Film ID:
NEFA 13842

BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA

1960

Visitor Tabs

Description

Amateur travelogue produced by Middlesbrough dentist Tom H. Brown that documents a coach tour taken in 1960 with his wife, Kate, visiting cities in Europe and the Soviet Union during the Cold War years following the Second World War. At this time Europe was partitioned into zones occupied by Soviet or Western Allied powers. The film records the route from Ostend in Belgium, through Germany, the Soviet Union, Poland and Czechoslovakia. It provides an interesting glimpse into the architecture, life and culture of post war Communist countries in Europe, one year before the German Democratic Republic began construction on the Berlin Wall, restricting all movement between East and West Berlin.

An audio commentary by T. H. Brown was recorded on a video copy of the original film. It provides personal insights and memories and explains the history of some of the places visited.

Title: Behind the Iron Curtain With A Movie Camera

The film begins with an animated hand drawn map of the route taken by coach. There are opening scenes of the boarding of the tour coach in Ostend.

Title: Germany

Border control guards check drivers and vehicles entering Germany. The traffic queues include Volkswagens.

Titles: Hannover

A hand drawn map indicates the first city visited as Hannover. There are general views of a busy shopping district of the city that show a modernist department store with ribbon glass windows advertising an SSV (end of season sale) on banners displayed on its façade, the Kreipe café and cake shop, and an unusual raised glass booth by the road that may be a traffic monitoring station. The film switches to a view of the church with a prominent tower in the middle distant background, possibly Market Church.

Titles: Hannover. Ministry of Work

There are several views of a modern building supported on concrete stilts, built in the style of Le Corbusier. Kate Brown walks around the building and towards a colourful flower bed in the foreground.

Titles: Hannover. Masch Park

There are various shots of the New Town Hall in Maschsee Park. Children play on climbing frames in a playground.

Titles: Hannover. Masch Park

A man walks beside the lake Maschsee with a young child. The two are eating ice cream. A sailing boat is seen in the background. There are various views of a 1930s sculpture of a figure in motion on a tall pedestal, and of a lakeside sculpture by Hermann Scheuernstuhl of putto and fish. A young man in a sailing boat shows off for the camera. He arches over the side of the boat and performs sailing manoeuvres. Three women walk past a sculpture of a naked man and woman.

Title: Federal Republic of Germany. Northern Part and Berlin

A group of people consult a map.

Title: Berlin

A hand drawn map with arrow pointing to West Berlin indicates the next stop for the tour. There is a close up of the English inscription in stone work on the Soviet War Memorial in the Tiergarten, West Berlin, followed by a view of the front of the memorial showing the tank sculpture. Two Soviet soldiers guard the memorial, which is framed in an arch.

Titles: West Berlin. Reichstag

There are views from the foreground square of the neo classical Reichstag building without dome. Then there is a close up of the bronze inscription that reads 'Dem Deutschen Volke' (To The German People) located above the main portal of the building. The film switches to a view of the Berlin Zoologischer Garten overground railway station, or Zoo Station, with a Soviet Bloc style building in the background. There is a further view of the glass enclosed bridge to the station advertising Dunlop. Next there is a shot of Amerika Haus Berlin, a modern looking post war building and former passport office in the Berlin district of Schöneberg. This institution promoted American culture and politics. There are brief shots of a pedestrian crossing signal.

Titles: West Berlin. Kurfürsten-Damm

There are several night time views of the wide commercial avenue, Kurfürstendamm in western Berlin. Some of the shots focus on the neon advertising signs that decorate the buildings. A hoarding next to the Hotel Am Zoo advertises the film 'Burning Sands'.

Title: West Berlin. Brandenberg Gate 1793

At the Brandenberg Gate, there are border crossing checkpoints. A sign warns: 'You Are Now Leaving British Sector.' A man points to the sign. Two passport control guards stand near the border crossings. General views of the Brandenberg Gate follow.

Title: East Berlin

The East German coach trip guides pose for the camera. There are shots of an old building (unidentified) that was badly damaged by bombs during the Second World War. Kate Brown stands with a small group of people next to a stone wall heavily marked by bomb shell shrapnel. Scaffolding is erected on a bomb damaged old building (unidentified.)

