Stranger on the Third Floor (1940)

Director:

Boris Ingster

An aspiring reporter is the key witness at the murder trial of a young man accused of cutting a café owner’s throat and is soon accused of a similar crime himself.

An interesting film noir with Peter Lorre in more of a cameo as the mysterious villain than a starring role. He appears briefly, lurking darkly as he attempts to avoid a confrontation with the hero, not saying a word until the final ten minutes of the film. With a fairly nondescript cast, Lorre received top billing for what must have been a fairly easy few days’ work. The film runs for just 64 minutes and is not unlike one of the Hitchcock tele plays in prime-time television in the 50s.

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Boris Ingster includes some creative moments with the dream scenes impressive. I particularly liked the angular images of the prison bars with the gruesome shadow of the electric chair. The ending is a little glib for my liking and the plot fits into place just a little too easily resulting in a fairly banal ending to what could have been a more complex psychological thriller – I thought for a while the hero had actually committed the two murders and that may have been a more interesting development than the more obvious ending. This film was shown on ABC television as part of a series of Film Noir and I was impressed with the superb quality of the print. 2 stars out of 5.

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Considered the First Film-Noir of the Cinema History

7/10
Author: Claudio Carvalho from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
4 June 2012

The reporter Michael ‘Mike’ Ward (John McGuire) is promoted in the newspaper when he becomes the key witness of the murder trial of Joe Briggs (Elisha Cook Jr.), a young man that he had seen threatening the victim Nick in his coffee shop and then leaving the place with Nick with sliced neck. Joe swears innocence and despite the circumstantial evidence, he is convicted and sentenced to the electric chair. Mike’s fiancée Jane (Margaret Tallichet) feels uncomfortable with the sentence and believes that Joe might be innocent. Mike loses his confidence and feels remorse for his testimony accusing Joe.

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One night, Mike brings Jane to his room and his nosy neighbor Albert Meng (Charles Halton) brings the landlord that expels Jane from the boarding house. Mike threatens Meng and later he sees a stranger with bulging eyes (Peter Lorre) on his floor that runs away from him. He has a weird nightmare and when he wakes up, he finds that Meng is murdered with sliced neck similar to Nick. Mike calls the police and is arrested as prime suspect of both murders. Jane seeks out the stranger on the streets to save her fiancé.

“Stranger on the Third Floor” is considered the first film-noir of the cinema history. The story is engaging, supported by magnificent cinematography, and the sequence of Mike’s nightmare is fantastic. Peter Lorre is creepy and the conclusion is naive on the present days. My vote is seven.

Title (Brazil): “O Homem dos Olhos Esbugalhados” (“The Man with Bulging Eyes”)

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The Creepy Mr. Lorre

8/10
Author: Mike-764 (michaelnella@yahoo.com) from Flushing, NY
3 July 2005

Reporter Mike Ward’s testimony sends Briggs to the electric chair for the gruesome murder of a luncheonette owner. He feels remorse over the fact that the evidence was circumstantial and Briggs may have been innocent. Arriving home he sees a creepy looking stranger leave his next door neighbor’s apartment and then starts to wonder when he doesn’t hear his neighbor’s snoring. He suspects that his neighbor, Meng, may be dead and that he might be convicted of the crime. After a bizarre dream, he feels that he was just on edge and they everything is all right. This is all dashed when he finds his neighbor dead and then runs to his girlfriend, Jane, looking for answers. He returns to his apartment and thinks that Meng and the Briggs murder may be the work of the same man, but the police feel that Mike may be the killer.

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Can Jane find the mysterious stranger in time to help Mike, before the stranger strikes again? Good movie with some great flashback sequences and one very surreal (and well done) dream sequence. Lorre was only fulfilling a contract with RKO and has little to do in the movie but is very effective as the stranger. The rest of the cast may be only Hollywood bit players, but are perfectly cast in their roles. Great ending. Rating, 8.

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Quicksand (1950)

Director:

Irving Pichel

Cinematography by

Lionel Lindon
After borrowing $20 from his employer’s cash register, an auto mechanic is plunged into a series of increasingly disastrous circumstances which rapidly spiral out of his control.
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Wow, was I surprised

29 October 2004 | by jshaffer-1 (United States) – See all my reviews

This is a movie you can’t leave alone. At no point did I lose interest in it, and I have never been a Mickey Rooney fan, so I wasn’t expecting that much, but wow, was I surprised. This is a great story, very logical in the way it develops, and I cannot fault Mickey at all. He was great, very believable and gripping. I guess that’s the word, this movie grips you. For once I really cared what was going to happen to someone in a movie. About half way through the meaning of the title flashed in my mind. Quicksand, that’s what he was in, all right. And the more he struggled, the more he sank. It took an abrupt plot twist to get out of all this, but I can’t complain, it held my interest to the last.

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Never trust a blond dame or a guy named Buzz

8/10
Author: Tom Willett (yonhope) from Central Midwest, USA
11 August 2005

Hi, Everyone, Drama hogs… that’s an anagram for Peter Lorre’s character name in this excellent old movie. Peter plays the part of Nick Dramoshag.

Lots of drama from all the cast. Best bad guys here are the car dealer, Oren Mackey, played by Art Smith, and the landlady, played by Minerva Urecal. They are so rotten, but they are not in any trouble with the law.

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If you are a fan of the classic cars of the 40s and 50s, there are some delightful motor carriages awaiting you in this movie. Mickey works at a garage which apparently is a dealership also. There is a line of Studebaker pickup trucks parked just behind Mickey’s old jalopy when we first see his car. I believe his car is a ’31 Chevy. In front of his car is a Studebaker Starlight Coupe’ from about 1949.

Mickey makes one mistake in this movie. He loans $20 to a guy named Buzz who is a future Mousketeer (Jimmie Dodd). Dodd is in no rush to pay it back. Naturally Mickey has to steal some money to take the new dish out on a date. $20 for a date seems a little high when the lunch costs 40 cents. A brand new car is $3000 list price. It looks like a 1949 Mercury. I think they actually were only about $1800. Why does the Studebaker dealer sell Mercurys? It could happen.

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The lunch is only 40 cents because you have to look at Jack Elam with his hair slicked down while you are eating. Jack has only one line here, but you can tell he will someday make it big when he is allowed to be less beautiful.

Mickey is very agile in this. He was about 30 when he made this film, but his character is only 26. Mickey does his own slide down a fire escape and he runs around with great speed and agility under the Santa Monica Pier. I remember him dancing in many movies and he was obviously in great physical condition.

Peter Lorre is so good just looking at someone. He had the voice of a guy who enjoyed raising bats.

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Peter was very good in Casablanca.

Mickey Rooney was excellent in Bridges at Toko Ri. I bet you’ve never seen that. He of course was superb in Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

The car that drives off with Mick at the end of the movie is a Packard. It is probably also a 1949 model. Packard was an expensive automobile. It was a competitor with Cadillac.

It is also fun to watch this now, especially with a teen ager, so you can see what life was like before credit cards.

Tom Willett

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An auto mechanic slips deeper and deeper into the ‘quicksand’ of crime.

10/10
Author: bux from Tecumseh ok
20 October 1998

A great little hunk of film noir. Rooney is sympathetic, albeit immoral as the mechanic that steals $20 and slips deeper into despair as the tale moves on. Peter Lorre is despicable as the man you love to hate, the one who drives Rooney deeper into crime. This one was made after the war, as Rooney attempted to regain his box offce appeal in adult roles. A nifty flick,

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Always liked narrated films best

7/10
Author: bobbobwhite from san ramon ca
22 September 2005

Good crime noir story with a highly energetic(what’s new?) Mickey Rooney in the lead role. He also narrated the film and tied together well all loose ends. Great Santa Monica Pier chase scene at the end with a well conditioned Rooney doing all his own stunts. Top camera-work in B&W, with all the light and shadows of great noir. Peter Lorre was his terrific evil, slimy self in a small role, and Jimmy Cagney’s sister Jeanne was stiffly effective as Rooney’s self-centered girlfriend.

Not a wasted second in the action, and it moves along at breakneck speed as Rooney plays this 40s-50’s typical noir morality tale of how criminals typically go from the first petty crime all the way to the worst crimes and finally end up in prison, but always have nice girls waiting for them when they get out.

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Interesting to note that almost all his crimes were witnessed, and had the cops on him almost before he finished committing them. Not quite the case in the real world as “nobody sees anything” today and most crimes go unsolved. Don’t you wish all crimes were so easily solved as in this film? It would be a very different world than the one we have.

Rooney does melodrama

6/10
Author: djensen1 from northern Indiana
28 May 2005

Wow. Mickey Rooney and Peter Lorre. Together. And with Jimmie from the Mickey Mouse Club *and* Jack Elam! I didn’t know what to expect. In case you were wondering, Rooney proves he can act in the opening scenes. He’s a car mechanic looking to get in good with the new waitress at the diner, but he’s flat broke until tomorrow. “Danny” starts down a slippery slope by copping a few bucks from the till at work, then lets Vera (Jeanne Cagney) steer him wrong by way of a game arcade owned by her former employer, Nick (Lorre). Nick makes the creepiest possible arcade owner, and Vera pines darkly for a mink coat in a store window. These are not good people to fall in with.

While the film starts out pretty cleverly, the coincidences start to pile up fast and furious. Danny’s little white theft festers into a mugging, grand theft auto, a burglary, and worse. The wrong people keep finding out too much about Danny’s activities, and soon the cops are crawling all over him.

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The acting is quite good, and the direction and pacing are clean. But the wild improbabilities that have piled up threaten to topple the whole house of cards, from the convenient witnesses to the convenient cops to the convenient car trouble. Remember: Danny is an auto mechanic. He can’t keep his own car in running condition? Still, it’s a treat to see Rooney in such desperate straits. For those looking for Raymond Chandler, tho, this isn’t noir; it’s still just melodrama.

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Drive a Crooked Road (1954)

Directed by Richard Quine

Drive a Crooked Road is a 1954 American crime film noir directed by Richard Quine and featuring Mickey Rooney, Dianne Foster, Kevin McCarthy, and Jack Kelly. The drama’s screenplay was written by Blake Edwards and Richard Quine from The Wheel Man; a story by Canadian James Benson Nablo.

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Great performance by Rooney

24 October 2005 | by madformickey05 (United States) – See all my reviews

Drive A Crooked Road was a great performance by Mr. Mickey Rooney. I’m never ceased to be amazed by this man’s talents. As a child I used to watch his films and he always amazed me then and always will. I recently discovered this classic gem and is one of the best performances of Mr. Rooney’s. Mickey Rooney always gives a good performance. Mickey Rooney plays an auto mechanic who is framed by the girl he thinks loves him. Mickey Rooney did a lot of great film noir in the 50’s. For other great Rooney 1950’s performances check out Baby Face Nelson, The Big Operator, The Last Mile (an amazing performance by Rooney.) You will not be disappointed.

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Affecting performance by Rooney as duped misfit in odd weeper/noir

7/10
Author: bmacv from Western New York
18 August 2002

Is there such a thing as a male weeper? Bang The Drum Slowly certainly belongs, as do parts of The Knute Rockne Story (`Let’s win this one for the Gipper!’). Probably the whole athlete-dying-young genre does for men what Stella Dallas did for women. Another candidate for inclusion is Drive A Crooked Road, a 1954 noir starring Mickey Rooney.

