Forgotten Silver (1995) Movie Script

I'm in a small town called Pukerua Bay
in New Zealand.
Behind me is the house of an elderly lady
called Hannah McKenzie.
I've known Hannah all my life.
She's a very close friend of my parents,
who live just 4 doors away.
In fact, I remember coming to
"Auntie Hannah's" gardens,
as we called her when I was about 7 years
old and playing in these trees over here.
I didn't know a lot about Hannah
McKenzie back then
I knew that she was a widow - her husband
had died many years before I was born.
About a year ago I had
a call from my mother.
She said I should drop in on
Auntie Hannah sometime because
she was wondering if I'd be interested
in a lot of old films that she had stored
in a shed at the bottom of her garden.
I wasn't expecting much.
Hannah described them as a
lot of old home movies that her
husband, Colin, had taken.
I was expecting to maybe find
a bunch of old home movies,
drop them off at the film archive on my way
home and that would be the end of it.
What I found, sitting right here,
was an old chest.
I opened the chest and I found the
most extraordinary collection of films.
These were 35mm films.
The tins were rusty.
There were strange names on them.
"Warrior Season".
Films I'd never heard of.
I had no way of realizing the significance
of these films at the time.
We later discovered they were made between
the turn of the century and the late 1920s
by an extraordinary New Zealander.
A man who has now gotta join the
ranks of the great film pioneers.
A guy called Colin McKenzie.
At the archives we get a
lot of film coming in.
It's family parades, babies on lawns.
A lot of it's very
interesting, historically.
Just on dress, fashion,
and things like this, but.
Colin McKenzie's collection, on the other
hand, is something totally unique.
I got a call from Peter
and he wanted to know if I knew
anything at all about.
Colin McKenzie.
And, I had to say that I
didn't know very much.
The name wasn't totally unknown to me.
I'd come across it in a couple of journals
and a couple of old papers
but there was very little solid
information to relate to him.
Certainly there was no films that were
attributed to him.
We were very luck to get the
film in when we did.
They were starting to
deteriorate quite badly
some of the reels.
And, I think, within 5 years if it
hadn't have been found
it would have disappeared forever.
Imagine if a film
like "Citizen Kane" was to suddenly
come out of the blue.
Really, the discovery of this collection
was that exciting and that intriguing.
It's a treasure trove of films of
major historical importance
not just for New Zealand but worldwide.
This is New Zealand filmmaker is gonna rank
you know - I mean - with the greats,
like D.W. Griffith.
And I think, in some
ways, infinitely better.
I've gotta confess: Colin McKenzie
was just
a name I'd read somewhere in a book,
in a history book
and he didn't have a lot of impact to me
until this great discovery of all his films and
the historical research that's gone with it
and now I am just flabbergasted.
This is just the greatest film
discovery of the last 50 years.
Here was this unknown genius,
who died in obscurity,
and who now belongs, you know,
in the pantheon
of great cinema artists and innovators.
Colin McKenzie had humble beginnings.
He was born on the 7th of February, 1888
in the tiny South Island farming
community of Geraldine.
His father, John McKenzie, arrived in
New Zealand in 1879.
With typical Scottish pragmatism
he built his home and farm the hard way.
John's young wife, Ellen,
found country life difficult.
But she took pride in her
sons, Colin and Brooke.
Colin, the elder of the two, was studious and
introverted, the opposite of his brother.
Yet the boys enjoyed a close bond.
From sunup to sundown they worked
the land with their father.
In whose footsteps they
were expected to follow.
Colin, however, showed no
aptitude for farming.
His interests lay elsewhere.
The boys' uncle, Albert Drury,
owned a successful bicycle shop in Timaru.
It was there, in the workshop,
that Colin discovered his passion
for mechanical invention.
Young Colin would often stay weekends,
tinkering with tools and spare parts.
The boy's imagination needed an outlet.
In the spring of 1900, he found it.
The traveling picture
show had come to town.
It was like a flash from heaven,
starting out of the darkness,
and his whole heart lifted.
