Shattered City, an epic two-part mini-series, dramatizes a compelling piece of Canadian history. It is the story of how a tragic incident at the height of the First World War became a living metaphor for the worldwide conflict, and how Halifax arose from the ashes after severe destruction and devastation. In the early hours of December 6, 1917, the Mont Blanc, a French-owned freighter loaded to the gunnel's with thousands of tons of TNT, collided with a Belgian relief ship and exploded in the Halifax Harbour. The explosion was so vast that it killed more than 2,000 people, injured 9,000 more and completely flattened two square kilometers of northern Halifax. The series settles mostly on one family, the Collins, who's eldest son Charlie, a captain in the Royal Canadian Army, who tries to find the rest of his family including his fatally injured father, as well as his mother, and other siblings among the rubble, and later finds himself as a lawyer defending the Mont Blanc's captain, Le ... Written by
The blast took 1/50th of a second to destroy the area damaged See more »
When the French captain and his crew are arrested, the Mountie determines that the captain is lying about being from Montreal by asking him who won last week's hockey game between Montreal and Toronto. When the captain guesses "Montreal", the Mountie draws his gun and says it was actually Detroit. This dialogue seems to be referring to the National Hockey League, which was formed the same year of the Halifax Explosion. Toronto and Montreal would have had NHL teams at that time, but Detroit didn't enter the league until 1926. (Although Detroit is known as an "Original Six" team, this actually refers to the six teams that comprised the NHL for several decades; the NHL was originally an all-Canadian league for back in 1917, there were no American hockey teams with the league.) See more »
This film is dedicated to the spirit and the memory of Constance "Connie" Bond Young August 9, 1911 - February 22, 2003 See more »
My commentary: First and foremost, while the emphasis was on human error in the movie, the fact is war is a very fertile breeding ground for accidents on top of the deliberate carnage. "Saving Private Ryan" noted this with the mention of the glider that was fitted with armor plating - but no one thought to tell the pilot. So it crashes and six soldiers are killed needlessly. Accounts of war proliferate in tragic incidents such as that one. The Halifax Explosion must be the biggest war-related accident in history.
The Great War featured incomprehensibly vast usage of artillery shells, and artillery shells need TNT and other explosives. A lot of this had to be imported from the U.S., and by ships. Ships had to be gathered in ports. Ports will then see a lot of ships coming and going, and harbor masters are going to be pressed to keep all this traffic moving. The odds were considerable something like the incident of Dec. 6th, 1917 would happen someplace in Allied ports sooner or later.
Captain Le Medec probably wasn't the greatest or bravest mariner of all time. But how many ship captains who have seniority or pull are going to agree to captain a massive floating bomb at the height of the U-boat menace? Second, did anyone notice that the movie exonerates harbor pilot Mackie while making Le Medec and the Belgian captain look like total dolts at the helm; and has Mackie trying to avert disaster while the Frenchman funks off with his crew? Considering it is a Canadian and not a French production, what a surprise.
Then there is the almost defeatist speech Capt. Collins gives to the war rally in the church. Excuse me, an *officer* in HM forces blurting out like that? It simply wouldn't have happened at the time. Contrary to what he later tells Barbara, Germans weren't close to suing for peace at the time, and the war wasn't kept going only because the Allies wanted another year of war profits. Indeed, with the Western Front stalemated and Russia close to surrender, Ludendorff et al were convinced victory for Germany was just around the corner. And a lot of people on the Allied side feared the same thing.
On the plus side, I was impressed by what the production did with a limited CBC budget.
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