 

Rooney’s abbreviated stature helped keep him in pictures as America’s oldest teen-ager. But once he hit 30, it was inevitable that adult roles should come his way. As the noir cycle was in full swing, that’s where he landed. In The Strip and Quicksand, he still managed to pass as a stripling. By the time of this movie, however, he was well into his 30s, with broad hits of chubbiness settling into his face and midriff. He was still the star, not yet relinquished to character roles, though it was unclear how to handle him. So he became a misfit – a `freak.’

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He’s an awkward, lonely auto mechanic with dreams of driving someday in the Grand Prix – dreams he knows won’t come true. With one exception, his fellow mechanics tease him mercilessly, especially about his lack of sexual experience. One day an unattainable woman (Dianne Foster) gives him the big eye, and he succumbs, however tentatively at first. (His ache for her is palpable when she plays hard to get, as he tosses on his rooming-house bed with his few racing trophies now emblems of hollow triumph). But she’s just a cat’s-paw for her real boyfriend, Kevin McCarthy, living the high life in his beach-house bachelor pad; he’s planning to knock over a bank in Palm Springs and needs Rooney as his daredevil driver. With Foster’s increasingly reluctant urging, Rooney signs on….

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The resolution, of course, is the falling out of thieves; a large portion of the plot was to be echoed, 10 years later, in Don Siegel’s remake of The Killers. Though the robbery and escape should have been the centerpiece, or at least the central set-piece, of the movie, here it seems curiously perfunctory (these comments are based on viewing a version some minutes short of recorded running times, however). But the movie’s staying power lies in Rooney’s portrayal of the dupe, the victim – all the more memorable for being so understated.

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Perhaps Rooney’s finest movie

10/10
Author: bux from Tecumseh ok
29 May 2001

I saw this one at the theater, as a kid, when it came out. I have searched for a VHS copy of this one for years, and finally came across it recently on the internet. It is no wonder that this one stayed with me for so long. This is without a doubt Mickey Rooney’s best movie as an adult. It would seem that after the war and the Andy Hardy series wound down that Mick was having a difficult time finding his niche in Hollywood. He did score very well with “Quicksand”(1950)but in this one he pulls out all the stops. Constantly he is referred to as “the little freak” and several comments are made concerning his manhood, or lack thereof. We slowly watch as Mick is played off by the gangster’s moll, lured into the web of robbery and deceit; this is NOT a pretty movie. The movie builds slowly to an unforgettable, unexpected climax. Still a great movie after almost 50 years!

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Nearly perfect with a couple of big problems

8/10
Author: HEFILM from French Polynesia
12 April 2010

Richard Quine probably has his best “non comedy” film with this one, but maybe has to take the rap also for what’s weak about this film. The opening car race and the key bank “race” are pretty blandly done as is any other action set piece in the movie. The opening scene is really poor, like something you’d see in a film made in the Early silent days. Badly matched rear projection, the camera angle is so wrong in the rear projection that is doesn’t match the action of Rooney driving at all. The process work isn’t bad, the footage shot is. The rest of the race material is also poor. And for a film about the ability to race, the fact that the racing is bad can’t be overlooked. After this crappy beginning the excellent performances and dialog drive the film along perfectly. Most of the cast is perfect and the personal violence between characters is very strong. Rooney is very understated here–in many of his other adult work he’d tend to over act, not here though at all. It’s an award worthy performance.

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Just too bad that the action is treated like sloppy second unit work–some say (un)credited to Blake Edwards himself–but with Edwards interest in fast cars etc., hard to believe he’d shoot this stuff so badly. The ending, which also involves some action is perfunctorily done and the resolution too quick. Too bad because otherwise this would be a nearly perfect movie. Still if you get over, the opening especially, this is a must see.

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Mickey Rooney in an understated performance

6/10
Author: calvinnme from United States
1 January 2011

In his youth, and in particular his heyday over at MGM, Mickey Rooney would practically do cartwheels through his roles – he was that high energy. However, he was capable of something more than playing the energetic optimistic young man of pre-war America, and this film and 1950’s Quicksand are probably the best examples of what that something was.

Here he plays auto mechanic Eddie Shannon that also does some race car driving. A mob of thieves take note of his talent behind the wheel at the race track and the gang leader’s girl (Dianne Foster as Barbara) flirts with Eddie and gets him to believe that she loves him.

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Then the thieves lower the boom on him – they proposition him to drive their getaway car during a bank robbery in return for 15000 dollars. The reason that Eddie is so needed is that the road between the bank and the main highway past the point where any road blocks would be requires fast driving over what amounts to unpaved desert terrain. Eddie’s an honest guy, willing to wait and work for the things he wants, but Barbara is holding out the need for this quick money as a condition of their relationship continuing, so he gives in and agrees to the robbery plan. To him, Barbara is his treasure, not any amount of money that he could land. Little does he know she’s fool’s gold.

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Rooney is convincing as the little guy who takes it on the chin from a verbally abusive coworker at the garage who – like all bullies – doesn’t seem to realize that high school is at least ten years behind him. Without saying much you can tell Rooney’s character Eddie is a guy that has come to have low expectations of life, not so much abused as he is ignored and invisible to the opposite sex, and is surprised when a beautiful girl takes notice of him. Things are getting out of hand for Barbara too, as she feels deep remorse for using Eddie. Kudos also go to Kevin McCarthy and Jack Kelly as the two thieves. McCarthy’s character has a very thin veneer of charm painted over what appears to be a soul of pure evil. When he kisses a rather apathetic Barbara and doesn’t like her lack of enthusiasm, he warns her to never kiss him like that again in a way that will give you goosebumps. Jack Kelly’s character is more of an all out wild man. You can just tell that he considers violence the most amusing pastime on earth.

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I’d recommend this one for Rooney’s performance, but I’d downgrade this one just a little bit on lost opportunities for what could have been some fine action shots during the bank robbery scene and the getaway thereafter.

Mickey Rooney is Career Driven

8/10
Author: howdymax from Las Cruces, New Mexico
23 April 2008
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I tuned into this movie expecting to see Mickey Rooney doing his impersonation of a dramatic role. I mean, Mickey Rooney. Has anybody ever seen him do anything on film that wasn’t over the top? Well, tune into this movie. I think you’ll be as surprised as I was.

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The story has to do with a lonely, out of step guy who has a dream of racing in The Grand Prix. He’s an accomplished mechanic, who races on weekends, but you know he’ll never amount to anything. Along comes, long legged Dianne Foster. He falls hard, and she sucks him into a devious plot to rob a bank. What Mickey doesn’t know is that she is in cahoots with a couple of classy mutts played by Kevin McCarthy and Jack Kelly. Foster lures the Mick into driving the getaway car so they’ll have the money for him to race and they can live happily ever after. Not a chance. The plan all along is to ditch Mickey after the robbery, so she can run off with the mutts. Poor Mick never catches on on until the hammer drops, but by this time, the girls conscience gets the best of her and she spills the beans to Mickey. There is an explosive ending, but it does leave the viewer hanging a little.

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This is a Columbia cheapo, but the story is tight and well written. More importantly, the acting is first rate. All the principals really perform, but it’s Mickey movie. He underplays the part of Eddie the sap perfectly. I didn’t think it was possible, but this was later in his career, and I wish he had done more like it. It proved to me that he had much more range than one would think. I have to wonder if his height held him back. Or maybe it was his earlier body of work. Either way, I know he had much more to offer than Hollywood ever asked of him. Keep an eye open for it. You won’t be disappointed.

Midway (1976)

Directed by Jack Smight
Cinematography Harry Stradling Jr.

Midway, released in the United Kingdom as Battle of Midway and in the US on video as The Battle of Midway, is a 1976 American Technicolor war film directed by Jack Smight and produced by Walter Mirisch from a screenplay by Donald S. Sanford.  The film features an international cast of stars including Charlton Heston, Henry Fonda, James Coburn, Glenn Ford, Hal Holbrook, Toshiro Mifune, Robert Mitchum, Cliff Robertson, Robert Wagner, James Shigeta, Pat Morita, Robert Ito and Christina Kokubo, among others.

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Henry Fonda       Glenn Ford     Robert Mitchum

The film was the second of only four films released with a Sensurround sound mix which required special speakers to be installed in movie theatres. The other Sensurround films were Earthquake (1974), Rollercoaster (1977), and Battlestar Galactica (1978). The regular soundtrack (dialog, background and music) was monaural; a second optical track was devoted to low frequency rumble added to battle scenes and when characters were near unmuffled military engines.

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Midway proved extremely popular with movie audiences, earning over $43 million at the box office, becoming the tenth most popular movie of 1976. Robert Niemi, author of History in the Media: Film and Television, stated that Midway’s “clichéd dialogue” and an overuse of stock footage led the film to have a “shopworn quality that signalled the end of the heroic era of American-made World War II epics.” He described the film as a “final, anachronistic attempt to recapture World War II glories in a radically altered geopolitical era, when the old good-versus-evil dichotomies no longer made sense.”

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Later studies by Japanese and American military historians call into question key scenes, like the dive-bombing attack that crippled the first Japanese carrier, the Akagi. In the movie, American pilots report, “They’ve got bombs all over their flight deck! We caught ’em flat-footed! No fighters and a deck full of bombs!” As Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully write in “Shattered Sword” (2005) that aerial photography shows nearly empty decks. In addition, Japanese carriers loaded armament onto planes below the flight deck, unlike American carriers. The fact that a closed hangar full of armaments was hit by bombs made damage to Akagi more devastating than if planes, torpedoes and bombs were on an open deck.

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It’s overall what counts

5 December 2003 | by riskytakr (Chicago, IL) – See all my reviews

This was one of my favorite movies when I was growing up and building models of land, sea, and air craft of the WWII period. Of course we all could have done without the romantic interest, but what counts is the overall telling of the story accurately (even if that includes sideline dramatizations etc.). In a nutshell Midway was a gamble and even though we knew where they’d be, we still took it on the chin with the loss of most of the aircraft and the Yorktown (which left only 2 effective carriers in the pacific and 1 in drydock). In the end we were lucky enough to be able to inflict sufficiently more damage on them than they did on us. This is the story that is told so well.

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It doesn’t matter that the special effects were less than stellar (e.g., view of the fleet from the sealevel – obvious miniatures) or that they showed Essex class carriers which did not yet exist getting hit by kamikaze. The film is true in its depictions of gambles, gaffs, and good fortune which in the end allowed us to be victorious and end Japanese expansion. So quit knocking it and enjoy it for what it is!

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Flawed But Still Satisfying

Author: Eric-62-2 from Morristown, NJ
20 September 2003

Of course “Midway” is a flawed movie. The subplot about Japanese-Americans is ridiculous and seems like a forced attempt to be PC during the post-Vietnam 1970s when it wasn’t in fashion to be completely celebratory of America. Of course it’s unsatisfying that the Japanese actors don’t speak Japanese and we have to hear Paul Frees dubbing Toshiro Mifune. Of course the stock footage isn’t going to please aviation and naval buffs who know these details like the back of their hands, but to me this is a trivial complaint that fails to take into account the limits of 1970s technology or budgeting. “Pearl Harbor” ultimately got those details right through CGI and the end result was a far worse film in the final analysis.

