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Lieutenant Daring and the Plans of the Mine Fields (1912)


Main image of Lieutenant Daring and the Plans of the Mine Fields (1912)
35mm, 1425 feet, black & white, silent
DirectorH.O. Martinek
Production CompanyBritish & Colonial
ScriptHarold Brett

Cast: Percy Moran (Lieutenant Daring); Charles Raymond (Leon Scumwasser); Dickie Thorpe (Marcella); E.H. Hotchkiss (the pilot)

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With the valuable assistance of his dog, Nero, the intrepid Lt Daring manages to arrange the capture of two foreign spies.

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Lieutenant Daring (1912-14), like Lieutenant Rose (1910-1915) is an action-adventure series featuring a dashing naval hero, here played by Percy Moran but also played by Clifford Marle, Harry Lorraine and James Russell in other episodes. Produced by series specialists B&C (British & Colonial), Lieutenant Daring was one of the most successful British series of the period, numbering 13 episodes.

Both Rose and Daring are naval officers whose job it is to protect the nation from foreign threat, most frequently in the form of spies or anarchists. While many of the films link this threat to concerns about the British Empire - for example, Lieutenant Daring Quells a Rebellion (1912) or Lieutenant Rose R.N. and the Boxers (1911) - Lieutenant Daring and the Plans of the Mine Fields concentrates on a threat from Europe, which anticipates the build up of tension that would soon develop into the First World War. The specifics of the threat in any one episode are usually arbitrary; in this case a French spy steals a vital set of plans, interestingly by drawing them on his female assistant's body.

Most of the narrative is devoted to Daring's pursuit of the woman and the plans, a structure reminiscent of early chase films such as Rescued by Rover (d. Lewin Fitzhamon, 1905), implicitly recalled in the scene in which Daring is freed by his dog. The complex chase develops over a series of different locations - Charing Cross (missing from the extant print), Folkestone and Boulogne - and makes extensive and striking use of location shooting.

However, what is most remarkable about this chase is the variety of vehicles it employs: train, car, biplane and boat. This fascination with technology, modernity and, in particular, with high-speed forms of transport is characteristic of the serial aesthetic. The Lieutenant Daring films present us with a modern hero, capable of mastering the demands of 20th century technology, who employs this technology in defence of a traditional order based around the King, the British nation and its control of an Empire.

Alex Marlow-Mann

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