He felt this was something he wanted to do
and he would do.
He just followed that big picture show
right around the district.
And where the other kids
had been gorping at the screen
looking at those lovelies
and horses and things.
Colin was at the back of the hall looking
at the magic machine that was doing it all.
The projector.
What fascinates me most about
Colin McKenzie's early films
are not so much the films themselves,
but the technology involved.
I mean this was 1900. 5 years
after the birth of cinema.
You can't walk into the chemist's shop and
buy a movie camera to take home movies.
Aged only 12, Colin built his first
motion picture camera.
Impatient with the hand crank
technology at the time,
Colin mechanized his camera
with great ingenuity.
When Colin rode the bicycle,
his camera rolled,
thus creating the cinema's
first tracking shots.
Colin's later attempt to mechanize
a home-built projector
lept way beyond pedal power.
I don't know who else would have thought
of using steam power to drive a projection
system, but he did. And it worked!
Well, he was clever enough
to make his own film.
He got flax seeds from down at the
swamp at the back of the farm.
And he boiled them and boiled them.
Turned that into cellulose nitrate.
And then he had to find something
for the emulsion and he found eggs.
Not eggs. Egg whites.
He used the egg albumen process,
which they used in the 19th century
for making materials photosensitive.
He adapted that, though,
to use the moving images.
The trouble was, that it took 12 eggs
to make one minute of film.
That's alright as long as
he was making short films.
Colin was caught red-handed.
The precocious boy had been planning
the world's first feature-length film.
Colin's father flew into a rage.
This was an affront to his dignity.
He ranted and he raved, and he smashed
up all of Colin's gear.
Everything was destroyed.
Everything. All his gear. Except the camera,
which his clever mother had hidden.
Living less than 50 miles from the
McKenzie farm was
someone who, like Colin, nursed
extravagant dreams of invention.
His name was Richard Pearse.
In the early years of the century,
Pearse constructed a crude flying machine
and made several attempts to get airborne.
Pearse's exploits have always been
the subject of conjecture and legend.
Some writers believe he flew before the
Wright brothers.
But no reliable proof has existed
that he even got off the ground.
Until now.
Found among the films in the
Colin McKenzie collection
was an astounding cinematic record.
Seen here, publicly, for the first time
is a piece of film currently being examined
by the Smithsonian Institute.
A fragment of cinema that will
forever rewrite aviation history.
Minutes before takeoff, Colin positioned
his camera above a wagon.
And waited.
Colin McKenzie's remarkable film contained
yet another astonishing revelation.
The man on the left has
a newspaper in his pocket.
Digital enhancement
allows us to look closer.
The Wright brothers historic flight at Kitty
Hawk was not until December 17, 1903.
Richard Pearse, a farmer from New Zealand,
had beaten the Wright brothers
into the air by nine months.
But the thing that I find really funny is,
if you examine the footage,
He's flying straight at Colin McKenzie,
who's filming it, and he
has to swerve to avoid Colin and he
crashes into the hedge.
And if Colin had not been there,
he probably would have flown a lot further
and we would've all heard about it.
His father confiscated the film.
Forbade in his dual way
the boy ever to have anything to do with
this new-fangled filmmaking ever again.
Aged only 15, Colin McKenzie
ran away from home.
New Zealand was growing
into a prosperous dominion.
Even the poorest members of society
had some leisure time.
And most of them chose
to spend it at the pictures.
Opportunities were plentiful for
enthusiastic young men like Colin.
In 1905, Brooke joined him
to form the McKenzie Brothers
Picture Company.
Filming parades and weddings, the
brothers rapidly amassed a small fortune.
But Colin's dreams were more ambitious.
At 84 minutes, "The Warrior Season"
must now be acknowledged as the world's
first feature-length film.
But even more remarkably, it introduced
a revolutionary technical innovation.
By 1908, after three years of development,
Colin McKenzie had perfected a way to
record synchronized sound with pictures.
Conventional film history tells us
that Al Jolson sang in 1927
and in "Old Arizona" you could
here the sound of bacon frying.
