atmosphere and design, attributed to Neal Boyd, always reminded me somewhat of Alien (1979) – very much a return to the womb – and the ‘body horror’ genre of films such as The Fly (1986). Whereas the textures for these levels as they appear in the remaster are somewhat cartoonish in their renders (Figure 3), removing the feeling of pulsating claustrophobia and fascinating grossness, which the originals levels captured so well in 1996. The FMVs, too, are probably the least restored of the remasters, likely owing lack of original sources, budget and time constraints, and merely offer AI-upscaled versions as there was little that could be done with the low-resolution originals.

Figure 3

A more troublesome issue is that owing to the upscaled textures and change to lighting (many areas appear darker than in the original), this means that the items to be collected – keys, medipacks, ammunition, etc. – are sometimes difficult, and at points near impossible, to spot, which will likely cause frustration to new players unfamiliar with Tomb Raider.

However, there are some wonderful upscaled textures, artistic renders and lighting to be admired when playing through the training and game levels. Who knew Lara owned such a prestigious collection of artworks in her manor (to the point where she owns four – presumably original and subsequent copies – of Girl with the Pearl Earring, Johannes Vermeer, 1665)? It’s an art historian’s dream. I also enjoyed travelling through Greece, where much was to be appreciated regarding the male form (Figure 4), including a humourous placement of key slot and tile (Figure 5), and some beautiful, evocative lighting (Figures 6 and 7).

Figure 4

Figure 5

Figure 6

Figure 7

‘A kind of evolution on steroids’: Camera movement

An apocryphal story, once read and never, unfortunately, forgotten, is that there was once a fan-created ‘guide’ to advise players where best to view Lara’s posterior captured by different camera angles. Not any more in these remasters (unless you toggle the key to flit between the original and remastered graphics)! The removal of the ‘bottom line’ means that no longer does the camera at times caress Lara’s backside, but rather, directs us to admire other elements instead. The difference in camera position and angles, however, does mean that this changes how the game is played in some ways. At times, I found the camera position a little irritating, and needed to switch to the original graphics, but ultimately it didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the gameplay. Although for new players, I suspect the camera may cause frustration at points, especially when combined with the unfamiliar control system.

‘No!’: Attempting to control Lara

As part of the remaster, players can now switch between ‘tank’ (original) and ‘modern’ (remastered) controls whenever they so choose. The new controls are based on those implemented by Crystal Dynamics for Tomb Raider: Legend (2006), Anniversary (2007) and Underworld (2008).[2] So how ‘modern’ these controls actually are by 2024 standards remains to be seen.

For those unfamiliar with the mechanics of the original games, the way Tomb Raider was programmed by Paul Douglas and Gavin Rummery led to a grid system that players navigated with tank controls to make, sometimes often precise, movements to explore the 3D level terrains. As most other reviewers of the remasters have found, these controls not only offer a factor of nostalgia for those who played the originals, but you are also left wondering how new players will react to this control system.

In terms of the ‘modern’ controls, they are generally fine when using it for combat situations or exploring open areas, however not so much when you need to make that precise jump and grab to reach a ledge there, or that flip backwards when landing on an exact spot to reach a secret area here. Basically, the modern controls have difficulty connecting to the very grid system the original game was built upon, and I found that at points the camera angles offered when using ‘modern’ rather than ‘tank’ controls were problematic. This is not helped by the inability to perform certain moves in order to achieve certain feats, such as ‘side’ and ‘back step’ being unavailable, and that ‘side’ and ‘back’ flips only work when guns are drawn. I believe that either control system is where it will make or break playing the game for newcomers to these games in particular.

‘Say Cheese!’: The additions

Additions to the remaster, besides being able to choose between original and remastered graphics as well as control systems, include a ‘photo mode’, now a mainstream inclusion among newly-released games. I attempted to use the photo mode for the purposes of this review, which led to Figure 8, but other than for my own gratuitous fun, it didn’t really do anything to enhance my overall experience of the game. Photo mode is more likely to be enjoyed by players wishing to share their ‘favourite’ or ‘comical’ captures on social media, and as is common in gaming nowadays, to assist in the marketing of the game.

