Wars and rumours of wars

Paul’s many films about the Transvaal war, or more properly the second Anglo-Boer War, are well known, even if most of them no longer exist. But what has come as a surprise after working through Paul’s catalogues in detail is to discover that he was alert to other wars as well. The 1900-01 Boxer Rebellion in China, and the European intervention this provoked were the subject of at least one film, an elaborate allegory titled The Yellow Peril.

And even more surprising is the discovery of two multi-part dramas set amid the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-5. Both of these are lost (like the majority of Paul’s output), but from the detailed synopses and frame stills in his catalogues, it’s clear that they were distinctly pro-Japanese. Which may also explain why his film about the 1905 Russian revolution – partly a consequence of Russia’s dismal performance in the war with Japan – is frankly anti-tsarist. I doubt very much that it was even shown in Russia (although we know The ? Motorist was, thanks to Yuri Tsivian’s detective work). But if it had been, it might have further inspired Andrei Bely, and his great novel Petersburg. Amazing how these connections and possibilities proliferate! — Ian Christie

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