Well, that's the late '20s. Here in 1908,
Colin McKenzie had figured out a way in
making this epic, battle-torn film
to have gun fire, to
have horses' hoof beats.
He recorded it all and it all came through.
And, most of all, he had dialogue.
He just forgot one thing:
All of his subjects talking were Chinese.
And while he figured out a way to record
It was his fatal flaw.
Audiences just walked out in droves.
They couldn't understand a word.
They were amused by the novelty
for a few minutes of hearing sound,
but then when they couldn't figure out what
anybody was saying, they just lost interest.
Disillusioned and financially crippled,
Colin abandoned his recording
experiments forever.
He turned his attention from
sound to pictures,
becoming obsessed with
the images themselves.
In late March 1911,
Colin succeeded in creating
an emulsion that reacted to
distinct wavelengths of light.
Producing an effect very like color.
There was only one problem:
The key ingredient was photinia aquefolium, a
berry found only in the islands of Tahiti.
The McKenzie brothers wasted
no time in packing their bags.
What Colin and Brooke achieved in Tahiti
was actually quite an extraordinary
feat of chemical engineering.
They take the berries, they boil them up,
they go through this complicated process
in a home-built laboratory
under the palm trees.
It takes him four and a half months
to produce 22 seconds of film.
Full of anticipation, Colin immediately
embarked on a test.
In this astonishing footage,
Colin trains his lens on a
colorful tropical scene.
But his carefully-composed
image is soon disrupted.
He attempts to reframe, without success.
The precious film rolls through
his camera and runs out.
Confident their technical breakthrough
would restore their fortunes
the brothers raced back to New Zealand.
They quickly setup a screening for
potential investors.
But the reaction was to prove
deeply disappointing.
On June 9, 1912, they appeared before
Justice McRobey in the Dunedin High Court.
Colin and Brooke were charged with
exhibiting a lewd document.
An all male jury deliberated for 37 hours.
Requesting repeat screenings of the film
before delivering a guilty verdict.
Colin and Brooke were jailed for 6 months.
With hard labor.
Upon their release, the brothers returned
home, to their mother, in disgrace.
What seems to have happened
then is really a transition in Colin.
Up until this point in his career he had been
interested in the technicalities of filmmaking.
He'd experimented with building cameras,
with sound, with color.
And now, really for the
first time, I think.
Colin started to think about
the artistic uses of film.
He wanted to produce, on film, something
that was going to have a message for people.
And he turned to the source
of all great messages.
Colin became fascinated by one
Bible story in particular.
Soon he announced his intention to
make a 20 minute film
based on the tale of
Salome and John the Baptist.
Colin's adaptation was
loose and imaginative.
Colin himself took the role of the Baptist.
Brooke was chosen to play Narraboth,
Herod's handsome captain of guards.
Colin's biggest problem was finding
a young woman to play Salome.
All the girls round about
had been warned off
by their fathers, outraged by the
scandal he'd been involved in.
And the girls who did show up
were certainly not suitable.
And then.
He saw Maybelle.
She took his breath away.
Even before he realized what was happening,
Colin was in love.
He told no one of his feelings.
Maybelle proved to be an excellent actress.
The chemistry between her and
Brooke was electric.
They lit up the screen.
Besotted with Maybelle, Colin moved his
camera nearer and nearer to her.
In the process, he invented the close-up.
But no matter how close he got,
Colin failed to see what had developed
right under his nose.
Brooke and Maybelle had
genuinely fallen in love.
Concealing his bitterness, Colin toasted
the happy couple and wished them well.
But a few days later, on the pretext of
he suspended filming.
The adjournment was to last
longer than anyone expected.
The onset of The Great War
led to a huge outpouring
of patriotic sentiment in the
colonies of the British empire.
You men rushed to enlist, eager to do their
bit for King and country.
Amongst them was Brooke McKenzie.
He and Maybelle had been married
only three weeks when he joined up.