Figure 8

Achievements and trophies to be collected have also been added, as with other remastered games, and the inclusion of these is a requirement of Sony and Xbox. Again, this feature isn’t really aimed at gamers such as myself: back in 1996 it was an ‘achievement’ in itself to finish the game without the need to receive a notification for completing it. But I think that they nicely capture the inherent wit and humour afforded in the original games, such as ‘Like Dorothy’, which is a cheeky reference to the inspiration of The Wizard of Oz (1939) behind the level cheat codes used in the original games. Although these features don’t appeal to me personally, I understand that for some fans and new players to these games that these will enhance their gameplaying experience.

Summary

From the outset, it is clear that despite time constraints, the sheer amount of work needed to realise the remaster project as a whole, and possibly, I suspect, budgetary ones too, Tomb Raider I (as it has been classified so as to differentiate itself within the group of games offered in the remaster) is a labour of love for those involved in its development. While I believe that it is Tomb Raider fans and game historians who will get the most pleasure out of this game/project as a whole, owing to their desire to play these games, whereas the control systems/camera angles may be off-putting for new players, I think that the remaster of the first game is an admirable achievement. For all three games, and their expansion packs, to be so lovingly restored and available on a variety of consoles, at an extraordinarily reasonable price too, is to be celebrated. Vivat Lara! I don’t think we’ve ever seen enough…

A copy of Tomb Raider I-III Remastered was provided for review by Crystal Dynamics/Aspyr.


Notes

[1] With huge thanks to Alex, webmaster of core-design.com, for helping me to identify some of the fans involved in the remasters of Tomb Raider.

[2] As confirmed by Aspyr (8 February 2024): https://support.aspyr.com/hc/en-us/articles/23948827137549-Modern-Controls-Overview-Tomb-Raider-I-III-Remastered


Llewella Chapman is a visiting scholar based at the University of East Anglia, UK. Her research interests include film and video game history, gender and costume. Her first monograph, Fashioning James Bond: Costume, Gender and Identity in the World of 007 was published by Bloomsbury in 2022. She has also published an article on the work of Vicky Arnold (script writer) and Heather Gibson (level designer) for the early Tomb Raider franchise in the journal Feminist Media Studies (2023), DOI: 10.1080/14680777.2023.2217346.


Disclaimer: The IAMHIST Blog is a platform that offers individual scholars the opportunity to present their work and thoughts. They alone are responsible for the content, which does not represent the view of the IAMHIST council or other IAMHIST members.

IAMHIST Challenge event: Moving Images, Institutional Bodies

Date: 5 November 2021

Time: 11:30am – 5:30pm (GMT)

Price: £4 (including booking fee) / free for members and concessions, and IAMHIST members

Venue: Cinema 1, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (this will be an in-person event)

Registration Link:  https://www.ica.art/films/symposium-moving-images-institutional-bodies

(IAMHIST members can attend this event for free: to register, please email ankorporaal@gmail.com)

This event is curated and moderated by Astrid Korporaal, PhD candidate at Kingston University and Lecturer at the University of Groningen.


This event explores the creative and ethical use of moving image, film and photography as a medium for engaging with contested institutional collections, archives and histories. Specifically, institutions connected to the incarceration, exploitation and separation of bodies and objects from specific social, geographical, and cultural contexts. The symposium aims to bring the history of representational image-making and mass media at the service of colonial, carceral and imperialist archives and collections, into dialogue with the potential capacity of image-makers to disrupt these institutional lineages. It aims to explore how documentary media have been used to shape the collective definitions and accepted values of authenticity, truth, belonging, criminality and ownership in public and private spaces

While research has been done into the history of audio-visual media used as techniques for categorising, classifying, documenting and surveilling colonial and incarcerated subjects, this event aims to develop a further perspective. It brings together academics, artists, curators and historians, to explore what Ariella Azoulay calls ‘potential history’ in promoting the creative, critical and decolonial repositioning of archives, institutions and creative practices.

The artists and researchers presenting in this event expand our notions of what it means to give and receive access to restricted spaces. How do the images we are able to circulate run parallel the movements that bodies can make across borders? And might creative interventions with the technologies that give us access to images, influence the histories of bodies that we are able to tell?

Schedule:

11:30: Introductions + screening (tbc)

12:00: Panel 1: Institutional Archives, Research Companions and Unruly Histories

12:15: Erika Tan on her film works engaging with colonial museums in ‘Malaya’ and the connection between historical and technological dislocations of objects and entering into a dialogue with the forgotten history of a Malayan weaver, Halimah Binti Abdullah, who was brought to the British Empire exhibition in Wembley in 1924.