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Because ultimately, for all the flaws that are in “Midway” it succeeds because it does stick to the essential truths when telling the story of the battle, and I know this because when I first saw this movie on the CBS Late Movie around 1979, I got so hooked that I went out and read every book on the battle I could find including Walter Lord’s “Incredible Victory.” The movie had given me a starting reference point and while I was sorry that some key aspects of the latter stages of the battle were not depicted (such as the torpedoing and eventual sinking of the Yorktown), I couldn’t have asked for anything better in terms of getting me to learn more about this great turning point of World War II. As far as I’m concerned, it’s good that Hollywood did tackle this subject in an era when the influence of “Tora! Tora! Tora!”, “The Longest Day” etc. still hung over the proceedings because if it hadn’t been made back then, we would today be forced to see it given the “Pearl Harbor” and “Titanic” treatment that is pure garbage.

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John Williams contributes one of his finer pre-Star Wars scores with two great themes, the “Midway March” (which is only heard in the end credits of the theatrical version and became more popular in an expanded concert arrangement by the Boston Pops) and the “Men Of The Yorktown March” which dominates much of the score and offers great foreshadowings of the Throne Room sequence in “Star Wars” and the Smallville music in “Superman.”

Blast from the past

Author: Philby-3 from Sydney, Australia
5 June 1999

Saturday night TV is a bit of a dead zone down here so I suppose one should be grateful for the odd watchable movie, even if its 20 years old. This one looks older than it actually is, due to the liberal use of stock footage and a cast that’s a retirement counsellor’s dream.

A relatively youthful Charlton Heston is in the lead, but there’s Henry Fonda, Glenn Ford, Robert Mitchum, Robert Webber and even the great Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune. A curious aspect is that every military character with a speaking part is an officer; the grunts just get to grunt. It’s very much the view from the bridge (and the pilot’s seat). Despite this aspect and the attempt at historical realism it’s not made clear quite how it was that the Japanese made the error that cost them the battle, getting caught with their flightdecks full just as the American torpedo bombers arrived. The contribution of the American land-based aircraft is also given scant recognition.

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Still you do get a bit of a story, though the less said about the silly sub-plot involving the Heston character’s son and a Japanese-American girl the better. The director, Jack Smight had extensive T V experience, as did many of the younger actors, and this shows up in the rather static dialogue scenes you get when you aren’t allowed to move the cameras much. The Japanese voices are dubbed, so that Paul Free, the voice of Boris Badenov in “Bullwinkle,” (and countless other cartoon characters) is Admiral Yamamoto. The music was written by John Williams who a year or so later did the music for “Star Wars” and you can sense the similarities.

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In the film the military operations side of things abounds with anacronisms, partly due to the liberal use of stock footage as mentioned. I don’t think you can be too hard on the producers (the low profile but financially successful Mirisch Brothers) for not using a real Japanese World War 2 aircraft carrier since they are all at the bottom of the sea, but the crashed jet on the Yorktown’s flightdeck was a bit sloppy. “Tora Tora Tora,” which cost more money, was a better film. Not because it cost more money but because it was more carefully made, more balanced (both side’s story told well) and more honest, perhaps also because it dealt with defeat rather than victory from the American viewpoint. “Midway” has some suspense, plenty of action, and the the patriotism drum is not banged to the point of pain.

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On The Turn Of a Dime

7/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
23 July 2007

The film Midway shows in graphic documentary style, the battle that did nothing less than save America and ultimately allow us to win World War II. If the Japanese had prevailed at Midway, they might very well have taken Hawaii and been blockading our continental Pacific coast. We might have had to declare a truce and hope that public opinion would allow us to continue the European and North African war. Remember the USA was brought in to the war because of the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, not Hitler’s attack.

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There is a plot of sorts with Charlton Heston as the fictional pilot group commander who’s involved in helping his son Edward Albert help a Nisei family who’ve been interred for the duration of the war because Albert is engaged to the daughter. That’s the one weakness of Midway, the story really wasn’t necessary and detracted with the very precise telling of the Midway tale. Had they left it out, Midway had the potential to be a classic like The Longest Day.

Without Charlton Heston and his family problems, the story of Midway is told with remarkable historic accuracy. Henry Fonda who played Admiral Chester W. Nimitz in all but name in In Harm’s Way, gets to play Nimitz again in Midway. Robert Mitchum and Glenn Ford play Admirals William Halsey and Raymond Spruance who between the two of them won America’s Pacific war. A whole lot of fine character actors like James Coburn, Robert Wagner, Robert Webber, Hal Holbrook and many more fill their naval roles to precision.

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The story of the Battle of Midway should be told and told again in America’s public schools for future generations. Not just because of the sailors and airmen of America’s greatest generation who fought and prevailed at Midway, but because of just how close a run thing the Battle of Midway was. One very fateful decision by Admirals Yamamoto and Nagumo turned the tide of battle on a dime. By the way the oriental players in Midway like Toshiro Mifune as Yamamoto and James Shigeta as Nagumo and others also play very well. The American cinema certainly came a long way from when they previously cast the Japanese as bucktooth primates.

When the viewer sees just how much pure luck played a part in winning at Midway, they will come away with one of two impressions. The first might be that a divine providence is guiding and protecting America. If so, who’s to say that will always be the case. And if not, the second lesson might be that we as a country might not always be so lucky.

If they could edit out the Heston family story, Midway is a great film for history classes studying World War 2

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Touch of Evil (1958)

Directed by Orson Welles
Cinematography Russell Metty

Touch of Evil is a 1958 American film noir, written, directed by, and co-starring Orson Welles. The screenplay was loosely based on the novel Badge of Evil by Whit Masterson. Along with Welles, the cast includes Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, Joseph Calleia, Akim Tamiroff, and Marlene Dietrich.

Touch of Evil is one of the last examples of film noir in the genre’s classic era (from the early 1940s until the late 1950s).  Since its release, the film’s reputation has grown in stature, and it is now widely regarded as one of Welles’ best films, and also one of the best classic-era films noir.

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There are two stories as to how Welles ended up directing Touch of Evil. Charlton Heston recalled that Welles was originally hired to act in the film only, not to direct or write. Universal was keen to secure Heston for the lead, but he wanted the studio to confirm the director before he signed on. After learning that Welles was in the cast, Heston expressed his greater interest in starring if Welles were directing.

The other story is that Welles had recently worked with producer Albert Zugsmith, known as the “King of the Bs”, on a film called Man in the Shadow and was interested in directing something for him. Zugsmith offered him a pile of scripts, of which Welles asked for the worst to prove he could make a great film out of a bad script. At the time, the script was called Badge of Evil, after a Whit Masterson novel on which it was based. Welles did a rewrite and took it into production. After a decade in Europe during which he completed only a few films, Welles was eager to direct for Hollywood again, so he agreed to take only an acting fee for the role of Quinlan.

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A number of notable actors pop up in roles. Dennis Weaver plays a night clerk at a motel, in a truly over-the-top performance. Heston liked Weaver and his film acting work. Zsa Zsa Gabor, who appears briefly as the impresario of a strip club, was a friend of the producer. Joseph Calleia portrays Quinlan’s betrayed partner. Many of the actors worked for lower wages just to make a film with Welles. Marlene Dietrich‘s role was a surprise to the producers and they raised her fee so they could advertise her involvement. Welles’ friend and Mercury Theatre colleague Joseph Cotten appears uncredited as a police officer.

Janet Leigh recalled how Welles asked for input from the actors in the cast:

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It started with rehearsals. We rehearsed two weeks prior to shooting, which was unusual. We rewrote most of the dialogue, all of us, which was also unusual, and Mr. Welles always wanted our input. It was a collective effort, and there was such a surge of participation, of creativity, of energy. You could feel the pulse growing as we rehearsed. You felt you were inventing something as you went along. Mr. Welles wanted to seize every moment. He didn’t want one bland moment. He made you feel you were involved in a wonderful event that was happening before your eyes

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Welles wrapped production on time, delivered a rough cut to Universal, and was convinced that his Hollywood career was back on the rails. However, the film was then re-edited (and in part re-shot) by Universal International pictures. The editing process was protracted and disputed, and the version eventually released was not the film Universal or Welles had hoped for. It was released as a B-movie, the lower half of a double feature. The A-movie was The Female Animal, starring Hedy Lamarr, produced by Albert Zugsmith and directed by Harry Keller, whom the studio had hired to direct the re-shot material in Touch of Evil. The two films even had the same cameraman, Russell Metty. Welles’ film was given little publicity despite the many stars in the cast. Though it had little commercial success in the US (Welles himself claimed that the movie turned a good profit but other records disputed his claim), it was well received in Europe, particularly by critics like future filmmaker François Truffaut.

The film opens with a three-minute, twenty-second tracking shot widely considered by critics as one of the greatest long takes in cinema history

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A beautiful, haunting and complex film noir

11 July 2005 | by Brandt Sponseller (New York City) – See all my reviews

Rather than films like Citizen Kane (1941) and The Lady from Shanghai (1947), neither of which am I a big fan of, Touch of Evil evidences director/writer/star Orson Welles’ capacity for cinematic genius. The story is engaging, suspenseful, tight and well paced; the cinematography is consistently beautiful, inventive and symbolic; the setting and overall tone of the film, including the performances, are captivating, yet slightly surreal and otherworldly; and there are many interesting subtexts. This all combines to create a complex artwork that will reward however far a viewer wishes to dig into the film.

Based on a novel by Whit Masterson, Badge of Evil, Touch of Evil is a battle between two policemen–Hank Quinlan (Orson Welles) and Ramon Miguel Vargas (Charlton Heston). Parallel to this is a kind of border battle between the United States, represented by Quinlan, and Mexico, represented by Vargas; the film is set in two border towns, frequently crossing over.

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As Touch of Evil opens, we see a bomb being placed in the trunk of a car in Mexico. A construction company owner, Mr. Linnekar, gets in with his girlfriend. Vargas and his new wife, Susan (Janet Leigh), manage to walk along next to the car–they’re all crossing the border into the United States. Shortly after crossing, the bomb goes off. This brings the gruff Quinlan into the picture. His investigation of the bombing brings him into Mexico for suspects. Meanwhile, Vargas and his wife are being threatened by Joe Grandi (Akim Tamiroff), a Mexican mob boss, and his underlings. Both Quinlan and Vargas are well respected in their countries, and both are used to getting what they want. But the bombing investigation ends up putting them at loggerheads, and Quinlan gradually turns out to have more than a “touch of evil”.

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As with many of his films, Orson Welles ended up having to battle the studio to realize his artistic vision. Usually, as here, the battle was unsuccessful for him. Despite his 58-page memo detailing various problems with Universal’s non-director supervised reshoots (by Harry Keller) and re-edits, because they felt that Welles’ final cut “could use some improvement”, the film was released in a form that was not satisfactory to Welles. The fiasco has resulted in various versions of Touch of Evil appearing throughout the years. The 58-page memo was thought to have been lost, but a copy was discovered relatively recently in Charlton Heston’s possession. The film was recut in 1998 based on Welles’ memo. So make sure that you watch the 111-minute version first released by Universal on DVD in 2000.