Colin tried to enlist too, but he
had flat feet and was classified unfit.
He farewelled his brother
with a heavy heart.
Brooke McKenzie was part of the first
New Zealand expeditionary force
that landed at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915.
He came armed not only with a rifle,
but a lightweight camera, built by Colin.
Here, seen for the very first time,
is the only motion picture film shot by a
New Zealander at Gallipoli.
Brooke's camera focuses not on
battles or explosions,
but on the human face of the warfare.
On his comrades of the Otago Mounted Rifles
and their daily lives during the early
weeks of this tragic campaign.
On June 11, 1915,
Brooke McKenzie was hit by sniper
fire at Quinn's Post.
He was carried by donkey down
to the beach dressing station.
Where he died, that night, of his wounds.
Maybelle was hit hard by the news.
She gave herself up to grief.
It was Colin's blackest moment.
He fell into a severe depression,
unable to work or sleep.
He'd lost his brother.
He'd lost his partner and so many
things they'd done together.
It was a terrible time for Colin.
Later that year, Colin
McKenzie disappeared.
He was last seen high on the Lewis Pass,
walking alone towards
the rugged west coast.
At the 11th hour on the 11th
day of the 11th month, 1918,
the Great War ended.
After an absence of 3 years, Colin
McKenzie returned from the West Coast,
and made an astonishing announcement.
He would resume production of Salome,
only this time he would work on
a massive scale.
The film would become a four-hour epic
with a cast of thousands.
A spectacular monument to his late
brother's memory.
With evangelical fervor, Colin McKenzie
gathered together a small army of extras
and headed back into the hills.
Between the years 1915 and 1918, he basically
vanished off the face of the Earth.
There's one clue, however. In his
collection of films
there's a tiny snippet that is dated 1917
and it shows a construction
of some sort going up in the hills.
And what we now believe happened
was that he retreated
into the most remote part of the country
and he built a huge city.
This was the biggest man-made structure
ever to be built in this country.
After days traveling through tough
and inhospitable terrain,
Colin McKenzie's extras were confronted
with an incredible sight.
Nestled in a hidden valley,
covering an area the size of 7 football
fields, was a vast Biblical city.
A fanciful recreation of ancient Jerusalem.
With its richly-detailed market squares,
grand staircases, and temples towering
hundreds of feet into the air,
This was to be the setting of the greatest
motion picture ever shot in New Zealand.
Early in 1994, a decision was made to
mount a search
for the location of Colin
McKenzie's lost city.
Yeah, that could mean that it's in an area
where the vegetation kinda grows quickly.
Because, you know, what better way to hide
a place like this
than for the jungle and for the bush
to grow back over it.
Yeah, it's likely to be in
quite a sort of narrow valley.
An isolated valley, three days' tramp from
was chosen as the most promising area
for the search.
The team headed into the
primordial west coast bush.
Deep into the last great unexplored
region of forest in New Zealand.
On February 22, 1919
filming commenced on the new
version of Salome.
Colin was ready for the
great task that lay ahead.
In his mind's eye, he saw his film as it
would be, imagining every detail
with a clarity of vision he had
never experienced before.
Maybelle resumed her role of Salome.
Channeling her grief into a creative energy
that delivered the performance of a lifetime.
But after 5 days of frenzied shooting,
the production stalled.
Colin McKenzie had run out of money.
The disappointed extras returned home.
Colin promised that filming would resume
as soon as he had secured
a source of finance.
In the event, the money he needed
would come from an unusual alliance.
I first heard of Colin McKenzie at
The Film Unit when I worked there.
And there was an old chap there, called
Stan Wilson, who worked in the laboratory.
And it was always rumored that Stan had
been a little bit damaged
by chemicals that were no longer used
in the laboratory.
He was the last of the damaged
technicians, poor old Stan,
but he was a lovely old bloke, and good to
have a yarn with over afternoon tea
and he'd talk about the early days of
cinema in New Zealand.
He would often mention a fellow called
Colin McKenzie,
who none of us knew anything about.
Stan Wilson came from
a rich family of shopkeepers.
He was a stage clown who dreamed
of fame in silent pictures.
In 1921, he approached Colin and asked
him to film one of his vaudeville routines
and he was willing to pay for it.
The storyline took an unexpected turn
when a passing schoolgirl
stepped in front of the camera.
In my innocent kid's way, I went over.
Probably told him I didn't think
it was very funny.
And he didn't like that one little bit and
suddenly he lashed out.
Smacked me right across the face.
I gave him a darn good kick on the shins,
I remember that.
The I burst into tears and cried
all the way home.
Nobody said anything at the time, but when
they showed it to an audience the next day,
The audience only laughed
when he hit the child.
And Stan insisted they keep this violence
against the innocent in everything they did
forever and a day.
Well, "Stan the Man" was a pathetically
unfunny screen comedian.
But he has a sort of a niche, a footnote
in film history, for one thing
which he did in collaboration
with Colin McKenzie,
which was kind-of a Candid Camera approach
to silent comedy.
He would pull these pranks,
which were not usually very funny,
but they were completely spontaneous
and he would surprise innocent people,
usually to their dismay
and Colin would be filming it with another
of his inventions: A suitcase camera.
So that it was actually unrehearsed and
Now, of course, it didn't take Colin much
time away from Salome to do these because
they would all be done in one take.
They would go around the country
and make a different film in
different towns, you know.
They'd go to Taihape and make
"Stan the Man in Taihape" or.
"Stan the Man in Palmy North."
And show it, a week later, after Colin had
done all the editing and so-on
in the town hall and collect bags of cash.
Regularly, Colin would take the money he
earned from the "Stan the Man" comedies
and go up into the mountains and continue his
first love, of course, which was Salome.
Armed with 1700 pounds, the profits from
the first "Stan the Man" comedies,
Colin returned to his Biblical city with
the cast of Salome.
Unfortunately, before the cameras
could roll, the heavens opened,
marking the beginning of a
seemingly endless deluge.
The west coast recorded its highest
rainfall figures in 30 years.
In six weeks,
Colin shot only 3 minutes of film.
There was only one bright
spot in the gloom.
Maybelle's affection for Colin was growing.
His finances exhausted,
Colin reluctantly resumed his
partnership with "Stan the Man".
The following summer, Colin returned
to the mountains, and Salome.
It was the hottest summer in 30 years.
Dozens of extras were felled by heatstroke.
They demanded more money.
There was none to give.
With a heavy heart,
Colin McKenzie returned to his only
dependable source of finance.
Stan the Man finally pushed his luck
too far one day in Buller.
The day's shooting started normally
enough for Stan and Colin.
By lunchtime, Stan was hitting his stride.
But at 3:30 that afternoon, Stan 'the Man'
Wilson was to learn a hard lesson.
Stan spots a fresh victim. A dignified-looking
gentleman standing alone with his wife.
Unfortunately, he fails to recognize Gordon
Coates, the Prime Minister of New Zealand.
Exhibiting a steely nerve that would
serve him well in later life,
Colin continues filming with his
suitcase camera.
Stan was in the wrong place, at the wrong
time, with the wrong sense of humor.
But what happened was,
since Colin was filming all of this,
it was sort of a forerunner of the
Rodney King tape.
Sixty years before that ever came to light
because he had evidence of all these
Secret-Service-type policemen
beating the living daylights out
of poor Stan the Man.
"Stan the Man in Buller" was Stan Wilson
and Colin McKenzie's
greatest commercial success.
It went straight to Stan's head.
Well Stan, misguided soul that he was,
thought that the notoriety of "Stan the
Man in Buller" was due to his talent.
He didn't understand that it was
sort of a piece of news.
You know, an incredible actuality
involving the Prime Minister and
all the government police.
So he got it into his head that this
would be his ticket to Hollywood.
Because the film, in fact, was shown in America
and got him a small, brief, bit of notoriety.
So he came to Hollywood thinking that
he'd be greeted with open arms
and would be perhaps the next Chaplin.
