High Treason (U)
16 September 2012
In the far future of 1950, a ruthless arms company tries to provoke war between Europe and America. British cinema’s long-forgotten science-fiction epic High Treason was clearly intended to rival Fritz Lang’s ambitious German blockbuster Metropolis, and succeeded remarkably well despite its much smaller budget and its source in a disastrous play by the aviator and right-wing MP Noel Pemberton-Billing.
The film’s director Maurice Elvey was always up for a challenge – he was Britain’s most prolific filmmaker (over 300 pictures between 1913 and 1957) and one of the very few interested in making science fiction and fantasy films in the 1920s and 30s. High Treason is an extraordinary mix of the futuristic (video-phones, a Channel Tunnel and some outrageous fashions) and the old-fashioned (guns and planes straight out of the First World War) but its depiction of international terrorism seems chillingly relevant today. The film was billed at the time as “the Peace Picture” but with hindsight its anti-war message seems hopefully naïve.
High Treason was made in both silent and sound versions but (perhaps mercifully given the limitations of early talkies) only the former survives intact today. For this special one-off screening, we are presenting a 35mm print with live music from avant-garde experimentalists The Devotional Ensemble. Comprising members from Dundee lo-fi combo Spare Snare, the ensemble has performed at artists’ film and video screenings and has been heard on BBC 6 Music's Freak Zone and BBC Radio Manchester. This will be their first feature length performance.
Tickets £8 (£4.50 for students)