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The opening scene of Touch of Evil is famous, and rightfully so. Beginning with the timer being set on the bomb, then the bomb being placed in Linnekar’s trunk before he gets into the car, we follow both the car and the relative ebb and flow of Vargases as they roughly walk alongside the car, all in one very long tracking shot that covers a lot of ground and features a lot of unusual angles. Welles stages the scene so that there are all kinds of complex background and foreground elements interacting with the car and our protagonist pedestrians. The suspense built up in this scene is incredible–you just know that bomb is going to go off, but you don’t know just when, or who it is going to hurt. Compositionally, the scene is simply beautiful. The film is worth watching for this opening alone, but the whole of Touch of Evil features similar, meticulously planned artistry, filled with suspense.

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Welles as an actor tends to have a very peculiar way of speaking that is full of affectations. Sometimes this can be a detriment to the film, as it was in The Lady from Shanghai. Here, though, the oddity works, and this despite the fact that, like Woody Allen, he seems to direct his whole cast to deliver their dialogue as if they were him. As a result, Touch of Evil has very peculiar, contrapuntal scenes where people frequently talk on top of one another, with odd phrasing. It works because of the particular kinds of personality conflicts that Welles set up in the script. These are people who frequently _would_ talk on top of each other and occasionally not pay attention to each other.

But that’s not the only odd thing about the film. Welles managed to find locations that, shot in this highly stylized and cinematographically complex film-noir manner, seem almost otherworldly. Except for a couple expansive desert shots, Touch of Evil feels eerily claustrophobic, even though most locations aren’t exactly enclosed. The various modes and settings are all perfect for their dramatic material, which is mostly dark and moody. One change that Universal made was the excision of a lot of comic relief material featuring the Grandi family. Universal was right to cut it, and wisely, Welles agreed.

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The music in the film is also extremely effective but unusual. Most of it is incidental. Latin and rock ‘n’ roll emanates from radios, for example, and the climax intermittently has a repeating, contextually haunting theme from a pianola.

But of course the story is just as important. Although Welles stated hyperbolically at various points that he was trying to “infuriate” the audience with a somewhat inscrutable plot, and it’s true that the plot isn’t exactly given in a straightforward manner, once you figure out the gist, it’s relatively simple but extremely captivating. At the same time, it is full of symbolism and subtexts, including commentary on justice systems and perhaps some irony about the popular conceptions of the U.S. versus Mexico (made more complex by the fact that Quinlan spends just as much time south of the border and Vargas seems to spend a lot of time north). But as for being annoyed, you’re more likely to become infuriated with Quinlan, who becomes more and more deliciously despicable as the film unfolds.

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Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)

 

Directed by Richard Fleischer

Tora! Tora! Tora!  is a 1970 Japanese-American historical war film that dramatizes the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. The film was directed by Richard Fleischer, Toshio Masuda and Kinji Fukasaku and stars an ensemble cast, including Martin Balsam, Joseph Cotten, Sō Yamamura, E. G. Marshall, James Whitmore and Jason Robards.

Veteran 20th Century Fox executive Darryl F. Zanuck, who had earlier produced The Longest Day (1962), wanted to create an epic that depicted what “really happened on December 7, 1941”, with a “revisionist’s approach”.

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He believed that the commanders in Hawaii, General Short and Admiral Kimmel, though scapegoated for decades, provided adequate defensive measures for the apparent threats, including relocation of the fighter aircraft at Pearl Harbor to the middle of the base, in response to fears of sabotage from local Japanese. Despite a breakthrough in intelligence, they had received limited warning of the increasing risk of aerial attack. Recognizing that a balanced and objective recounting was necessary, Zanuck developed an American-Japanese co-production, allowing for “a point of view from both nations.” He was helped out by his son, Richard D. Zanuck, who was chief executive at Fox during this time.

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Production on Tora! Tora! Tora! took three years to plan and prepare for the eight months of principal photography. The film was created in two separate productions, one based in the United States, directed by Richard Fleischer, and one based in Japan. The Japanese side was initially to be directed by Akira Kurosawa, who worked on script development and pre-production for two years. But after two weeks of shooting, he was replaced by Toshio Masuda and Kinji Fukasaku, who directed the Japanese sections.

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Veteran 20th Century Fox executive Darryl F. Zanuck, who had earlier produced The Longest Day (1962), wanted to create an epic that depicted what “really happened on December 7, 1941”, with a “revisionist’s approach”. He believed that the commanders in Hawaii, General Short and Admiral Kimmel, though scapegoated for decades, provided adequate defensive measures for the apparent threats, including relocation of the fighter aircraft at Pearl Harbor to the middle of the base, in response to fears of sabotage from local Japanese. Despite a breakthrough in intelligence, they had received limited warning of the increasing risk of aerial attack.

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Recognizing that a balanced and objective recounting was necessary, Zanuck developed an American-Japanese co-production, allowing for “a point of view from both nations.” He was helped out by his son, Richard D. Zanuck, who was chief executive at Fox during this time.

“Why Are The Winds And The Waves So Restless?”

31 January 1999 | by Michael Coy (michael.coy@virgin.net) (London, England) – See all my reviews

On Sunday 7 December 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy launched a surprise attack on the US Pacific fleet in its moorings at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. At the time, no state of war existed between the two nations. An ingenious pre-emptive strike, as the Japanese ‘hawks’ saw it, was condemned by the world as one of the greatest acts of treachery in modern history.

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“Tora! Tora! Tora!” meticulously traces the build-up to Pearl Harbor by examining the diplomatic, military and intelligence events and developments on both sides. The film is unimpeachably even-handed, telling both sides’ stories simultaneously, and interleaving the Japanese and American versions with intelligence and an almost total absence of jingoism.

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Japan’s warmongers considered their country to be trapped by history and geography. As the industrial nations surged forward in terms of prosperity and military might, Japan was in danger of being outstripped, having few natural resources of her own. If Japan was to compete with the USA and USSR, she would have to ‘reach out’ for the raw materials available in southern Asia and the Pacific, but this would mean confronting the USA, the great maritime power in the Pacific.

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The film explains all this very well. We learn that the Japanese have an age-old tradition of striking against their enemies without warning, and that air superiority is the new doctrine. The brilliant Japanese planners such as Genda (played by Tatsuya Mihashi) have grasped the lessons of the European war and know the vital importance of naval air power. By 1941, battleships have become a liability – slow, lumbering dinosaurs which invite attack and cannot defend themselves against aircraft. The way forward is mobile air power, and that means aircraft carriers. If the Japanese can catch the American carriers at Pearl Harbor and destroy them, then the war will be won before it has properly started.

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The Americans take a fateful decision to send out their carriers on reconnaissance missions. This strips Pearl Harbor of protection, but paradoxically ensures that Japan cannot win the war – no matter how spectacular the success of the surprise attack, the mission will fail if the US aircraft carriers survive.

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Throughout the build-up, the Japanese navy chiefs such as Yamamoto (So Yamomura) have a snippet of classical Japanese poetry on their minds: “If all men are brothers, why are the winds and the waves so restless?” They take this to mean that it is the rule of nature for man to attack his fellow man. By the end of the film, Yamamoto has abandoned this view and now believes that “We have aroused a sleeping giant, and filled him with a terrible resolve.”

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The film catalogues the accidents and mistakes which combined to make Pearl Harbor a worse disaster for the USA than it need have been. American aircraft are bunched together in the middle of the airfield in order to reduce the risk of sabotage near the perimeter fence, but this helps the Japanese bombers to destroy them on the ground. Radar equipment cannot be placed in the best locations to give early warning, and in any event the radar data are misinterpreted when they predict the attack. Because the attack falls on a weekend, it is difficult for middle-ranking officers to contact military and political chiefs, and the contingency plans are inadequate. Radio Honolulu broadcasts through the night to guide a fleet of B-17’s to Hawaii, inadvertently acting as a navigation beacon for the Japanese warplanes.

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If the painstaking build-up to the attack is a little slow and ponderous, it is certainly epic in scale, and when the action erupts it comes as a mighty climax. The tension is palpable as the Japanese planes take off from their carriers, black against the ominous dawn. What follows is a breath-taking cinematic coup as Pearl Harbor is ravaged.

Verdict – A historical account of almost documentary accuracy culminates in vivid action scenes. A marvellous film.

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A definite must for anyone who’s curious about Pearl Harbor.

8/10
Author: Rob Deschenes (kalibur@softhome.net) from Toronto, Ont. Canada
29 May 2001

I will be completely honest with all of you, I saw this movie to prepare for the upcoming 2001 block buster, PEARL HARBOR. TORA! TORA! TORA! seemed the perfect choice. Recent movies these days depressed me, but thanks to TORA! (and Clint Eastwood ‘s HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER), my enjoyment in watching movies returned. TORA! is an absolutely excellent film packed with incredibly well done acting and emotion and an overall feeling that leaves you blown away.

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PEARL HARBOR has quite a bit to live up to after seeing this. The special effects produced in TORA! are completely out of this world (even after thirty years!). More credit goes to how well documented this story goes. The Americans and Japanese did a tremendously exceptional job of recreating the entire events leading up to and including the Pearl Harbor attack. Being a Canadian, I was confused a couple years ago when the local paper announced that the number two (of the top 100) event of the 1900’s was the attack on Pearl Harbor. I completely understand now and quite frankly am amazed at how both sides felt throughout the entire ordeal.

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Simply put, TORA! TORA! TORA! deals with all the events, mistakes (both minor and MAJOR), people involved and attitudes leading up to and during the air raid on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Though not shown, we even have the general feeling of the U.S. President and the Japanese Emperor. Nothing is missed in this movie. It is as close to the actual depiction of Pearl Harbor you can get.

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For 1970, the special effects are absolutely astonishing. Very little looks fake, and nothing looks over done (like many CGI effects do these days). When the first American battletanks are struck, the explosions are incredible. When the Zero crashes into the building, the explosion is eye catching. Everything is unbelievably excellent. The acting is also first rate, how the Americans handle the warnings of a Japanese attack (they’re nuts) was supremely well laid out. How the Japanese carefully planned the attack on Pearl Harbor was frighteningly well thought out.

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Next credit must go to the music. Jerry Goldsmith has to be one of the greatest composers of all time. The suspense created on the morning of December 7 just before the attack is still hair chilling thirty years later. Nothing seems to be wrong with TORA! except the fact that it is a little too long. A couple times, I was hoping that the attack would just begin and get over with. My patience quickly subsided with that music score and with the Emperor’s poem. Very little is wrong with TORA! TORA! TORA!. It is a definite must see for anyone curious about how war works, how mistakes are made and how people respond to such attacks.

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Excellent, if not one of the best documentary style movies of all time, as told from both sides, of the event that plunged the United States into the Second World War.

7 December 2004 | by grafspee (Australia) – See all my reviews

This movie reigns supreme over it’s 2001 version Pearl Harbor which is really a fictional love story confined within a true conflict. Tora Tora Tora is based on actual events leading up to this avoidable tragedy, notably the bureaucratic bungling and complacency from the top down which allowed the Japanese attack to succeed.

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Throughout this well done production, the story in true chronological sequence shifts between the two opposing sides with full subtitles giving the role played by each leading actor.

The viewer is given a clear concise unfolding of events with the part of the code-breakers importantly emphasized.

The attack is quite breathtaking in parts with several scenes closely resembling or being actual footage taken.