What he was, was the next unknown
standing on a line to get a job.
Despite the end of their
lucrative association.
Colin was secretly pleased to see
the back of Stan Wilson.
Colin's personal life, at
least, was more settled.
On December 4, 1926, he married Maybelle.
Hey, look, there's a bottle!
- What?
- Bottle.
About the right period too. It's got that
moulded sort of feel to it.
That's the way they made bottles
back in those days.
The finding of a bottle
encouraged the searchers.
A disintegrating wagon found nearby
seemed to confirm their excitement.
Let's just get a photo of this.
I'll get it.
Hey, Johnny, what sort of period
do you reckon this is?
More discoveries were to come.
We've got a road up here.
Come take a look at this, Pete.
Look at that.
What in the hell's a road doing here?
After days of fruitless searching,
would this road lead the team to
Colin McKenzie's lost city?
It keeps on going down here.
So, is there any road here at all?
No road there and no reason for a road.
Colin's efforts to raise funds for
Salome all proved futile.
He approached local impresarios and
captains of industry without success.
Ultimately, the backing he needed so
desperately would come from Hollywood.
And a producer named Rex Solomon.
Rex Solomon was a self-made man who
became a millionaire,
oddly enough, by selling Bibles
and Bible paraphernalia.
And was very devout and very sincere
in his beliefs and in his interests
in the Bible and religion.
By 1929, Solomon's studio,
"Majestic Lion Pictures",
was turning out a dozen pictures a year,
all drawn from the Bible.
Colin McKenzie knew the
financier's business reputation.
He was determined to meet with him.
They met quite by chance
when Solomon went on a fishing
expedition to New Zealand.
McKenzie had already been making,
or trying to make,
his epic film of Salome for
5 years when he met Rex Solomon
and this was just propitious timing
because Solomon looked at it, realized the
potential of the film, and decided to back it.
And put his not inconsiderable funds behind
Colin McKenzie to get the film completed.
The paperwork was completed
with little formality.
Solomon agreed to a total
budget of 100,000
immediately advancing one quarter
of this in cash.
15,000 extras were hired.
Men, women, and children were
recruited from all around the district.
With the fervor of a general waging
a campaign,
Colin assembled and rehearsed his extras
for the biggest scene of his career.
A spectacular battle between Herod's troops
and a rag-tag army of messianic
This single sequence swallowed the entire
25,000 advance.
But Colin was undeterred.
Rex Solomon was a rich man.
On a single day in October 1929,
Rex Solomon lost his entire fortune.
It was no less a disaster
for Colin McKenzie.
For once, however, luck was on his side.
As capitalism crumbled on Wall Street,
halfway across the globe Communism
was about to flex its muscle.
Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin introduced
a propaganda drive.
The spirit of the revolution was to be
spread throughout the capitalist West
by any means necessary.
This it was, in 1930, that Colin received a
from the New Zealand Communist Party.
These documents record a transaction
which took place in October 1930
between my government and Colin McKenzie.
The agreement was that the money
was going to be used for the completion
of the revolutionary epic
documenting the class struggles
of ancient times.
Leading a new army of extras,
Colin returned to the city
he had built on the west coast.
But the Soviet's cash had strings attached:
Colin was forced to removed all religious
references from his Biblical epic.
The Baptist became a socialist dissident.
Herod became a fascist money lender.
While Salome became a prostitute
who abandons her evil ways
and learns the skills of
collective bargaining.
Colin hated the new version.
Loathed it. Despised it.
Barely took it seriously.
What he was doing was making two versions:
One for him and one for the Soviets.
So, if he took 5 takes for him,
one would do for the Soviets.
As Salome neared completion,
Colin and Maybelle were overjoyed
to discover they were expecting
their first child.
However, a bomb shell was in store.
Early in 1931, Colin received a telegram
from the Palermo Motion Picture Company.
The Palermo brothers were ruthless
and unscrupulous money men
who now owned Rex Solomon's assets,
including Salome.