Title: East Berlin. 1/- per day

Two female nursery school workers walk by pushing prams. Small groups of children walk with them. Two of the children turn and wave at the camera.

Title: East Berlin. Marx-Engels-Platz

There is a general view of Marx-Engels-Platz, a public park in the central Mitte district of Berlin, now known as Schlossplatz (Palace Square.) The film switches to a view of the space where the Hohenzollern Palace once stood.

Title: East Berlin. Soviet War Memorial

There is a shot of the Soviet War Memorial (or Soviet Cenotaph) in Treptower Park, East Berlin. A close up of the stone relief carvings of military scenes and quotations from Joseph Stalin follows. A crowd of tourists stands at a viewing point between two statues of kneeling soldiers, which are part of the memorial. The Soviet and East German flags are flying from the roof of a building. There is a signpost for Stalinallee (later named Marxallee) with views of the boulevard. There are views of a building on Stalinallee and an area of wasteland where buildings were destroyed during World War Two. There is a panning shot of an area of grassed wasteland, which was the site of Hitler’s Bunker. There is a brief shot of a United States army truck followed by a view of the East German Parliament building. The sequence closes with a view across a bomb-damaged wall towards the distant Reichstag building.

Title: Poland

Kate Brown stands with a group of local children beside the tour coach.

Title: Poland. Poznan

There are general views of Poznan Town Hall in the Old Market Square and a close up of the display of mechanical fighting goats, which plays out daily at noon above the town hall clock. An ice cream seller smokes a cigarette whilst serving customers in the street. A postal van drives down the street bouncing along on the uneven road surface. A tram moves into the Old Market Square. There is a shot of a sign post to Warszawa: Kutno.

Title: Poland. Warsaw.

A hand drawn map with arrow pointing to Warsaw, Poland, indicates the next stop for the tour. This sequence of film begins with a view of the Nathan Rappaport Memorial to Herres at the site of the Warsaw ghetto, located on Zamenhofa Street. In the background there is a post war socialist housing block. At the front of the monument, there is a carved relief of Jewish Resistance fighters. Another relief at the back of the monument shows a line of Jewish people marching to their death. The film then switches to a view of the tour coach in front of the ruins of the Gestapo headquarters on Szucha Avenue. There are shrines placed on the walls of the building commemorating the Poles who had been executed there. Flowers have been placed at the steps of a statue. Many Soviet-style block housing feature in the background.

Title: Poland. Warsaw. Chopin.

There are several different views of the Chopin Memorial on the western edge of Royal Lazienki Park, Warsaw.

Title: Poland. Warsaw. Palace of Culture.

The next sequences are of Soviet-style block housing, followed by the monumental Palace of Culture and Science.

Title: Polish Village.

There are shots of a Polish village with rustic thatched houses and wooden shuttered windows and doors. Women and children from the village smile and pose for the camera. Kate Brown poses with the children.

Title: Russia.

The Russian tour guide poses for the camera. A hand drawn map with arrow pointing to Minsk, Russia, indicates the next stop for the tour. There is a cluster of red flags followed by a sign with Russian writing. The film cuts to a shot of an apothecary followed by a sign for Minsk Guest House. Kate stands next to a large downpipe, probably for draining the water from melting snow. There are various shots showing people on the streets of Minsk in drab clothing. A shot of a sign to Moscow follows. A primitive bicycle vehicle drives by on the street. In Red Square there is an equestrian statue, a Monument to Yuri I Dolgorukiy, known as Yuri the Long-armed. A general view of people on the street follows. Soviet army trucks drive by. A long line of people stand and eat on the pavement of a Moscow street. The next shot is of an automatic fizzy drinks machine on the street.

Title: Russia. Moscow. Red Square.