12:45: Nikolaus Perneczsky in conversation with Didi Cheeka on moving image restitution histories and archives, with a screening of Cheeka’s film Memory Also Die (2020) which focuses on memory as political taboo, fifty years after the collective trauma responsible for the death of memory in Nigeria: Biafra.

13:15: Panel discussion

13:45: Lunch break

14:45: Panel 2: Institutional Inversions and Reclamations

15:00: Screening of Adam Khalil, Zack Khalil and Jackson Polys’ video works, The Violence of a Civilization Without Secrets (2019) and Culture Capture: Terminal Adddition (2017, with Bayley Sweitzer) which critique institutional archives, collection and the excavation of indigenous cultural heritage for outsiders’ consumption.

15:30: Judy Price on her research on Holloway Woman’s Prison and her film installation The Good Enough Mother (2020), which features a sculpture of a baby from the Dorich House Museum acquired for the first Mother and Baby Unit at HMP Holloway in 1948 and explores the subject of incarcerated pregnancy.

16:00 Khadija Carroll on her artistic work and collaborative research with the Immigration Detention Archive and the Pitt Rivers Museum.

16:30 Rhea Storr on her work and research into the heritage and bodily resistance of Junkanoo, Bahamian carnival, with a screening of her work Here is the Imagination of the Black Radical (2020)

17:00 Panel discussion


 Speakers include: 

Erika Tan is an artist, curator and researcher whose work focuses on the postcolonial, transnational and decolonial – working with archival artefacts, exhibition histories, received narratives, contested heritage, subjugated voices and the transnational movement of ideas, people and objects. Tan is currently The Stanley Picker Fine Art Fellow. Her work has been exhibited & collected internationally. Current projects include: Art Histories of a Forever War—Modernism Between Space and Home, Taipei Fine Art Museum; ESOK, Jakarta Biennial, Indonesia; Frequencies of Tradition, Incheon Art Platform, Korea; In/reproduction: The 4th Global Overseas Chinese Artists Exhibition, He Xiangning Art Museum, Shenzhen China; Barang-Barang, Stanley Picker Fellowship exhibition, Kingston School of Art; “Asian Heads” Dorich House Museum, London.

Didi Cheeka is co-founder and curator of Lagos Film Society – an alternative cinema center dedicated to the founding of Nigeria’s first arthouse cinema. He is the artistic director of Decasia – Berlin-Lagos Archive Film Festival. Didi is currently researching and digitizing Nigeria’s rediscovered audiovisual archives.

Nikolaus Perneczky is a writer and curator based in London. His postdoctoral research project—a critical inquiry into the politics and ethics of global film heritage—considers the archive(s) of World Cinema in relation to colonial legacies of epistemic violence and unequal exchange. Along with curator and archivist June Givanni, Nikolaus is currently working on a podcast series on Africa’s moving image heritage and the question of restitution.

Adam Khalil and Zack Khalil (Ojibway) are filmmakers and artists from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and currently based in Brooklyn, New York. Their work subverts traditional forms of ethnography through humor, transgression, and innovative documentary practice. Their films and installations have been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, Walker Arts Center, e-flux, UnionDocs, and Microscope Gallery.

Jackson Polys is an artist who lives and works between what is currently called Alaska and New York.  His work reflects examinations into the limits and viability of desires for indigenous growth. He began carving with his father, Tlingit artist Nathan Jackson, in high school, has worked as an artist based in Alaska as Stron Softi, with solo exhibitions at the Alaska State Museum and the Anchorage Museum, and holds an MFA in Visual Arts from Columbia University’s School of the Arts (2015).

Judy Rabinowitz Price is interested in how art can produce different ways of thinking about contested sites and engage with collective struggles. Her research-led practice includes photography, moving image and sound, composed as single-screen works and multiscreen installations.  Price often draws on images and sounds from archival sources as well as the sustained study of a place or space through networks, collaborations and activism. Palestine was an enduring focus of her work from 2008-2017 with two bodies of work Within This Narrow Strip of Land (2008) and Quarries of Wandering Form (2017).Her most recent work explores how women are affected by the criminal justice system in the UK through the prism of HMS Holloway that was decommissioned in 2016.  The End of a Sentence 2020 draws on individual and collective stories of prison to make visible issues around gender, class, race and economy as well as reflecting on Holloway’s legacy spatially and ideologically as a site of remembrance and absence.

Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll is an Austrian-Australian artist and historian based in Vienna. She is the Chair of Global Art at the University of Birmingham, Professor of History at the Central European University. Her films and installations have been shown internationally including at the Venice, Marrakech, and Sharjah Biennales, ZKM, Manifesta, Taxispalais, Extracity, HKW, Royal Museums Greenwich, Savvy, LUX, Chisenhale, SPACE, Project Art Centre Gallery Dublin, St Kilda, Melbourne, and the Casablanca Film Festival. She is the author of the books Art in the Time of Colony (2014); The Importance of Being Anachronistic: Contemporary Aboriginal Art and Museum Reparations (2016), Botanical Drift: Protagonists of the Invasive Herbarium (2017); Mit Fremden Federn: El Penacho und die Frage der Restitution (2021); The Contested Crown: Repatriation Politics between Mexico and Europe (2022). She is the co-author of Bordered Lives: Immigration Detention Archive (2020) and co-editor of Third Text journal.  www.kdja.org

Rhea Storr is an artist filmmaker who makes work about the representation of Black and mixed-race cultures. Masquerade as a site of protest or subversion is an ongoing theme in her work in addition to the effect of environment on cultural production. She is a co-director of not nowhere an artists’ film co-operative and resident at Somerset House, London. Storr is the winner of the Aesthetica Art Prize 2020 and the inaugural Louis Le Prince Experimental Film Prize. Recent screenings/exhibitions include New York Film Festival, London Film Festival, European Media Art Festival, Hamburg Short Film Festival, Artist Film International (Whitechapel Gallery) and National Museum of African American History and Culture.


This is event is support by the International Association for Media and Art History’s IAMHIST Challenge, and the Make Film History project. Make Film History is funded by UKRI-AHRC and the Irish Research Council under the ‘UK-Ireland Collaboration in the Digital Humanities Networking Call’ (grant numbers AH/V002066/1 and IRC/V002066/1).

Rhea Storr, Here is the Imagination of the Black Radical (Still), 2020

The film raw stock shortage in the British zone of occupied Germany and its impact on the film industry after 1945

Hanja Dämon, independent scholar

24 September 2021


This blog post engages with one of the biggest material obstacles in restarting film production in the British Zone of occupied Germany (one of four zones established following the Allied victory) after the Second World War: the shortage of film raw stock. It was essential for newsreels, for making copies of feature films to be exhibited in German cinemas, as well as for making new documentaries and feature films. Indeed, films were supposed to assist in steering the Germans away from National Socialist ideology, and to teach them about the outside world from which they had been supposedly cut off during twelve years of dictatorship. In this vein, the British feared that without raw stock ‘the whole scheme of re-education will be in danger of collapse’, and looked for ways to secure the provision of this sought-after material for non-fiction and feature films alike.[i] Yet this task was not always easy, as archival sources from the UK National Archives in Kew Gardens reveal. They testify to the fact that insufficient raw stock provision significantly impacted on German film production after 1945.

National Socialism’s defeat in May 1945 and Germany’s division into US-American, British, French and Soviet zones of occupation had initially brought German film production to a standstill, only to be re-established according to the respective agendas of the respective occupation authorities. In the western zones the main goals of the occupiers included  denazification, democratisation and decentralisation of the German film industry, which should not be concentrated in one place (to lessen the chances of state interference). In the Soviet Zone one central studio (DEFA) was established. Although  no new German films were produced for more than a year, re-establishing the film industry was considered essential across all zones for economic and psychological reasons. The Allied powers aspired to give the German filmmakers the tools of self-expression for the purpose of democratisation, although during the first years of occupation Allied supervision and control would seek to ensure that the resulting films would not propagate fascism and militaristic values.