They demanded immediate
delivery of the unfinished film.
The Soviet investors, too, were
growing impatient
and their threats were
equally intimidating.
Working under conditions of unbelievable
pressure, Colin raced to finish Salome.
Barely pausing to eat or sleep
he worked his cast and
crew into the ground.
To make matters worse,
the Palermo brothers had arrived in
New Zealand
and they were searching for Colin.
Desperate to finish the
last 20 shots of Salome,
Colin worked his crew
for 72 hours non-stop.
He failed to realize the terrible toll the
stress of filming was taking on Maybelle.
With one shot left to
shoot, Maybelle collapsed.
Maybelle went into early and violent labor.
Nobody could stop the bleeding.
The child, a boy, had no chance.
And neither did she.
The both died in Colin's arms.
Colin was torn between guilt and despair.
Guilt over Maybelle
and despair because he'd finished the film,
but at what a cost.
And besides all that,
He was afraid that Palermo Pictures
or the Soviets
would claim Salome.
He made a very drastic decision:
He took all the film - cans and cans
of it - and buried it
right after he buried his family.
After the death of Maybelle, Colin had only
one thing on his mind: Escape.
On July 27, 1931,
Colin McKenzie sailed away from
New Zealand, never to return.
There's some concrete down underneath here.
Look, look, look!
Look, Johnny! There's some steps.
Look, see? Steps.
73 miles from civilization, the team had
found a grand concrete stair.
Here were ruined arches.
What's it look made of?
And fallen columns.
All around was the crumbling debris
of a huge man-made structure.
But the extent of the
find was still unclear.
Working at fever pitch,
the searchers began attacking the
dense vegetation,
eager to discover the
secrets which lay beneath.
After a week of solid effort, the team's
work was starting to pay off.
Colin disembarked into the heat
and bustle of Algiers in 1931.
Notorious as a haven for
vice and corruption,
North Africa was the perfect place for
a man who did not want to be found.
At the age of 43, Colin McKenzie, bought
his first drink.
And began a lost weekend that that
would continue over five years.
He might have easily ended his days
in an African prison or hospital,
had it not been a accident of fate.
In 1936, the military garrison in
Spanish Morocco
mutinied against the Republican government.
That revolt was to escalate into the
bloody struggle
we know today as the Spanish Civil War.
Newsreel crews flock to the scene.
Amongst them was Colin McKenzie,
determined to regain his self-worth.
Colin was not the only
New Zealanders in Spain:
A young nurse from Auckland named
Hannah Simpson was there,
working for the Red Cross.
Colin came in with a small shrapnel wound,
just needed a few stitches,
but he hung about.
And I kept watching. There was something
special about this man.
And we began to talk about New Zealand.
It was a long time since he'd been there.
And it all came out! His whole life,
he told me about.
We scarcely ever were apart.
He was twice my age,
but that seemed to have
no significance at all.
I'd just seemed to have found someone
who understood me completely.
As I understood him.
There was no time for a honeymoon.
Colin left next day for the front.
I mean, it's so frustrating that the trail
runs cold at the end of 1937.
We have one last photograph of
Colin McKenzie,
which is of him and the troops.
We've faxed and telephoned
every film archive,
every film museum, reference house -
all around the world - that we can think of
and the name of Colin McKenzie just
doesn't surface anywhere.
I mean, he just vanishes off the
face of the Earth.
Colin McKenzie's lost city has been released
from the strangle hold of the western bush.
The searchers were stunned by
the enormity of Colin's vision.
But the site had not yet given up all
of its secrets.
Under the remains of a ruined temple,
marked with the sign of Taurus,
was the entrance to an underground passage.
The tunnel led to a hidden vault.
Inside was a sight to rival the most
opulant Egyptian tomb.
Massive statues,
exquisite handmade costumes
and elaborate props,
finely-crafted swords and shields,
Laying undisturbed for 60 years.
This was Colin McKenzie's storeroom
for the production of Salome.
But his greatest treasure
surpassed all ends.
Here we go. And 3, 2, 1...
