The Lost Aviator
The legacy of Captain Bill Lancaster is perhaps one of the more enthralling tales from the golden age of aviation that has, for the most part, gone undetected throughout the past 80 years. Part love story, part crime drama, part history lesson, Lancaster’s life encompasses all the traits of an Agatha Christie adaptation that finally comes to light in the newly developed biographical documentary, The Lost Aviator.
At a glance, the word “aviator” may lead viewers to expect a standard retelling of an eccentric thrill-seeker during the height of aviation innovation. But as the film quickly establishes, Lancaster’s life was much more riveting, and his actions have since divided a family and the aviation community. Even more intriguing is that the film is spearheaded by Bill Lancaster’s great nephew, Andrew Lancaster, who looks to uncover whether his decorated ancestor was in fact a murderer or a falsely accused hero.
Beginning his career in the RAF, Lancaster sets his sights on becoming the first person to fly from England to Australia, with female co-pilot “Chubbie” Miller accompanying him. During their adventure, the pair fall in love (despite Lancaster already having a wife and two children awaiting him in England) and flourish throughout the tabloid world, becoming rock stars of their time. Settling together in LA, their fame begins to deteriorate and so they hire fledging writer Haden Clarke to pen their life story. A love triangle of sorts blossoms between the trio, abruptly ending with Lancaster being charged with the murder of Clarke.
Though acquitted, there remains an uncertainty as to whether Lancaster actually did commit the crime – a notion explored generously with surviving family members, aviation experts and Lancaster biographers alike.
To further establish the trial’s position in history, director Andrew Lancaster delves deep into how the crime was unravelled by forensics, the controversial methods of case inspection and how the media affected the trial by elevating and demoting Lancaster and Miller’s characters in order to captivate public interest.
The more absorbing factors to this retrospective are the family sensitivities explored, with some relatives expressing almost a cult-like fear of unearthing any truth that could tarnish the Lancaster heritage.
Hero or failure, Bill Lancaster lead an extraordinary life whose accomplishments and controversies prompt the viewer to consider whether they would rather know the truth if such events afflicted their own ancestry.
The Lost Aviator is released nationwide on 16th October 2014.
For further information about the BFI London Film Festival visit here.
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Watch the trailer for The Lost Aviator here: