TV footage of England's 1966 World Cup glory is being transformed

England’s lions of ’66 roar into colour: TV footage of World Cup final glory is now being transformed into full colour for the first time since a long-lost film… which was made by a Chilean activist, a Turkish artist and South African film-maker!

  • The entire 1966 World Cup final is being transformed into a full-colour version
  • England’s greatest sporting moment was only ever broadcast in black and white 
  • Colour highlights exist, but now the whole game is getting full-colour treatment 
  • A Bafta award-winning colour film was made at the time – called Goal!
  • But that has been lost over time, and its whereabouts remain a mystery 

With the iconic images of red shirts and a golden trophy glinting in the sun it is easy to be fooled into thinking you have seen England’s finest two hours in all its glorious colour when you haven’t.

There is no complete footage of the 1966 World Cup final known to exist other than the black-and-white film broadcast to the nation at the time.

But now England’s World Cup heroics of 1966 are to be immortalised in glorious colour.

England’s World Cup final victory over West Germany has been fully immortalised in colour

The black and white footage of the entire 90 minutes plus extra time will be restored and colourised by the team behind the acclaimed First World War film They Shall Not Grow Old.

There certainly was a full colour film before, because a talented and eclectic team of filmmakers captured the game against West Germany in glorious technicolour and created a BAFTA award-wining documentary.

Goal! navigates the thrills and spills of the tournament: the pain of Pele, Italy’s demise at the hands of North Korea, the goals of Eusebio and its finale at Wembley Stadium.

It proved a hit in cinemas around the world and was produced by Octavio Senoret, an actor turned producer responsible for the official World Cup film in 1962 when his native Chile hosted the tournament.

He paid FIFA £15,000 for the rights to do it again four years later, inspired by Kon Ichikawa’s acclaimed Tokyo Olympiad, a colour film made for cinema to document the Olympic Games of 1964.

Senoret envisaged a cinematic masterpiece. He recruited as directors Abidin Dino, a Turkish artist and political dissident living in Paris, and Ross Devenish, a South African filmmaker living in London.

The black and white footage of the entire 90 minutes plus extra time will be restored and colourised

‘We wanted to go beyond just a straight account,’ 80-year-old Devenish tells Sportsmail from his home in Cape Town. ‘Beyond just a news report, to something that lasted. Octavio wanted to do for football what Ichikawa had done for the Olympics.

‘He saw the opportunity to do what television companies could not, liberating the world from gloomy black-and-white and see the World Cup for what it was, in Technicolour and in Vistavision, a wide-screen system, not a simple grey smudge of shadows.

‘As our film would be shown in cinemas, long after the event, we could not simply repeat what people had already seen. We had to go in another direction. What we could do was show the detail, taking the viewer within the experience, rather than having a bird’s eye view of the battle.’

New technology enabled Devenish and Dino to get in close and concentrate on the emotions of the players such as Pele and his injury against Portugal.

‘Watching the destruction of a legend, the departure of a warrior was a major moment,’ recalls Devenish. ‘We saw Pele’s slow exit, heightened by the effects.

‘Another good example is Eusebio. He was poetry in motion and we focused on him, helped by the facility we had to shoot the last few games in slow motion.

‘We could observe the mind behind the face. It was a homage to his stature as a player, and those of his calibre. The clarity of 35mm is much greater than 16mm so the material was amazing.

‘The other player who carved his own way into the film was Bobby Charlton with his few strands of hair flying untidily about and was a real star.

‘It’s fair to say Goal! changed the manner in which TV now cover games.’

it is easy to be fooled into thinking you have seen England’s finest two hours in all its glorious colour when you haven’t

There is no complete footage of the 1966 World Cup final known to exist other than the black-and-white film broadcast to the nation at the time

Using 117 cameras, they shot 46 hours of footage on 35mm film, with high-speed cameras recording at 24 frames per second, amounting to more than 23 miles of film.

‘Apart from being expensive, you needed a lot of space to store the film,’ says Devenish. ‘We had to be conservative about exposing the film stock in earlier games. It was important to shoot only the crucial moments and cameramen had to pre-empt them.’

At Wembley, some cameras were low, others high to cover the action and the goalmouths. One camera was used solely to capture the emotions of the crowd.

‘Extra-time was particularly nail-biting,’ says Devenish. ‘Cameramen had been allocated film on the assumption it would be 90 minutes and, as the game went further into extra time, extra stock had to be rushed out.

‘I could feel the tension of the crew about whether we would run out, and the atmosphere in the stadium was overwhelming. The team I was filming with was behind one goal and we filmed the controversial third goal.

‘It was as if it had been scripted by a master. I am not really a sport fan but I love drama, and I appreciate the tension and excitement involved in a football match. I have never before or since experienced the intensity of feeling that reached me in that arena.

‘It was certainly much more than a game. Feelings were still intense even though the war had ended some 20 years before. My tension was enhanced by the potential disaster we faced if we had no film to cover the end.

‘I felt euphoric when it came to an end. That was how the English supporters felt as well. A national eruption of joy and our high-speed cameras were able to capture the elation.’

Ross Devenish was the filmmaker behind Goal! He is pictured holding an award only months after the film had gone on release in 1966 (left) and at home in South Africa (right)

Goal! was edited at Samuelson’s studios in Cricklewood. The drama of the final was distilled into 20 minutes at the end of the feature. Distributed by Columbia, it proved a global hit and won a BAFTA award for best documentary.

He never crossed paths again with Senoret, who reportedly killed himself in Los Angeles in 1990.

‘Octavio was handsome and polite, and perhaps a little aloof,’ recalls Devenish. ‘I always felt closer to his friend Abidin, who was an artist: a painter, a writer and a wonderful storyteller.’

Dino died in Paris in 1993 at the age of 80. As for the original colour film of the final, any that did not make the cut was probably destroyed to reclaim the valuable silver nitrate it contained.

‘Apart from the vast warehouses needed to store the film, the accountants would not have liked to see all that silver nitrate go to waste,’ says Devenish. ‘We were the only ones ever filming in colour. The games on television were only seen in black and white and when we see a colour clip today it is probably one of ours.’

Efforts to track down the original failed. The team from Final Replay ’66, the hit watch-along repeat of the final with Sir Geoff Hurst and Glenn Hoddle, screened this year, spent six months scouring the globe for it. 

The search led them from the FA, the National Football Museum, the BBC, ITV, Pathe and the British Film Institute to the FIFA vaults in Switzerland, the German FA, and across the Atlantic to New York and Columbia Pictures in Los Angeles.

No-one could explain for the whereabouts of the colour film until they reached South Africa and found Devenish. They have concluded it is lost forever. Devenish’s theory about the recycling operation is probably accurate.

Yet the wonders of modern technology are about to restore and remaster England’s finest two hours. Once again, those heroes of 1966 will be conquering the world in glorious technicolour. 

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