Through Savage Europe

Harry de Windt

Harry de Windt

Just added to the Bioscope Library is Through Savage Europe: Being the narrative of a journey (undertaken as special correspondent of the “Westminster Gazette”), throughout the Balkan States and European Russia. This is an account of a journey through the states of Bosnia, Herzegovina, Montenegro, Servia (as the book has it), Bulgaria, Rumania and Russia in 1907. This was the area that was soon to experience conflict through the Balkan Wars of 1912-13, then to be the powder keg that helped start off the First World War.

Of interest to us is that the author, journalist and adventurer Harry de Windt, took a motion picture cameraman with him. This was John Mackenzie of the Charles Urban Trading Company, to whom De Windt refers throughout:

My sole companion was Mr. Mackenzie, of the Urban Bioscope Company, a canny Scotsman from Aberdeen, possessed of a keen sense of humour and of two qualities indispensable to a “bioscope” artist – assurance and activity. Nothing daunted my friend when he had once resolved to secure a “living” picture, and I trembled more than once for his safety in the vicinity of royal residences or military ground. For the bioscope was a novelty in the Balkans and might well have been mistaken for an infernal machine!

Relatively little is said of Mackenzie’s actual work (he left before de Windt went on to Russia), but the interest is in his very presence, in the tie-up with a British newspaper (the Westminster Gazette), and in the Balkans as a topic of sufficient interest to audiences at home to justify the expense of organising such a venture. Here is the motion picture medium as a news and documentary force, bound up with the other news media, reporting on a remote locality of pressing interest to British audiences (Urban had sent out a cameraman to the same area in 1903 to film a Macedonian uprising against the Turks) who could read it up in the papers and then, suitably briefed, see it all with interested eyes on the motion picture screen.

For the record, this a list of the films taken by Mackenzie (sadly, none is known to survive today):

Roumania: Its Citizens and its Soldiers (22 scenes, 420 feet)
Herzegovina, Bosnia and Dalmatia (22 scenes, 710 feet)
Montenegro and the Albania Alps (14 scenes, 350 feet)
Life and Scenes in Servia (17 scenes, 435 feet)
Bulgaria and its Citizens (18 scenes, 800 feet)
Bulgarian Infantry (18 scenes, 410 feet)
Bulgarian Cavalry and Artillery (17 scenes, 415 feet)

Mackenzie would go on to become a leading Kinemacolor cameraman, shooting many of the earlier productions demonstrating the colour process.

Through Savage Europe is available from the Internet Archive in DjVu (14MB), PDF (38MB), b/w PDF (17MB) and TXT (439KB) formats.