One major obstacle in re-starting film production in the western zones was the shortage of film raw stock, at least in the Western zones. In August 1945, Major General Bishop from the British Information Control Section informed the international press, that ‘as soon as raw-stock supplies make it possible, Germans will be granted permission to produce their own films’, thereby indicating that the lack of raw stock played a role in delaying the reconstruction of the industry in the British Zone.[ii] A year later the Public Relations/Information Services Control (PR/ISC) Division explained as to why up to this point only two production companies had been licensed in the British Zone: the available amount of raw stock was ‘insufficient to allow for further commitments’ regarding the founding of additional production units.[iii] Also in the US Zone, the raw stock shortage was described as ‘one of the main problems’ in reconstructing the German film industry.[iv]

FO 1046/409/9: Raw stock procurement (The National Archives)

No raw stock producing factory existed in the Western zones of Germany, which is why it had to be imported from the Soviet Zone or from other countries. As the relationship between the British and their Soviet Allies became more strained, a member of the British occupation authorities, G.W.E.J. Erskine, began to harbour doubts in September 1946 that one could continue relying on the Soviets for raw stock provisions, for ‘the Russian character and international trends make this a source on which undue reliance should not be placed.’[v] He warned that ‘the dependence of the British Zone for its main supplies of rawstock from the Soviet Zone is capable of producing a sudden crisis at any moment if for any reason supplies were cut off’.[vi] And indeed, deliveries from the Soviet Zone were not always consistent with initial arrangements and in 1947 even stalled for months.[vii] Michael Balfour of the British Information Services Control Branch wrote on the 12th of May 1947 that he was ‘getting a bit alarmed over the raw stock position’ and, while his concern also included the dubbing of films into German, ‘German production is beginning to need rawstock acutely and there is none left.[viii] The shortage of raw stock was therefore certainly a contributing factor in why the German film industry took longer to re-emerge in the Western zones of occupation compared to the Soviet Zone.

Owing to better infrastructure and more decisive actions on the parts of the Soviets in getting the film industry restarted more swiftly, the Soviet-licensed film Die Mörder sind unter uns (The Murderers Are Amongst Us, D: Wolfgang Staudte) was the first German new film to premiere in post-war Germany in October 1946. It was, however, closely followed by the British-licensed film Sag die Wahrheit (Tell the Truth, D: Helmut Weiss) in December 1946, filmed in the Tempelhof studios in the US sector of Berlin. Sag die Wahrheit recycled the script of a film that had been in production at UFA-Studios during the war, which  had remained unfinished. It was an escapist comedy that made no allusions to the post-war present, which made this film an unusual offering compared to all other British-licensed films of the early post-war period that were generally set in the present or the recent past. The British had the power to select which projects could be realised via licensing only those they found suitable, and usually rejected film scripts that were regarded as merely “escapist”. Yet this criteria was apparently not as relevant at the time when Sag die Wahrheit was allowed to go into production.

The raw stock shortage might, in fact, have played a direct role in  the British decision to license Sag die Wahrheit. The material was not only needed for making new German films, but also for making copies of old films, and in autumn 1946, a memo expressed the desire to have a new German film made. It stated that it would be ‘sad if we had to use raw stock to make fresh copies of old films because we have not enough films to circulate’.[ix] Hence, to finally have a new German film available, the British might have allowed Sag die Wahrheit (D: Helmut Weiss, 1946) to become the very first film to be made in their zone, as this project promised a quick production. After this first film, the British tended to license films that at least attempted to deal with contemporary issues, and begun to pre-censor film scripts with this criteria in mind.

The British based their argument for the necessity of pre-censoring of German film scripts directly on the lack of raw stock: pre-censorship was thought ‘essential in view of the extreme shortage of rawstock not only in Germany but all over the world and is to avoid wastage of stock on film production, which, when finished, would have to be rejected on political grounds’.[x] In July 1948, a series of articles in the Hamburger Freie Presse started to ask what kind of films were considered politically desirable by the British authorities. Were films required to spread optimistic messages in the British Zone, as one author of these articles assumed? The Film Section reiterated that pre-censorship was necessary in light of the limited availability of raw stock, furthermore claiming it was too precious to allow the making of ‘pure entertainment films’, confirming thereby that instead of escapism the British privileged films with a message suited to post-war circumstances.[xi] One proposal that was indeed rejected by the British Film Section because it was regarded as nothing more than ‘quite a nice story’ was German director Wolfgang Liebeneiner’s plan to make a film about a young and poor aspiring dancer, entitled Tanz in die Welt (Dance into the World).[xii] Apparently different standards were applied to subsequent film projects than to the first film made in the British Zone, Sag die Wahrheit.