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Ironically the breaking of the Japanese naval code by U.S. Intelligence gave the Americans every opportunity to correctly contemplate the next move of their adversary, but a desire for utmost secrecy by the Roosevelt Administration and the top brass of the Navy and Army restricted the transmission of clear and proper communications necessary for the Pearl Harbor commanders, Admiral Kimmel and General Short to make sound objective judgments regarding their respective commands.

Both men were treated shabbily by their superiors in the aftermath of the attack, were relieved of their command, and for decades thereafter had to endure the shame and responsibility placed on them in allowing this occurrence to happen.

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This movie does a lot to exonerate them from their part in this terrible disaster.

P.S. I had the great honor of meeting bugler Richard Fiske personally, (USS West Virginia) with a colleague of mine when we visited Pearl Harbor in March 1997, (plus autograph),and had our photo taken with him. It is one of my enduring photos of this great sailor who gave his time unselfishly as a volunteer survivor, at the base, to give two second generation Australians the respect of knowing that we met a man who belonged to a nation which contributed to the success of winning the Pacific War.

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Battle of Britain (1969)

Directed by Guy Hamilton
Cinematography Freddie Young

Battle of Britain is a 1969 British Second World War film directed by Guy Hamilton, and produced by Harry Saltzman and S. Benjamin Fisz. The film broadly relates the events of the Battle of Britain. The script by James Kennaway and Wilfred Greatorex was based on the book The Narrow Margin by Derek Wood and Derek Dempster.

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The film endeavoured to be an accurate account of the Battle of Britain, when in the summer and autumn of 1940 the British RAF inflicted a strategic defeat on the Luftwaffe and so ensured the cancellation of Operation Sea LionAdolf Hitler‘s plan to invade Britain. The film is notable for its spectacular flying sequences, in contrast with the unsatisfactory model work seen in Angels One Five (1952) and on a far grander scale than had been seen on film before; these made the film’s production very expensive.

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Permission was granted to the producers to use the Royal Air Force Museum’s Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive-bomber (one of only two that survive intact). The 1943 aircraft was repainted and slightly modified to resemble a 1940 model Ju 87. The engine was found to be in excellent condition and there was little difficulty in starting it, but returning the aircraft to airworthiness was ultimately too costly for the filmmakers. Instead, two Percival Proctor training aircraft were converted into half-scale Stukas, with a cranked wing, as “Proctukas” though, in the film, they were not used on-screen.Instead, to duplicate the steep dive of Ju 87 attacks, large models were flown by radio control.

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To recreate airfield scenes in the film, with the limited number of period aircraft available for the film, large scale models were used. The first requirement was for set decoration replicas. Production of full-size wood and fibreglass Hurricanes, Spitfires and Bf 109s commenced in a sort of production line set up at Pinewood Studios. A number of the replicas were fitted with motorcycle engines to enable them to taxi. Although most of these replicas were destroyed during filming, a small number were made available to museums in the UK.

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The other need was for models in aerial sequences, and art director and model maker John Siddall was asked by the producer to create and head a team specifically for this because of his contacts in the modelling community.  A test flight was arranged at Lasham Airfield in the UK and a model was flown down the runway close behind a large American estate car with a cameraman in the rear. This test proved successful, leading to many radio-controlled models being constructed in the band rehearsal room at Pinewood Studios. Over a period of two years, a total of 82 Spitfires, Hurricanes, Messerschmitts and He 111s were built. Radio-controlled Heinkel He 111 models were flown to depict bombers being destroyed over the English Channel. When reviewing the footage of the first crash, the producers noticed a trailing-wire antenna; this was explained by an added cutaway in which the control wires of a Heinkel are seen shot loose.

Both the village of Denton and the resident pub, The Jackdaw Inn, appear in the film. The airbase appears in the film looking just as it did during WWII.

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Aircraft

The film required a large number of period aircraft. In September 1965 producers Harry Saltzman and S. Benjamin Fisz contacted former RAF Bomber Command Group Captain Hamish Mahaddie to find the aircraft and arrange their use.Eventually 100 aircraft were employed, called the “35th largest air force in the world”. With Mahaddie’s help, the producers located 109 Spitfires in the UK, of which 27 were available although only 12 could be made flyable. Mahaddie negotiated use of six Hawker Hurricanes, of which three were flying. The film helped preserve these aircraft, including a rare Spitfire Mk II which had been a gate guardian at RAF Colerne.

During the actual aerial conflict, all RAF Spitfires were Spitfire Mk I and Mark II variants. However, only one Mk Ia and one Mk IIa (the latter with a Battle of Britain combat record) could be made airworthy, so the producers had to use seven other different marks, all of them built after the battle. To achieve commonality, the production made some modifications to “standardise” the Spitfires, including adding elliptical wingtips, period canopies and other changes. To classic aircraft fans, they became known as “Mark Haddies” (a play on Grp. Capt. Mahaddie’s name). A pair of two-seat trainer Spitfires were camera platforms to achieve realistic aerial footage inside the battle scenes. A rare Hawker Hurricane XII had been restored by Canadian Bob Diemert, who flew the aircraft in the film. Eight non-flying Spitfires and two Hurricanes were set dressing, with one Hurricane able to taxi.

Battle Of Britain 1969 Moviestills

A North American B-25 Mitchell N6578D, flown by pilots John “Jeff” Hawke and Duane Egli, was the primary filming platform for the aerial sequences. It was fitted with camera positions in what were formerly the aircraft’s nose, tail and waist gun positions. An additional camera, on an articulating arm, was mounted in the aircraft’s bomb bay and allowed 360-degree shots from below the aircraft. The top gun turret was replaced with a clear dome for the aerial director, who would co-ordinate the other aircraft by radio.[11]

N6578D was painted garishly for line-up references  and to make it easier for pilots to determine which way it was manoeuvring. When the brightly coloured aircraft arrived at Tablada airbase in Spain in early afternoon of 18 March 1968, the comment from Derek Cracknell, the assistant director, was “It’s a bloody great psychedelic monster!” The aircraft was henceforth dubbed the Psychedelic Monster.

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The Luftwaffe armada included over 50 real aircraft. (screenshot)

For the German aircraft, the producers obtained 32 CASA 2.111 twin-engined bombers, a Spanish-built version of the German Heinkel He 111H-16. They also located 27 Hispano Aviación HA-1112 M1L ‘Buchon’ single-engined fighters, a Spanish version of the German Messerschmitt Bf 109. The Buchons were altered to look more like correct Bf 109Es, adding mock machine guns and cannon, and redundant tailplane struts, and removing the rounded wingtips.[13] The Spanish aircraft were powered by British Rolls-Royce Merlin engines, and thus almost all the aircraft used, British and German alike, were Merlin-powered. [Note 2] After the film, one HA-1112 was donated to the German Luftwaffenmuseum der Bundeswehr, and converted to a Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-2 variant, depicting the insignias of German ace Gustav Rödel.

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A good film, unfortunately for Hollywood, WW2 started in 1939!

7/10
Author: jmb3222 from United Kingdom
5 March 2002
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This film does have its flaws, but is still a great film. It had to be made when it did (sic) if only because the Spanish Air Force still had their Merlin engined Hispano HA-1109 and HA-1112 “Me 109s” and Casa C.2111 “111s” flying in 1968!

It’s good that some “stars” do not have big roles. Michael Caine whilst being “hot box office” is shot down – many pilots who seemed invincible were lost. A number of the parts are based on real characters Robert Shaw’s is based on Adolf ‘Sailor’ Malan – 74 Squadron Ace, Susannah York’s Harvey is based on one Felicity Hanbury (who later became the Commandant of the WRAF). The scene where she has to deal with a bombed slit trench is based on what happened when Biggin Hill was attacked. Being burned and still being alive was one of the biggest risks – sitting next to a tank of 100 octane whislt being shot at was risky.

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It’s chief flaws are i) Hurricanes shot down the bulk of the German losses during the Battle – this “error” is primarily because there were more flying Spitfires available. More serious is depicting “The Few” as a group of equals – in reality the class system was still to the fore in some places more so than others. Officer would not mix with NCOs, Auxilliary Air Force pilots (predominantly from the upper classes) looked down on Volunteer Reserve pilots (predominantly from the working/middle classes). But bear in mind this was made less than 30 years after the event when some of the myths and propaganda surrounding it were still treated as the truth, unlike “Pearl Harbor” and “U-571” and other recent films they haven’t just thrown historical fact out because it doesn’t fit the desired story line!

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Many pilots were killed simply because of the stupid tatics they used – fighting by the 1930s RAF rule book until lessons were learnt. Many didn’t see what hit them. In most other ways the film is by and large correct. The British were very reluctant to use Polish and Czech squadrons; despite many of these pilots being much more experienced than British.

Oh and having read the other comments here – this does not follow just one squadron, Robert Shaw is one, Michael Caine another, The Czech/Poles others, Christopher Plummer another. I seem to remember that the film makers went out of their way not to show any one squadron as being the “winners” hence no squadron numbers are mentioned – all aircraft codes are ficticious.

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A film has to keep an audience’s attention for 100+ minutes real life isn’t like that just showing the fear and boredom of sitting around on hot summers days dreading the ‘phone call would not make a good movie instead compromises are made. When you watch it remember that this wasn’t just dreamt up by some scriptwriter this really happened.

A Classic!!!

Author: tom sawyer (sawyert2003@yahoo.com) from Waterford, Michigan
2 April 2003

The Battle of Britain is a classic movie about one of the key battles of World War 2. It stands up there with the epics The Longest Day, Tora,Tora, Tora and a Bridge Too Far. The all-star cast has well known and lesser known English, Canadian, German and others actors who play their roles well. The movie does a good job of portaying both sides of the battle. The special effects and the air battles hold up well after well over 30 years. The criticisms that people have to me are quite unfair. As for charcter development, the movie is about the battle, much like the Longest Day was and there was no time to develop that part of the movie because it focused on the entirety of the battle. Also this is not like Cross of Iron that someone compared it to. Cross of Iron was a fictious story, while this is done in semi-docudrama style.It is an unfair comparison.

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The best comparison would be with the three previously listed movies. I liked that fact that some big stars characters did get hurt or died just like many of the better pilots did in the the battle and the war. The movie gives an excellent overview of the battle, much like the other movies listed here. I like the fact about the bit of English snobbery concerning the foreign pilots that they were training even if some were as good or better than they were.This is a four star war movie obout Britains Finest Hour. Where if it wasn’t for the Brits holding off the German’s, the Allies would not have been able to launch D-Day against the German’s. The movie showed bravery and courage from both sides men and pilots. It is a great portrayal of young men in battle as knights of the early war skies. Rent it or buy it, because this is a classic.

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Holds Up Well

9/10
Author: Bruce Jones (bl.jones@charter.net) from Southern California
21 January 2002

I recently reviewed this film after having not seen it since it was new. Being a 31 year military veteran I have a somewhat different frame of reference for watching films such as this. I look for things in a film many civilians never will. I don’t think this one has ever been shown on TV in the US, at least not within a couple of decades, so it’s certainly not overplayed here. Luckily, the tape I accessed was in excellent condition so it was crisp and new in appearance. It is still a very excellent film depicting one of Britain’s most harrowing times and the unwavering heroism of those who fought so desperately to secure their victory. The film didn’t enjoy many fine reviews when it was new as it was compared, as most war films are, to the plethora of fiction produced by the movie industry and REAL history usually comes off looking mundane by comparison.

