Monday 15 July 2019

Mystery Photographs No:6 Russian film.

I recently acquired a spectacular series of 30 photographs documenting the shooting of miniature ship effects for an unknown Russian film.

I had been watching these on ebay for at least a year. The original starting price was way outside what I could afford and ironically the seller had cut and pasted a section of text from the about page of this website. Over time with apparently no takers the price did come down gradually but was still higher than my meager resources would allow. Just recently a "make an offer" button was added to the listing and I offered what I could afford, which to my surprise was accepted.

The photographs are small prints only about 125mm by 80mm (5" x 3 1/4") and are pasted in an old  photo album. The photos show a range of techniques in use from very detailed miniatures to paintings on glass and what looks like a full size set piece. The filming tank is built outdoors on the coast so that the overflow blends with the real ocean horizon. There is a shot showing the wave making equipment and one showing a wind machine made from the cut off front of a small aircraft.

I would love to know the title of the film and the year it was made. If any reader has any clues about the film please let me know using the comments system.

Update - mystery solved 

Reader of this site Wings_of_Wrath knew exactly which Russian film these photographs are from (see his comment in the comment section below), they are from a double set of films on the life of Admiral Fyador Ushakov made in colour in 1953.
The first is called "Admiral Ushakov" (Адмирал Ушаков) and the second "Attack from the Sea" (Корабли штурмуют бастионы). Wings_of_Wrath's comment also provided URLs to both films  on Youtube and they both have some terrific miniature ship sequences.

The small photo album

Inside, no text just small black and white photos.

Back cover

The Photographs

Here you can see where the tank horizon is extended by the real ocean horizon behind.

The distant ships are not much more than some simple sail shapes lined up.

Full size set piece.

Glass painting of distant ships.

Clouds painted on glass.

Wave making; the bit of wood probably makes the small ripples while the drum makes the larger swell.

Wind machine made from the front of an old aircraft.

Miniature castle being populated with miniature cannons.

Close up of the distant simplified sail models


  1. My first thought on seeing the photographs was check the list of ships present at the Battle of Navarino (1827), since the partial name Vanguard is visible on the ship flying the British flag in picture 9.

    Sadly that proved not to be the case. But I'm pretty sure once the film is identified it will prove to be of one of the times the Russian navy operated in the Mediterranean Sea, the most well known of which prior to Navarino were the operations during the reign of Catherine the Great.

  2. Try "Admiral Nakhimov" (1947). The film (by Pudovkin - second only to Eisenstein as a giant of Soviet Cinema) can be found on YouTube, and seems a possible match (Russians v Turks v Everyone)

    I suggested it to an historian friend, who says the pictures could be a fit for the subject's battles in Crimea.

    P.S: Don't take my word for it. My track record ain't great so far!

  3. Such a wonderful find and an utterly vital set of rare artifacts for your collection. I'm so pleased that this album found it's way to you.

    Keep up the excellent work

    NZ Pete

  4. I know exactly what film this is, and it's a two part series shot in 1953 which deals with the life of Russian Admiral Fyodor Ushakov. The first part is called "Admiral Ushakov" (Адмирал Ушаков) while the second is "Attack from the Sea"(Корабли штурмуют бастионы)and deals with the Siege of Corfu in 1798-99. They mainly used the same miniatures, but the fort appears in the second part.
    Both films are available online -
    the first:
    and the second:

    1. Wow thanks Wings for the info and the links. There are some impressive miniature ship sequences in those two movies and in colour which was a surprise I just assumed from the photos it would be black and white.

    2. There is a French flag (I think) flying on the fort. Did Ushakov/Russia fight the French then. Maybe Corfu was occupied by them?

  5. Btw, would you like some more info on Russia films?

  6. I most certainly would like more info on Russian miniature effects work of all types but particularly ships and aircraft for the two current website projects and for a future project, trains.

    1. Cool! I have some info on the movie Metro A section of a tunnel and a train was built for that. I know the guy who did it. And also olt school fx guys who did ships for Moonsund and some other movies. Maybe we could connect via e-mail:)

  7. You can reach me through modelshipsinthecinema at gmail dot com - just replace the "at" and "dot" words with the correct bits and it should work.

  8. I've just had a quick look at some bits of the movie. First of all it's in colour! It seems to be a life story of the admiral as it begins in the 1780's at the time of Catharine the Great. The later sea battle must Navarino as the ships losing the battle carry Turkish flags.

  9. This is quite a discovery! I wonder how it ended up for sale on eBay?


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