Electric Palace marks the centenary of First World War


To coincide with the centenary of the First World War (1914-1918), the Electric Palace cinema in Hastings is showing a season of films, curated by Paul Sargent.

Former head curator of the Imperial War Museum Film Archive, Sargent has a long-standing interest in how war is presented on screen.

The films chosen depict and question the reality of the First World War conflict from contemporary viewpoints as well as that of the combatant countries.

The season begins on Sunday, May 18 with Abel Gance’s 1919 masterpiece J’Accuse!, not seen by a UK audience in its most complete version since the original release.

This is followed by The Big Parade (1925), one of the most successful films of the silent era, on June 22.

Other cinematic ‘Greats’ of the past century will be represented in the season, which continues throughout the year at the Electric Palace.

On July 1, 1916 one of the greatest catastrophes ever was inflicted on the British Army.

This was the opening phase of what became known as the Battle of Somme and the British casualties on the first day alone were in excess of 57,000.

What is not so well known is that parts of this battle were filmed by two men – J B McDowell and Geoffrey Malins. An even lesser known fact is that Malins was born here in Hastings.

Malins was born in Russell Street in Hastings on November 18, 1886. His father was a hairdresser and his mother a maid. He originally trained as a portrait photographer, although little is known of his early life.

He moved to London around 1910 where he found work in the film industry and by the outbreak of war in 1914 he was working for one of the early newsreel companies as a cameraman.

His ability as a cameraman assisted in his being nominated as one of two official cameramen to go to the Front at the end of 1915 to film alongside British Forces.

His filming, together with McDowell, of the opening phase of the Somme resulted in some of the most iconic images of the First World War.