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I have found this a similar oddity for many excellent films of war. This is one film that more than adequately stands the test of time and I would absolutely love to see a wide-screen DVD version of it offered. Although it helps to have an understanding of war in general, and in particular the second world war and the actual battle of britain, one can be ignorant of those facts and still come away well entertained. It is a wonderfully produced film, acted with talent and grace by a cast of performers who are now legendary. The sets, costumes and musical score are wonderful and perfectly compliment the cinematography. If I can find a copy I am going to add it to my library.

Their Finest Hour

Author: Britlaw from London UK
17 January 2000

This has some of the best aerial fight scenes ever – ‘Top Gun’ nothwithstanding. If it has faults it is that it can sometimes be a bit dull as it is very historically accurate, as it was a very well documented battle and presumably because when it was made many of the participants were still alive (and some still are).

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It might have been better if like the ‘Dam Busters’ it had adopted a rather more documentary style, rather than having ground based ficticious sub-plots.

There are no particular stars (save the aircraft) but many cameos and it is even handed to the Germans as well, who lost many brave men.

The bits I liked were, as one other has commented, British diplomat Ralph Richardson telling German Curt Jurgens (over tea of course) that we wouldn’t be dictated to and the scene in the RAF command bunker as one of the biggest daily air battles develops, where Churchill (suggested only by a puffing cigar but very much a hands on war leader), on surveying the plotting board showing hundreds of attacking German aircraft, orders more reserves into the battle only to be told there are none left, everything we had was in the air or on the ground being refuelled.

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If the technology looks dated now, we must not forget that at the time radar was ultra secret and definitely cutting edge – this was the start of electronic warfare.

I believe I am correct in saying the film opened on 15th September 1969, celebrated in the UK as Battle of Britain day and the actual anniversary of the Churchill incident above.

This was truly the finest hour of those young pilots and we did it all without American help or even a Yank guest star……….

PS Christopher Plummer is Canadian!

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Cinema’s Finest Hour

10/10
Author: John Mclaren from London, England
28 February 2003

Top drawer war film (indeed THE top notch war flick), in which our chaps (the Brits) give Jerry what-for over the coast of Blighty. Stiff upper lip rules OK as they scramble their Spits into the blue autumn sky, exchange tally-ho’s over the intercom, bag a couple of Messerschmitts- and then head home for tea and buns.

OK, I’m biased. My grandfather fought in the battle. However it reminds us what really matters is not Holywood celeb tittle-tattle, but real life and death struggles for our world. As usual the Brits do it with class and dignity. Yes, the impression in the film that all foreigners are clearly bloody (except the Yanks, Canadians, and Anzacs) is perhaps a little dated. However it is a tribute to the heroism of a remarkable generation at a truly momentous point in history.

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Stirring, Beautifully-Done; the Difficult-to-Do Story of Britain’s Blitz in WWII

8/10
Author: silverscreen888
7 July 2005

This dramatized biography to my mind represents one of the most difficult sorts of film to make. I believe the makers of “The Battle of Britain” succeeded in making it a stirring war film, and one that deserves to be watched and remembered often. Many people find the battle scenes in the air in this film among the best ever staged. Cliff Richardson deserves praise for his special effects; and Guy Hamilton, director in charge, has frankly done marvelous work of a very difficult-to-achieve sort. He has interiors, intimate scenes, outdoor lectures, strafings, bombings, aerial battles, airplane landings, group shots and conferences to handle.Wilfred Greatorex and James Kennaway. In addition, Ron Goodwin and William Walton supplied memorable music, veteran Freddie Young the lucid cinematography and Maurice Carter wonderful art direction.

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The story-line chronologically follows the “Battle of Britain”, No aspect is overlooked. The success of Luftwaffe air attacks on forward bases is noted; and so is the lucky decision by Hitler to start bombing Londoners instead that caused a shift it tactics and saved Britain’s radar towers, key to targeting incoming attackers for interdiction by British aircraft. We hear a lecture by an Air Marshal, see firefighting squads and female drivers in action; we see both sides talking in their own languages–the Germans being subtitled; and we see action in the British War Room and at the highest levels of military planning. A couple is followed to illustrate what pilots and their wives, she being part of the war effort also, had to undergo and the pressures they faced.

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The pilots are also seen waiting between sorties at their bases; and finally when none come, the first phase of WWII, the expedition and subsequent Battle of Britain is over. In the huge cast are most of the leading male actors in England, including Laurence Olivier as Hugh Dowding, chief of the air effort, Trevor Howard as Keith Park, Patrick Wymark as Mallory, their chief opponent within the air corps,, plus Christopher Plummer and Susannahh York as the troubled couple, Harry Andrews, Michael Caine, Ian McShane, Kenneth More, Curd Jurgens, Nigel Patrick, Michael Redgrave, Robert Shaw, Robert Flemyng, Michael Bates, Ralph Richardson, Isla Blair and Edward Fox. This is a splendid, well-paced and beautiful recreation. The music is superb; the combat footage unexcelled and the acting far-above-average. I rate this film on many counts above anything else ever done concerning the defense of Britain by its air forces during the late war.

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A Bridge Too Far (1977)

Cinematography Geoffrey Unsworth, BSC
Directed by Richard Attenborough

A Bridge Too Far is a 1977 British-American epic war film based on the 1974 book of the same name by Cornelius Ryan, adapted by William Goldman. It was produced by Joseph E. Levine and Richard P. Levine and directed by Richard Attenborough.

The film tells the story of the failure of Operation Market Garden during World War II. The operation was intended to allow the Allies to break through German lines and seize several bridges in the occupied Netherlands, including one at Arnhem, with the main objective of outflanking German defences in order to end the war by Christmas of 1944.

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Operation begins

The airborne drops catch the Germans totally by surprise, and there is little resistance. Most of the men come down safely and assemble quickly, but the Son bridge is blown up by the Germans, just before the 101st Airborne secures it. German Field Marshal Model, thinking that the Allies are trying to capture him, panics and retreats from Arnhem. However, soon after landing, troubles beset Urquhart’s division. Many of the Jeeps either don’t arrive by gliders at all or are shot up in an ambush. Their radio sets are also useless, meaning no contact can be made with either paratroopers moving into Arnhem under Lt. Col. John Frost or XXX Corps. Meanwhile, German forces reinforce Nijmegen and Arnhem. Meanwhile, US Sergeant Eddie Dohun is driving his jeep searching for his commanding officer, Captain Glass. He finds the captain with a bullet in his head and thinking he is alive decides to take him to medical care.

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He encounters German troops but manages to avoid them. Arriving at the hospital, Dohun takes the captain to an Army physician (Medical Corps Colonel) who refuses to look at the captain until Dohun threatens to shoot him. The medic manages to get the bullet out of the captain’s skull and says he’ll possibly live. He places Dohun under arrest for 10 seconds as punishment for pointing a gun at him.

XXX Corps’ progress is slowed by German resistance, the narrowness of the highway and the need to construct a Bailey bridge to replace the destroyed bridge at Son. XXX Corps is able to move onto the Grave bridge without much resistance, but is halted at Nijmegen. There, soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division perform a dangerous daylight river crossing in flimsy canvas-and-wood assault boats. Ultimately, despite heavy casualties the river crossing is successful, and the Nijmegen bridge is captured. The Germans close in on the isolated British paratroopers occupying part of Arnhem at the bridge. Urquhart is separated from his men, and the supply drop zones are overrun by the Germans. German attacks on the paratroopers at the bridge are repelled. British armour continues to fight its way up the corridor, but is delayed by strong German resistance.

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Operation Ends

After securing Nijmegen Bridge, XXX Corps waits several hours for its infantry to secure the town. Finally, Sosabowski’s troops enter the battle, yet they are unable to effectively reinforce the British at Arnhem. The Germans, now on full alert, intercept and gun down numerous Poles during their drop; only a handful survive to reinforce the British. After days of house-to-house fighting at Arnhem, pitted against crack SS infantry backed by panzers, the outgunned paratroops are captured or forced to withdraw. Arnhem itself is indiscriminately razed. Although Operation Market Garden is determined by Montgomery and his High Command to be 90% successful, most of those who actually carried it out feel quite differently. Urquhart escapes Arnhem with fewer than a fifth of his original 10 thousand crack troops; those who were too badly injured to flee stay behind and cover the withdraw, then give themselves up. Urquhart confronts Browning about his personal sentiments regarding the operation: does Browning think it was as well as Montgomery estimates? Browning’s reply (and the film’s last line of dialogue, not counting the Allied prisoners who sing Abide With Me en route to the German POW camp) contradicts his earlier optimism for Market Garden: “Well, as you know, I always felt we tried to go a bridge too far.”

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In the film’s final scene, Kate ter Horst (Liv Ullman) and her children are forced to abandon their bombed-out residence. Placing their belongings in a cart which is drawn by Dr. Jan Spaander (Laurence Olivier), they pass through their front yard – which has been converted to a cemetery for fallen Allied troops – and trek across the countryside to an uncertain future. One of the children brings up the rear, marching with a rifle-shaped branch he has found.

Under-rated war epic.

10 November 2004 | by Jonathon Dabell (barnaby.rudge@hotmail.co.uk) (Todmorden, England) – See all my reviews

Quite a few bad things have been written about A Bridge Too Far. Richard Attenborough’s elephantine recreation of the battle for several strategically valuable Dutch bridges in the winter of 1944 is a star-studded, lengthy and exhausting film (and many critics at the time seemed to be of the opinion that it collapsed beneath its own weight). Almost thirty years on, the film is now viewed somewhat more favourably. It may feel 30 minutes too long, and the need for so many stars in so many tiny parts is questionable, but A Bridge Too Far successfully shows a fierce episode of the Second World War in all its chaotic glory.

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Incredibly, there’s no use of the computer generated effects during the big battle scenes that it is relied upon in modern films like Gladiator and Troy. The scenes in this film were shot pretty much as you see them – so the 35,000 parachutists storming Holland, the river crossing led by Robert Redford under intense enemy fire, and other such staggering combat sequences were filmed with thousands of extras and a good deal of meticulous planning and preparation.

The film is based upon Operation Market Garden, an Allied plot hatched towards the end of 1944 with the intention of ending the war in Europe. The concept behind the plan was to drop 35,000 soldiers into Holland approximately 60 miles beyond the German lines, to seize six vital bridges, and to reinforce the paratroopers by sending in thousands of ground troops. However, various mishaps jeopardised the mission and eventually the Allies were cut off and had to withdraw, suffering severe losses.

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As stellar casts go, A Bridge Too Far still takes some rivalling. Among the many famous actors involved, these are just a few: Sean Connery, Robert Redford, Laurence Olivier, Dirk Bogarde, James Caan, Ryan O’Neal, Gene Hackman, Michael Caine, Anthony Hopkins and Elliott Gould. It seems pointless for some of the actors to be cast in these roles – true enough, Connery, Bogarde and Hopkins get decent roles and a fair bit of screen time, but was it really worth paying Redford $2,000,000 for his ten minute heroics? Could a decent actor have not handled the role for a fraction of that amount? Is Gene Hackman really the correct choice for Polish officer Major General Stanislaw Sosabowski? Should a light comic actor like Elliott Gould be doing his cigar-chomping “fun” turn in a movie as serious as this?

