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Directed by John Krish
Produced in 1959
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - British Film
A powerful PoW drama available only to the military top brass for decades, Captured is more convincing than many classic British war films, writes Julian Upton. Includes 3 bonus Krish films.
Now in his 90th year, John Krish is enjoying a much belated re-appreciation of his work, kick-started in 2010 by the BFI’s A Day in the Life. That compilation of four of his finest documentaries won deserved accolades, but, if anything, Captured, the latest gem unearthed from his filmography, is even more remarkable.
Commissioned in 1959 by the War Office as a ‘training film’ to explore the horrors of Communist brainwashing, Captured actually serves as a narrative far more convincing and disturbing than anything mainstream British cinema could have served up at the time.
Set during the Korean War, it focuses on the interrogation — from subtle manipulation to more insidious forms of torture — of British POWs at the hands of their Chinese and North Korean captors. As a realistic depiction of courage under adversity, it knocks most other POW films into a cocked hat, delivering a unique attention to detail from the admirable (actual Chinese performers in the cast, bleakly accurate sets) to the devastating (a waterboarding scene that is still harrowing to watch).
Krish fulfilled his brief so effectively that the War Office, recognising its power, restricted the film for authorised military viewing only. Finally free, after more than 40 years, from this ‘Restricted’ status, Captured can now take its rightful place as a classic British war film.
This release is also rich in extras. HMP (1976), on the surface a more conventional documentary about the prison service, is a deeply humanistic exploration of (then) newly enlightened attitudes that were both pragmatic and progressive. And the more stylised The Finishing Line (1977), commissioned by British Transport Films to warn children of the dangers of playing on railway lines, is one of the most provocative short films ever made. Staged as an audacious fantasy — a school sports day in which the children risk life and limb, literally, by competing in front of oncoming trains — it hits its targets far more effectively than would any conventional approach to the subject matter.
Almost incidental to their intended official purpose, The Finishing Line and HMP, like Captured, stand as true high points of British ‘documentary’ cinema.
Julian Upton on 20th March 2013
Author of 171 reviews
Commissioned by the Army Kinema Corporation in 1959 as a military training film and previously only shown to a highly restricted audience of military officials, Captured is a realistic, powerful prisoner of war drama. It demonstrates how British POWs responded to brainwashing and torture techniques during the Korean War, thereby revealing what a soldier could expect if he was ever captured by the communist enemy. It was branded ‘restricted’ for over half a century. Originally intended only for the eyes of high-ranking military personnel, this is the first time that the film has been releases to a general audience.
Written and directed by John Krish (The Elephant Will Never Forget, I Think They Call Him John), with all of his trademark lyricism and humanity, Captured is a lost classic of post-war British cinema. It is presented here with a number of other Krish films all designed to warn, advise and inform.
H.M.P. (1976), one of the additional films here, is a riveting look at what it takes to be a prison officer. The Home Office approached the COI for a film that would encourage applicants while also improving wider appreciation of what the prison service offered. The film follows three recruits as they go inside a prison to learn more about the realities of the job, through meeting various members of staff, including the chaplain.
Also included on this release is a new interview with John Krish, in which he talks in-depth about his life and work. John was honoured with an Evening Standard Award for Best Documentary in 2010 for his widely acclaimed quartet of films, A Day in the Life: Four Portraits of Post-war Britain.
Length: 62 mins
Aspect ratio: 1.33:1
Format: DVD+Blu-ray B&W
Released: 15th April 2013
Cat No: BFIB1146
- 2 discs
- Bonus Films: Sewing Machine (Krish, 1973, 1 min): hard-hitting road safety 'filler' from the COI
- Searching (Krish, 1974, 1 min): shocking fire safety 'filler' from the COI
- H.M.P. (Krish, 1976, 52 mins): compelling fly-on-the-wall style recruitment film for the prison service
- The Finishing Line (Krish, 1977, 21 mins): violent public safety film intended to discourage children from trespassing on railway lines
- Shooting the Message: The films of John Krish (2013, 35 mins): an extensive interview with the director about his life and work
- Illustrated booklet with newly commissioned essays and contributions from James Piers Taylor, Patrick Russell, Stephen Thrower and Alex Davidson, and full credits.