By all accounts, the documentary Night Will Fall is an excellent piece of work. It chronicles the production–and suppression–of a vivid and gruesome documentary about the Nazi death camps shot in April 1945.
The marquee name attached to it is Alfred Hitchcock, even though Hitch’s exact contribution is unclear. He was brought in to supervise the production and had some input into the filming at the camps, but while he was working on the editing and the script the British government pulled the plug. Was it a loss of nerve? The horrifying nature of the material? Or just plain old antisemitism? Those are some of the questions Night Will Fall tackles.
Here’s the trailer:
Yet, in many of the articles I’ve read about the film, there’s no mention at all of a singular fact: the film was actually “made” 30 years ago and broadcast on PBS Frontline. They dug up a surviving script, got hold of five of the original six reels of footage, edited it together, and got Trevor Howard to narrate it.
Here’s how PBS describes it:
As the film’s history shows, it was a project that was supervised by the British Ministry of Information and the American Office of War Information. And during that summer of 1945 some of the documentary editing was done under the direction of Alfred Hitchcock.
“At the time we found the film, it was not entirely clear what role Hitchcock played in its development,” says David Fanning, executive producer of FRONTLINE. “Moreover, one reel of the original six, shot by the Russians, was missing. There was a typed script intact — undated and unsigned — but it had never been recorded.”
FRONTLINE took the film, added the script and asked the late British actor, Trevor Howard, to record it. The aim was to present the film unedited, as close as possible to what the producers intended in 1945.
“Memory of the Camps” includes scenes from Dachau, Buchenwald, Belsen and other Nazi concentration camps whose names are not as well known. Some of the horrors documented took place literally moments before the Allied troops arrived, as the Germans hurried to cover the evidence of what they had done.
Twenty years after its first broadcast on FRONTLINE, “Memory of the Camps” remains one of the most definitive and unforgettable records of the 20th century’s darkest hour.
HT: No Garcia.