Alfred Hitchcock was a master of cinematic horror, but the revered director made one film that disturbed even himself – a documentary about the Nazi war atrocities discovered after the British liberated the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945. Hitch wasn’t on location for that one, but was tasked with taking footage shot in the aftermath of camp liberations and turning it into a documentary – and he was reportedly so disturbed by what he saw that he didn’t return to Pinewood Studios for a week.
The film – designed to show the German citizenry what their leaders were doing in their name -- was soon consigned to a dusty film vault, sight mostly unseen, because the Allied Military Government decided the time frame in which such a project would be useful had already passed. It languished there until the 1980s, when it was rediscovered, albeit missing one of its six reels. The grainy and badly deteriorated footage was shown on PBS with the title Memory of the Camps, but it’s only now that audiences will finally get to see the film as Hitchcock intended.
The Imperial War Museum has digitally restored all of Memory of the Camps and has even managed to recover some of the missing footage from that sixth reel. The newly remastered version of the film will air on British television later this year, as well as at festivals and in cinemas, in order to celebrate the 70-year anniversary of the liberation of Europe.
The Hitchcock film won’t be airing alone, though. Joining it on the schedule will be a new documentary entitled Night Will Fall, which was directed by Act of Killing producer Andre Singer. Singer’s documentary will examine how a film as important as Memory of the Camps managed to disappear for so many years – and why it was allowed to happen.
While neither film is likely to be a pleasant viewing experience, it’s good to know that this “lost” Hitchcock film – perhaps the most important of his illustrious career – will finally be restored and available to the masses.
UPDATED 1/14/14: The original version of the documentary, which first aired in 1984, has found its way online. This is not the restored version mentioned above. That is due to arrive later this year. [via Open Culture]
[via The Independent]
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