Luckily, the film is a big success on other levels. The cinematography is extraordinary; the music is suitably stirring; the potentially confusing story is handled with clarity and true-to-the-facts sensitivity; and amid the chaos a number of very memorable scenes emerge. A Bridge Too Far is a very good war film – maybe the biggest war film ever conceived (The Longest Day and Saving Private Ryan included) – and I feel that, although it has a few casting flaws, it is in almost every other department a great, great achievement.

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What makes this movie so good is the realism, shown in every detail

9/10
Author: Philip Van der Veken from Tessenderlo, Belgium
29 September 2004

I’m a big fan of war movies and I already have a nice collection on DVD. One of them is A Bridge Too Far and I can only say that it is one of my favorites in this genre (if you can make a comparison between movies like A Bridge Too Far, Saving Private Ryan, All Quiet on the Western Front, Apocalypse Now… of course). What I really don’t understand is why this movie never was a big success in the cinema’s. Perhaps the people had enough of war movies … and Star Wars was very hip and new at that time of course, but personally I love this movie.

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What makes this movie so good is the realism. In most of the war movies of that period, everybody speaks English. No matter if it is a German, an American,… In this movie everybody speaks the language he is supposed to speak. There even is a difference between the English of the Americans and the British. But of course the use of different languages isn’t the only thing that attracted me. Another good example is the fact that they didn’t try to make all the Germans look like brainless killers, monsters without any human feelings. The movie showes them the way they really were: good and hard fighters who cared about their comrades just as much as any allied soldier, but who didn’t just kill for fun. (Just for your information: I’m talking about the soldiers in the Wehrmacht here and not about the SS, even though not all SS-troops where that bad either. There are good and bad people in every army.)

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The effort which was put in this movie is shown in every detail. The uniforms, the weapons, the landscapes, the cities…, everything really gives you the feeling the director wanted to give an accurate vision on what happened during operation Market Garden. Images from the movie were even incorporated in a documentary on this subject. That probably shows better than anything else how good this movie really is.

You probably ask yourself if there really isn’t anything negative about this movie. Of course there is, but it never really bothered me. Therefore I reward this movie with a 9/10. Perhaps a little too high according to the average IMDb user, but for me it’s sure worth it.

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“It’s All A Question Of Bridges”

Author: Michael Coy (michael.coy@virgin.net) from London, England
14 February 1999

“Quite frankly,” observes ‘Boy’ Browning, “this kind of thing’s never been attempted before.” But it has. In 1962, “The Longest Day” gave the epic star-studded treatment to the D-Day landings, and here we are, 15 years on, doing the same for the Arnhem debacle. It has to be said, the film looks great. From the gently-tinkling light fittings in the Dutch resistors’ home to the beauty of the tank tracks in perspective, this is a gorgeously-photographed movie.

In 1944, the German armies were being pushed back across the Low Countries. The Allies’ great strategic problem was the Rhine, the wide river which formed Germany’s western border. A daring plan was conceived which would overcome the Rhine obstacle and open the road to Berlin. ‘Market Garden’, as the plan was codenamed, involved parachuting spearhead units onto the great bridges over the Rhine and securing them for the critical few hours it would take for an armoured column to drive up and relieve them.

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It is easy now to point to the flaws in ‘Market Garden’, but at the time it looked like a daring and viable alternative to slogging it out against the Siegfried Line. No-one had anticipated that the Dutch people would pour out onto the streets in throngs, thinking that they had been liberated, and thus bog down the armour. The intelligence indications of heavily-equipped German units in the zone were ignored because they were inconvenient. Critically, the plan allowed for only one solitary road to be available to the Irish Guards for the all-important northward thrust. The film illustrates very effectively the way in which a plan can develop its own momentum, regardless of the shortcomings which riddle it.

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The sequence of the boarding and dropping of the paratroops is a thrilling spectacle, shot on a colossal scale. The German ambush which delays the rolling of the armoured column is another terrific action sequence. Attenborough keeps tight control of a big, complex story, and interlards the large-scale stuff with ‘human scale’ passages, like James Caan’s rescue of his buddy (incidentally, the tracking shot which follows his jeep through the forest is quite remarkable).

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The fighting at Nijmegen is brilliantly-filmed. Note how the street on the British side grows increasingly littered with war debris as the battle rages. Robert Redford’s assault across the river is a symphony in olive drab, leading to a wonderful moment of exhilaration.

Whether the viewer finds the singing of “Abide With Me” moving or grossly sentimental will depend on personal taste, but the subdued ending is very satisfying. ‘Market Garden’ may have helped shorten the war and may have achieved most of its immediate objectives, but it has to be seen as a tragic mistake.

The film is slick, professional and very pleasing on the eye. One can’t help wondering, however, if this kind of ‘tank opera’ was worth the effort, given that “The Longest Day” had done it all so splendidly a generation earlier.

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A FAILED GAMBLE

Author: Howard Morley (luke@morleys.demon.co.uk) from LONDON ENGLAND
26 June 2002

This video portrays with great precision in an almost acted documentary way the failed attempt in September 1944 to end WWII early based on the plan conceived by Field Marshall Bernard Law Montgomery of El-Alemain (with Eisenhower’s approval).The Allies by this time had advanced deep into Belgium almost to The Dutch border but the advance suddenly slowed due to their out-running lines of supply and their inability to take a servicable port intact nearer their front line.Supplies were still being transported from the won Normandy beachheads a distance of over 500miles.

The Plan involved dropping British, American and Polish paratroopers at strategic bridges in the Netherlands such as The Son, The Grave, Nijmegen, to be taken by the American 82nd and 101st Airborne and the prize, Arnhem to be taken and held by British paratroops.

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Once all these bridges were captured and held, The British 1st Army would drive up the road linking them, thus giving the Allies a springboard to the Rhine and Germany.It was code-named “Operation Market Garden”, Market being the airborne drop and Garden the drive up the road.That was the theory. The planners overlooked,by ignoring seemingly on purpose aerial reconnaisance photos which indicated that Dieter’s SS Panzers were resting and re-equipping in the Arnhem area. The Allies’ communications equipment had not been tested thoroughly enough e.g. “walkie-talkies” worked in open country but what about in built-up areas?Did they have the right sort of crystals fitted?The daily air drops to re-supply lightly armed paratroops could not work if the paras were not in their coded/designated drop zones. Amazingly after the strategic withdrawal from Arnhem, Montgomery is purported to have said it was “90% successful”!

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This film, directed by Richard Attenborough, was made in 1977 with a galaxy of well known stars i.e.:Dirk Bogarde as General Boy Browning,Lawrence Olivier, Liv Uhlman,Ryan O’Neal, James Caan, Robert Redford, Gene Hackman,Anthony Hopkins, Sean Connery and Michael Caine.They all play historical figures but for me the most effective was Edward Fox playing General Sir Brian Horrocks.The latter presented a UK TV series on WWII in the 1960’s and Fox’s mannerisms and speech patterns were unerringly similar.Please bear in mind that since the recent film “The Saving of Private Ryan”, special effects in war films have gone up a quantum leap, e.g. the havoc that bullets/bombs/morters etc can wreak on the human body.So you are looking at 1977 special effects.

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Nevertheless the equipment including the DC3’s and filming of the actual paratroopers drop into The Netherlands was most impressive.Sometimes the dialogue is a little stilted to modern tastes but this is or should be speech patterns from 1944.It was General Boy Browning who stated “…but sir, I think we may be going a bridge too far” when he met with the Allied top brass to oversee the plan which he had to execute.This is certainly one of the seminal WWII war films and the only one which concentrates on this failed strategy to liberate the Low Countries.

If you can forget the famous actors and get into their characters and have a sense of modern history, this long film will stimulate you.

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The Longest Day (1962)

Directed by
Cinematography

The Longest Day is a 1962 epic war film based on Cornelius Ryan‘s book The Longest Day (1959), about the D-Day landings at Normandy on June 6, 1944, during World War II. The film was produced by Darryl F. Zanuck, who paid author Ryan $175,000 for the film rights.The screenplay was by Ryan, with additional material written by Romain Gary, James Jones, David Pursall and Jack Seddon. It was directed by Ken Annakin (British and French exteriors), Andrew Marton (American exteriors), and Bernhard Wicki (German scenes).

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The Longest Day, which was made in black and white, features a large ensemble cast including John Wayne, Kenneth More, Richard Todd, Robert Mitchum, Richard Burton, Steve Forrest, Sean Connery, Henry Fonda, Red Buttons, Peter Lawford, Eddie Albert, Jeffrey Hunter, Stuart Whitman, Tom Tryon, Rod Steiger, Leo Genn, Gert Fröbe, Irina Demick, Bourvil, Curt Jürgens, George Segal, Robert Wagner, Paul Anka and Arletty. Many of these actors played roles that were essentially cameo appearances. In addition, several cast members – including Fonda, Genn, More, Steiger and Todd – saw action as servicemen during the war, with Todd actually being among the first British officers to land in Normandy in Operation Overlord and he in fact participated in the assault on Pegasus Bridge.

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The last good WW2 film made by people “who were there”

12 April 2004 | by Terry Rodgers (Edinburgh) – See all my reviews

This is perhaps one of the most ambitious, epic WW2 films to have been made; certainly it is the last of the classic B&W films made about the subject. Featuring an all-star cast (John Wayne, Richard Burton, Kurt Jurgens… even a cameo by Sean Connery!), it comprehensively details the build-up and execution of the Normandy landings in 1944, taking care to show how the event was perceived by Allied and Axis soldiers and commanders, as well as the Free French resistance. This is a film that takes great care in documenting the events of the day, without lapsing into sickly sentimentalism or getting distracted with fictional characters’ personal lives (a failing of many WW2 movies since about 1970), or over-emphasising any one nation’s importance in the operation (although, admittedly, Canadians may feel a little short-changed).

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Classic moments abound, notably the landing at St.Mere-Eglise and the soldier who gets caught in the church steeple, the frustrations of the front-line German commanders and fighters, and the numerous cameos for film nerds to keep track of.

If you want a wartime romance, or an appearance by Matt Damon or Ben Affleck, or long, loving shots of the Stars & Stripes in slo-mo, or a gritty blood’n’guts fest, you’ll be disappointed. This film has broader concerns, and was made with much more thoroughness. There is no agenda at work here, pro-war or anti-. It is solely concerned with documenting Operation “Overlord” for the film-going public, and succeeds brilliantly; a shame then, that it has not made the top 50 war films list.

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An absolutely remarkable film…

10/10
Author: Righty-Sock (robertfrangie@hotmail.com) from Mexico
1 October 2002
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

‘The Longest Day’ is June 6, 1944, the day the Allied assault on Hitler’s Fortress Europe… And when it came everything went much according to plan… But fighting through the tough country of Normandy took much longer than had been expected…

Dwight D. Eisenhower, the four-star Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, made up the force of some two million men massed in England for the strike at Europe…

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Combined American, British, Irish and Canadian forces assault the beaches of Normandy in an effort to gain a foothold on the continent… From the viewpoint of the Americans and Germans involved, the story unfolds through numerous episodes highlighting the ‘Longest Day.’ We see the commands posts occupied by the Germans; Caen, the starting point; the French underground network; Omaha Beach; Utah Beach; Ste-Mère-Église; as well as sites and camps in England…

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The film is a clear examination of D-Day looked at from almost every viewpoint, particularly from that of the Germans who are overwhelmed by the forces brought against them… It is in fact Field Marshal Erwin Rommel (profiled against the French beach thoroughly planted with mined obstacles) who looks out to where the invasion fleet will appear later-or sooner, and gives the film its title: “The first 24 hours of the invasion will be decisive… For the Allies as well as the Germans, it will be the longest day.”