Raw stock was also needed for export copies of new post-war German films, in order to be able to send prints to potential buyers abroad. Once the first films had been made, considerations to export them meant that even more raw stock would be needed in addition to  existing requirements. The British film adviser and documentary filmmaker Arthur Elton deemed it necessary to import additional raw stock  for this purpose. Elton highlights in a memorandum how short supply of raw stock  might hinder the export chances of new German films.[xiii] The material constraints, then, were posing significant obstacles to get the German film industry up and running again.

Lastly, the lack of raw stock also determined what British films were shown in the British Zone. The British producer J. Arthur Rank at first provided raw stock free of charge that was used for dubbing British films into German, but in 1946 he signalled unwillingness to continue this arrangement. It was at this point that the idea arose to allow Rank to set up a distribution organisation in Germany, in order to secure the import of raw stock.[xiv] An initial plan of the Finance Division to make British distribution companies pay a ‘good-will’ fee to the German state when operating in Germany – money intended for the use of re-building the German film industry – was abandoned to accommodate Rank and to guarantee his future cooperation.[xv] Unlike Rank, other British companies did not have the means to distribute their films in post-war Germany because they were financially unable to provide the raw stock for copies of their films, which was a prerequisite for showing them in Germany.[xvi]

The link between material issues – such as the lack of raw stock – and post-war German film production is a topic where the archives can reveal more than was previously known about the German film industry’s re-establishment in the British Zone. I researched the holdings in the UK National Archives to learn more about material obstacles such as the raw stock shortage as well as to explore how the British supervised and controlled German filmmaking in the immediate post-war years. I also consulted personal documents of German filmmakers located in German archives that reveal more details about film production in the British Zone after 1945. My forthcoming book that will be published with Peter Lang will present my findings on British film policy in occupied Germany in more detail.


[i] FO 943/549 Film, 1945-1948.

[ii] FO 371/46702 Control of Propaganda in Germany. Code 18. File 3. “British control policy for Newspapers, books, radio and entertainments. Transmits copy of statement made in Berlin by Major General Bishop to the international press on August 10th”.

[iii] FO 1056/86 PR/ISC Meetings and Reports. “Minutes of the Seventh Meeting held in Berlin”, 1 Aug 1946.

[iv] Military Government of Germany. U.S. Zone. Information Control. Bi-Monthly Review 24 (1 Jul 1947-30 Jun 1947).

[v] FO 1056/39. G.W.E.J. Erskine to the Office of the Deputy Military Governor, C.C.G (British Element), 6 Sep 1946.

[vi] FO 1006/216. G.W.E.J. Erskine, “Films in the British Zone of Germany”, 6 Sep 1946.

[vii] FO 1056/74. Public Relations/Information Services Control Group, “Minutes of the Thirtieth Meeting held in Berlin”, 3 July 1947.

[viii] FO 946/69. Michael Balfour to R.S. Crawford, Foreign Office (German Section), 12 May 1947.

[ix] FO 1056/86. Public Relations/Information Services Control Group. “Minutes of the Thirteenth Meeting held in Berlin”, 24th October 1946. See “Appendix A” of document.

[x] FO 1056/114: Draft of “Film Policy Directive”, to be approved by Chief, ISD, 14th May 1948.

[xi] [‘für den reinen Unterhaltungsfilm zu schade’.] ‘Und was sagt die Film-Section?’, Hamburger Freie Presse, 10 Aug 1948.

[xii] Adk: Liebeneiner 93. Handwritten note on exposé for Tanz in die Welt.

[xiii] FO 946/8. Arthur Elton, “Memorandum on Export of German Films”, 19 Nov 1947.

[xiv] FO 943/162 Film Production in the British Zone of Germany 1946.

[xv] FO 1056/39 Films: Policy and General. Chief of PR/ISC Group to Headquarters, C.C.G. (British Element) Distribution of British Film in Germany, 26 Jun 1947.

[xvi] Gabriele Clemens, Britische Kulturpolitik, p. 167.


Hanja Dämon has studied History at the University of Vienna and then obtained her PhD at King’s College London. Her thesis project on the German film industry after 1945 was sponsored for three years by the European Research Council (ECR)-funded project “Beyond Enemy Lines: Literature and Film in the British and American Zones of Occupied Germany, 1945-1949”. Dämon’s monograph on British film policies in post-war Germany will be upcoming with Peter Lang.


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