Kate Brown and a group of tourists stand on the steps of the Kremlin. There is a view of G.U.M., the huge state department store on the eastern side of Red Square. There is a close up of a sign, followed by a general view of the Lenin-Stalin Mausoleum with wooden boarding at street level. A single person is moving around the mausoleum on a ledge on an upper level, removing the lettering of Stalin’s name. The film cuts to a close up of a man and child. The child holds a ball point pen. The film then pans around Red Square to frame the Winter Palace. There are several close ups of the people congregating in Red Square. The filmmaker focuses on groups of people from different ethnic communities congregating in red Square, which include a group of Mongolian men.

Title: Russia. Moscow. St Basil’s 1560.

There are various views of St Basil’s Cathedral within the walls of the Kremlin. Some show the red brick towers and brightly painted onion domes and turrets of the building.

Title: Russia. Moscow. The Kremlin.

The film shows various views of the exterior of the Kremlin, Moscow.

Title: Russia. Moscow. Kremlin. Czar’s Cannon, 1584.

Crowds of people mill around the enormous Tsar Cannon. Kate Brown stands next to a Soviet woman in a traditional shawl.

Title: Russia. Moscow. Kremlin. Czar’s Bell, 180 Tons.

There are various shots of the crowds around the Tsar Bell followed by a close up of the reliefs decorating the bell. The film then switches to shots of the large Leningrad Hotel building.

Title: Old Moscow.

There is a short sequence that shows very old dilapidated two-storey housing in Moscow with a close up of the wooden roofs.

Title: Moscow. Pushkin.

There are various views of the bronze monument to Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin on Pushkin Square. A general view of cranes at construction sites in Moscow follows. A woman and man use a primitive stretcher to carry building materials. There is a shot of a street vendor selling fruit juice using an apparatus connected to the water mains to wash out glasses. There is a brief shot of the main gate to the Exhibition Centre in Moscow, built for the second All-Union Agricultural Exhibition (VSKhV) in 1954. General views of people in the streets and parks of the city follow. There are many shots of military personnel. There is a shot of the gigantic stainless steel 'Worker and the Kolkhoz Woman' statue framed against a grey sky with the worker holding a hammer and the woman a sickle. A horse and cart and motor cars drive past. On the side of a busy road there is a row of two storey old style housing with wooden roofing. A brief shot shows the massive, uniform high rise building of the post war period in Moscow.

Title: Moscow. Bolshoi Theatre.

There are a variety of shots of the exterior of the Bolshoi Theatre, followed by a brief oblique shot of a large Moscow metro station, with tour coach on the left. Kate Brown is presented with flowers for her wedding anniversary by two members of the coach party. The film then cuts to a wooded rural scene where a horse and trap with an unusual harness drives by quickly.

Title: Russia. Smolensk.

A hand drawn map with arrow pointing to Smolensk, Russia, indicates the next stop for the tour. There is a shot of the stone walls of the Smolensk kremlin (or fortress) decorated with a head sculpture. Next there is a shot of the eagles’ monument commemorating the centenary of the Russian victory over Napoleon. Then there is a shot of the ruins of a red brick church with some ad hoc scaffolding in the front and rear of the building.

Title: Russia. Smolensk Cathedral.

There are various sequences of the six-pillared five-domed Baroque Cathedral of the Assumption, which stands on the Cathedral Hill.

Title: Russian Village.

The next shots are of older detached wooden houses in the countryside. Two children and a grandmother wearing a headscarf pose for the camera.

Title: Russian Propaganda.

There are colourful posters on roadside billboards celebrating Russian achievements, including one graphic poster of the launch of the Sputnik satellite. The tour coach is parked at the side of the road as a Russian army vehicle passes.

Title: Contretemps 1.

The coach encounters engine trouble on the route back to Poland.

Title: Russia. Rocket Fuel.

A brief sequence shows fields where peat is being harvested.

Title: Poland Once Again.

A crowd of children swarm around the coach when it stops for fuel. The children are holding sweets given to them by tourists. The children return to the coach with picture postcards of the village.

Title: Poland. Cracow.

A hand drawn map with an arrow pointing to 'Cracow,' Poland, indicates the next stop for the tour.

Title: Cracow. 16th Century Cloth Hall.

There are two views of the exterior of the Cloth Hall with its Renaissance edifice.