Hey! Bingo!
The crypt held thousands of feet
of processed film
in hundreds of cans.
It was all there.
Every scene Colin had shot for Salome.
Colin would have wanted
Salome to be finished.
He was so afraid that the Palermo
people, or the Soviets,
would take his precious film and mangle it
that he really wasn't in his right
mind when he buried it.
Colin would want Salome to be seen.
Once the decision had been made to
go ahead with the restoration of Salome,
John O'Shea, the doyen of New Zealand
filmmakers, was asked to oversee the task.
Interpreting what he
wanted is very difficult
but an editor is always faced with the
problems of
filling a director's
wishes as best you can.
If he was here, of course, he'd tell you
what to do, but
an editor has got to try and divine what
was in his mind.
With financial support from the
New Zealand Film Commission,
the painstaking restoration
proceeded smoothly.
A gala premier was planned
for New Zealand's most extraordinary
feature film.
However, 3 days before this event,
the Colin McKenzie saga was to deliver
one final twist.
Six months ago, we wrote to every
Spanish film archive
requesting footage from
the Spanish Civil War
that was credited to a cameraman
named Colin McKenzie.
In the last six months, nothing has turned up.
Not one foot of film.
Until this morning.
This roll of film here
was confiscated by the fascists at the
Battle of Malaga in 1937.
It's been sitting in an obscure Spanish
archive all this time, almost 60 years,
and it's credited to a cameraman
named C. McKenzie.
When we screened the film this morning, we
couldn't believe what we were looking at.
The minutes tick by until
the order to charge is given.
The Battle of Malaga was one of
the fiercest of the war.
Here we see that Colin is right behind the
Republican troops
as they charge Franco's fascists.
Intent on filming the action, Colin is
oblivious to personal danger.
As a fresh assault begins, a soldier falls
directly in front of Colin.
Colin puts the camera down.
He runs to help.
He stumbles.
Both men are killed.
On September 3, 1995,
The New Zealand film and
television industry
gathered for a very special premier.
There has never been a movie,
which has taken so long
between conception and completion,
and I predict there has never been a movie
which has given a first night audience
such a voyage of discovery as you're
about to embark on now.
I'm greatly honored to introduce the
world premier of.
Colin McKenzie's "Salome".
As the story opens, a group of women
and children await death.
The tyrant, King Herod has chosen
to make an example of them.
John the Baptist angrily denounces
the massacre.
Watching him is Herod's
stepdaughter, Salome.
John's defiance quickly
leads to his arrest.
Later, Salome meets her lover, Narraboth,
he is Herod's captain of guards.
Deep in the cells, John continues
preaching against Herod
and his evils ways.
He proclaims the coming of the Messiah
and the end of false kings.
Spurned by John, Salome goes to seek
her revenge with the king.
John's preaching reaches a fever pitch.
He incites the people to riot.
With her dance completed,
it is time for Salome
to tell Herod her wish.
Having made his promise, Herod
cannot refuse.
We've got to get The Academy to recognize
that Colin McKenzie is one of the great
filmmakers of our time
and I'm gonna fight for it to qualify
as the best film.
I was quite staggered. I mean,
we all think that we've sort of been
the pioneers in New Zealand film
but this was made
50 years before
any of us really thought about the possibility
of making a feature film in New Zealand.
When you name Lumiere, and Edison,
and on through D.W. Griffith,
in the pantheon of film pioneers.
I don't think there's any question that
now we have to make room there
for the name of Colin McKenzie.
I think that if Colin were alive today
and he saw the hour that
we took out of his movie
he would be absolutely thrilled.
He was never alive to see
the complete 3-hour version
and I'm sure he would agree
with us with no problem.
Colin was a man of immense talent
and a broad and deep imagination.
And like people of that kind,
he had, I think, a cracking point.
He ran away. He ran away from
his father's anger.
He ran away from New Zealand.
In a sense, when he buried the film,
he was running away.
But those episodes shouldn't diminish
his strength
as a creative human being.