Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Close Up: "The Battle and Fall of Przemyśl" (USA, 1915)

In the spring of 1915, American cameraman Albert K. Dawson followed the attack by the Austro-Hungarian army on the Eastern Front. The target was Przemyśl, a heavily fortified city that had been taken by the Russians earlier that year. Segments of Dawson's war film The Battle and Fall of Przemyśl - long considered lost - were recently found by the authors in the Austrian film archives.

The effect of the bombardment of Przemyśl. Note the copright reference to Dawson. The same scene also appeared in his war film 

Film Sources

While researching our book on the American cinematographers in the Great War we came across various film fragments that were shot by Dawson during this offensive. Apart from footage at the Library of Congress the Imperial War Museum also has scenes from this film. The film in London turned out to be a copy of a movie with Hungarian intertitles. The frame enlargements that we found, as well as the lecture that was used for the exhibition of the film in the U.S.A, all pinpoint to Dawson who as a neutral American film correspondent appears to have done most of the principal cinematography for this movie.

Opening scenes from film clip

The most complete sequence comes from footage which is now at the Austrian Film Museum in Vienna. Running 14 minutes, the film starts with the Austrian artillery bombarding the forts of Przemyśl. In the next scene we see Dawson walking on the battlefield, together with an Austrian soldier. He is also seen inspecting the artillery that had been taken from the Russians. The film ends with a celebration of the capture of the city which took place on June 3, 1915.

To recontruct the original look and feel of this war film from 1915 as released in the USA we translated the Hungarian intertitles into English and added contemporary Austrian military music to these film segments.

For some interesting backgrond information, here is a download link to a publicity leaflet of this World War I film, which was used during an exhibition in November 1915. 

You can read more on Dawson's film adventures during World War I in our book Shooting the Great War: Albert Dawson and the American Correspondent Film Company (2013)



  1. Awesome and such an interesting man and story. Your book was truly inspiring as well, especially for all of us connected with Dawson's hometown of Vincennes, Indiana. Thanks for all your work and research on Albert Dawson.

    1. Thank you! Dawson has placed Vincennes on the map of film history


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