By Judy Vickers

A SILENT film forerunner of The War Horse, which was lost for 80 years, has gained a new following after being shown in a series of screenings around Scotland.

A Couple of Down and Outs, which tells the story of a First World War veteran and his attempts to save a war horse from the knacker’s yard, was made in 1923 but all copies of it were presumed lost until a few years ago.

Now the film has been shown three times by the charity Scotland's War, with another five showings lined up including one in Edinburgh later this week.

Audiences have been bursting into applause at the end of the movie, which features a WW1 veteran as its star.

A newly restored print was shown at the Bo’ness Hippodrome’s silent film festival last March, with a discussion afterwards with members of Scotland’s War, a project to commemorate the centenary of the First World War.

The 92-year-old son of the film’s producer, Sir Sydney Samuelson – the first British Film Commissioner – attended and was so touched by the screening that he gave the charity the rights to show the film in Scotland.

Now the charity is arranging showings across Scotland and says it’s the perfect vehicle to show how badly treated World War One veterans and the animals which served with them were treated in the aftermath of the 1914-1918 conflict.

Sir Sydney, of the Samuelson film dynasty, said the movie was very special to his family, which includes his son, Peter, a TV and film producer based in Hollywood.

He said: “My father [GB Samuelson] was one of the most prolific pioneer British film producers. He made over 100 features films but only a handful of them survive. This film was on the ‘missing believed lost’ list until four or five years ago. It was discovered in ten rusty cans in an attic in Belgium. “

The film had so badly deteriorated it needed two restorations, one in Amsterdam and one by the BFI in London.

The family have commissioned a new piece of music to be composed and recorded to accompany the film.

“It’s the most wonderful thing. There are five generations of my family who have been or are in the British film industry. It means a great deal to us,” said Sir Sydney, himself a renowned cinematographer who filmed the Queen’s Coronation.

The film is due to be shown at the Central Library in Edinburgh on February 15.

It has already been screened in Dunoon and Polwarth in Edinburgh, with further screenings arranged for Hawick on February 24 and Longniddry on March 28, and events are being planned for Galashiels and Stornoway.