Title: Cracow. 15th Century St Mary’s.

There are several views of the Basilica of the Virgin Mary's in Grand Square with its two tall towers and Gothic spire. Close-ups of the tower and intricate spire follow. The coach driver holds a baby and smiles at camera. He passes the baby back to the mother. Title: Cracow. University Founded 1364.

A crowd of tourists are inside the courtyard of the fifteenth century Grand College at the Jagiellonian University. Kate Brown poses next to one of the columns.

Title: Cracow. Site of the Walls.

A fountain stands in gardens. There is a shot of a pretzel seller on the street. Next, there is a view of the inner gate of Krakow barbican, leading into Krakow’s Old Town, followed by a close-up of a niche carving in the cobbled wall. There are shots of a glass-sided cart selling pretzels in the busy roadside. A road sign reads 'Rzeka Wiska Most Nosnosc 30t.' which translates as 'River Vistula: most visited bridge.' There is an elevated view of the River Vistula from the old town walls with a carved stone urn pictured on the left. Kate Brown and another tourist look out at the river.

Title: Cracow. 14th Century Cathedral.

There is a general view of Wawel Cathedral, Krakow. Kate Brown walks towards the camera through the arches. A young girl is dressed in traditional Polish national costume. Kate and other people board a small punt to cross the River Vistula. Four sun-burned youths paddle a canoe furiously along the river. There is a general view of the path beside the River Vistula looking across the river towards the medieval Wawel Castle on the opposite bank.

Title: Poland. Kracow. Mates.

Groups of men are sitting at concrete tables playing open-air games of chess and cards.

Title: Poland. Wieliczka. Saltmine.

There are general views of the trip to Wieliczka Salt Mine. A group of tourists pose beside a statue of salt mine workers.

Title: Contretemps 2 . Passengers disembark from the coach and luggage is off-loaded from the roof top racks to allow the coach to pass through a tunnel.

Title: Czechoslovakia. Praha.

A hand drawn map with arrow pointing to Prague indicates the next stop for the tour.

Title: Czechoslovakia. Praha. Peace Wall.

A fountain plays in front of a colourful wall of the Peace Park, Prague. The word 'peace' is painted in different languages on the side of the wall.

Title: Czechoslovakia. Prague. Powder Tower 1480.

There are several views of the Powder Tower at the edge of the Old Town in Prague, followed by shots of the Old Town Hall with its Astronomical Clock.

Title: Czechoslovakia. Prague. Tyn Church.

A sequence of general views of the Tyn Church in the Old Town, Prague, is followed by a medium close-up of the twin towers of the church.

Title: Czechoslovakia. Prague. Hus. 1369-1415.

There are general views of the Jan Hus Memorial in Old Town Square taken from various approaches to the memorial. The film cuts to a close up of a metal plane sculpture. There is an elevated view of the red roofs and old arcades of buildings in the Old Town. The large granite Stalin Monument stands on a concrete pedestal. The monument was unveiled in 1955 and destroyed in 1962. There is a sign for Charles Bridge, followed by a shot of the Statuary of St Cross-Calvary on the north side of the bridge. We can see the golden Hebrew text on the crucifix. General views of Charles Bridge follow with a sequence of close-ups of individual statues standing on parapets and a commemorative plaque. This section closes with a shot of one statue, which stands on a pillar at Kampa Island by Charles Bridge.

Title: Prague: Boys Will Be Boys.

A group of boys are playing on the banks and in the water at the Vltava River. A distant view of St Vitus Cathedral and Prague Castle from the Charles Bridge follows.

Title: Prague. St Vitus Cathedral 1344.

There are various views of the exterior of St Vitus Cathedral followed by an interior shot of a stained glass window. Then, we move to the front base of the cathedral and a view upwards of the clock tower. A woman is laughing and knitting with four knitting needles. There is a close up of a timetable and other guides for the Lufthansa airline company. Passengers are leaving a small aircraft. Then there is a view of the English Channel from an airplane travelling between Frankfurt-am-Main to London.

Title: The End.

End credit: Photography & Titles By T. H. Brown