In the first half, much attention is focused on the weather, as the troops… American, British, Irish, Canadian and French are poised on board their boats and ships, waiting for the rain to stop… In the key scene when Gen. Eisenhower (David Grace), makes the decision to go ahead with the invasion on June 6, more than 5,000 ships moved to assigned positions… The importance of time is emphasized by increasing the ticking of a clock… On the other side of the channel, the German generals, who know the invasion is imminent, see the same nasty weather and decide to take some time off for war games…

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French Resistance fighters receive their coded instructions from BBC radio and increase their sabotage activities… Much of the early going is also devoted to some of the Allies’ more unorthodox ideas, the kinds of things that make more sense cinematic ally than militarily: the use of metal clickers by paratroopers for identification, and parachuting mechanical dummies loaded with firecrackers behind German lines to create confusion…

The film reaches its peak when the two sides in the battle are finally engaged…

The first assault wave hit the Normandy beaches at 6:30 A.M. on June 6… The soil of France looked sordid and uninviting… Planning has been as complete as possible, but in the vast confusion of invasion under enemy fire, so many men fell uselessly when they left their landing craft, and stepped into water… Others fell into underwater shell craters and drowned…

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The Allied air bombing that was to have knocked out German beach defense guns had not been accurate, especially on Omaha Beach where the bombs had been laid down too far inland to do much good… As a result, the gunfire that met American troops there was more murderous than anything they had been prepared for..

Today it is difficult to watch the invasion scenes and not compare them to the opening of Steven Spielberg’s ‘Saving Private Ryan,’ but that really is unfair… Zanuck manages to display the image of thousands of young soldiers who were killed fighting to liberate France…

A long aerial shot from the point of view of a German pilot Josef ‘Pips’ Priller (Heinz Reincke) strafing Normandy Beach reveals a shore-line of successive waves of men running for their lives trying to secure Omaha Beach… This awful waste and destruction of war: scores of trucks and boats hit by shells, or sunk by mines with their crew lost… Trucks overturned and swamped, partly sunken barges, and many jeeps half submerged…

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Field Marshal Rommel set to work to do everything possible to make the beaches if not impregnable, very uninviting indeed… ‘The war will be won or lost on the beaches,’ he states… The German command was slow to react to the invasion… They had been misled by the weather and the Allied deception plan that Normandy was a diversion and the main landing would be at Pas-de-Calais…

Shot in CinemaScope and in black-and-white, ‘The Longest Day’ captures the history of the moment… The film tracks the book very closely, shifting the viewpoints from German to French to American to British throughout… In three hours Zanuck and his staff expand on the scope of one day, to tell mostly everything, with an exceptionally strong cast playing cameo roles… The cast could not be better, in spite of the brevity of their roles:

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– Bourvil is the French Mayor of Colleville who welcomes the British soldiers with a bottle of champagne…

– Irina Demick is Janine Boitard, the sexy good-looking Resistance member…

– Henry Fonda is Theodore Roosevelt Jr., the Brigadier General who limps ashore with the first of the assault boats landing on Utah Beach…

– Christian Marquand is Philippe Kieffer, the French Commander in desperate situation in Ouistreham…

– Robert Mitchum is Norman Cota, the Brigadier general who chops on his cold cigar, and walks along the beach and rallies his men… Mitchum gets some great lines and delivers them with the right amount of idealism and cynicism…

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– Richard Todd is John Howard, the major who lands by glider at Bénouville to capture the canal bridge over the Orne River…

All the characters speak in their own languages… The motion picture is Winner of two Academy Awards for Cinematography and Special Effects, Zanuck’s ‘The Longest Day’ is one without doubt an absolutely remarkable film, one of the most impressive and most authentic documentation of war ever put on film…

Allow Yourself A Long Day To See This All-Star War Pic…

7/10
Author: Donald J. Lamb from Philadelphia, PA
12 April 1999

Darryl F. Zanuck’s THE LONGEST DAY is indeed long, has over 48 international stars, 3 directors, and took about 2 years to make. 1962 was the year of the epic as far as the 1960’s were concerned and this exceptional film is no exception. No cost was spared. Some good war sequences mixed with stock footage of WWII effectively present a version of D-Day, June of 1944. We see it from the German perspective (in sub-titles), the American plight, and the rest of the Allied forces. One problem: If you are seeing the film for the first time AFTER watching SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, you may come out disappointed. The war scenes are well-crafted, however, the piercing reality is missing. I tried to watch it as objectively as I could, but it is hard, considering the impression Spielberg’s version of D-Day left on me.

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The soldiers are led by a variety of huge name actors. John Wayne is a no-holds-barred Captain who will fight, broken foot or not. Henry Fonda plays Teddy Roosevelt, Jr. looking not to be treated as the son of an ex-president. Bob Mitchum is great as a cigar-smoking officer of the U.S. raid on Omaha Beach. The only problem is authenticity. The actors look good and realisticly war-like, however, they are kept in frame to showcase their talents and they never seem to be near death. This is by no means an anti-war film like RYAN. It can be harrowing at times, but watching Richard Burton, Sean Connery, and Rod Steiger deliver cameo-like performances (meaning they know they are only on-screen for a short time) was a bit contrived and distracting.

Overall, I did like the movie. It is greatly detailed and it lets you know exactly who each actor is playing. This is pure American propaganda, but it is still exciting. Too many fearful war experiences are handled with kid gloves. The grand spectacle of the top-notch production values as well as non-stop action make the picture watchable, if only once.

RATING: 7 of 10

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Shaving Ryan’s Privates

9/10
Author: giorgiosurbani from Italy
26 November 2007

True, the first half an hour of Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan” is truly mesmerizing but then it degenerates into a soap opera of sorts and all the angst and horror of war evaporates until the truly sentimental finale. “The Longest Day” doesn’t depend on special effects but on the minute by minute horror of its moment. It’s also, if I’m permitted to say it, a lot of fun to watch. Strangely enough the all star cast is not distracting at all. It was much more in “Saving Private Ryan” with a cast of up and comings headed by Tom Hanks himself. In “The Longest Day” there are real moments, film, cinematic moments that are intimately connected with the profoundest sense of drama: The clicking of the rifle. Richard Burton, Richard Beymer and the boots of the dead German. Red Buttons hanging from the Cathedral. Paul Anka, Fabian, Robert Wagner, the landing in Normandy. This film remains one of the best, from every angle, films of its kind.

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“Gentlemen, We Start the War from Right Here.”

10/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
7 August 2006

Simply put if things had gone differently on June 6, 1944 we would be living in a very different and very much uglier world than we have now. The Longest Day is Darryl F. Zanuck’s tribute to all who were involved in Allied invasion at Normandy.

Even viewing it now as opposed to the theaters back then back then I am staggered at Zanuck’s incredible eye and grasp for the detail of the Normandy invasion. He did the smart thing and not only bought Cornelius Ryan’s standard account of D-Day, but got Ryan to write a very coherent screenplay. Even one who has absolutely no grasp of military history will be able to follow exactly what was going on.

Several of the people who are portrayed in the film also served as technical advisers of it. When you Peter Lawford as Lord Lovat or Robert Ryan as General James Gavin and many others these people aided in recreating the project.

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Zanuck may have had the largest movie set in history to work with, at least up to that time. You are seeing the film photographed in the places it actually happened. The beaches, the towns of St. Mere Eglise and Ouisterham, even the embarkation areas in the UK. I doubt you could do The Longest Day today because of the changes in all these places now. Lots of cooperation from the British and French governments was necessary.

You also couldn’t do it because the budget would be the size of the U.S. national debt today. This was the last days of the all powerful studio system and even with a lot of the stars free-lancing at that point, Darryl F. Zanuck was still a most powerful man in Hollywood with a lot of favors owed. One example was Richard Burton who was shooting Cleopatra at the time The Longest Day was also shooting. For his two brief, but memorable scenes as an RAF pilot, they shot around him on Cleopatra also a 20th Century Fox production while he filmed his part for Zanuck.

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Even the Germans came in for a portrait of them as human beings. Curt Jurgens as General Blumentritt, who was also a technical adviser, put it philosophically best about how after he can’t convince Chief of Staff Alfred Jodl to wake up Hitler to move the Panzer Divisions, breaks open a bottle of cognac and decides to drink it before the Allies arrive.

I have several favorites in The Longest Day. Richard Todd who actually was at D-Day and was a decorated hero himself, plays commando leader, Major John Howard who is asked to paratroop into France and capture and hold a key bridge intact. Todd is channeling his own as well as Howard’s war experience into the film and gives a performance of unusual depth.

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Norman Rossington and a pre-James Bond Sean Connery who was just making his debut as Bond in Dr. No, give some good comic relief as a cockney and Irish soldier landing on Sword Beach. So does Kenneth More as a British beachmaster with his bulldog Winston.

The French are well represented by Arletty, Bourvil, Christian Marquand and by Irina Demich. Being that three of these play civilian roles they get the only two women’s parts of any substance in The Longest Day. I do like the scene where some Germans checking Irina out in a low cut dress, fail to properly search her. Irina also demonstrates how much the women were equal partners in the Resistance. Marquand as a captain of a Free French company is involved in a particularly bloody battle for a coastal town.

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Of course the American cinema is well represented. Charlton Heston was to originally play the part that John Wayne does, but he couldn’t get free of some commitments of his own and when Wayne became available, Zanuck grabbed him. Heston was later quoted as saying Wayne did a better job than he would have in any event. Wayne’s best scene was when he saw some American bodies dangling from roofs in St. Mere Eglise. As I’ve said many times, John Wayne had one of the best faces for movie closeups ever. One look at the horror expressed in his face tells you all you need to know.

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Henry Fonda plays General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. who would within a month after the invasion die on Normandy Beach. Had he lived, Roosevelt might have picked up the pieces of a stalled political career. But that was not to be the case. Roosevelt was found dead of a heart attack in his tent after the invasion when the Allies were trying to break out of the beach.

The heaviest casualties on D-Day were on Omaha Beach where Robert Mitchum plays General Norman Cota a division commander. Mitchum is involved at the climax of the film where American GIS after being hung up for hours, break through and insure the invasion’s success.

The Longest Day is not only great drama and a great war film, but it is as accurate a film as you will ever get depicting the Normandy invasion, good history as well.

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Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)

Directed by Allan Dwan

Cinematography by

Reggie Lanning

Sands of Iwo Jima is a 1949 war film starring John Wayne that follows a group of United States Marines from training to the Battle of Iwo Jima during World War II. The film also features John Agar, Adele Mara and Forrest Tucker, was written by Harry Brown and James Edward Grant, and directed by Allan Dwan. The picture was a Republic Pictures production.

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Compared with most combat films of its time, Sands of Iwo Jima was fairly nuanced in its view of war and military people. Ironically, many references to it in mass media and popular culture depict it as the quintessential “flag-waving” World War II film. This may have less to do with the movie’s actual contents than with star John Wayne’s later identification with conservative politics.

Several of the actors were re-united in the 1970 western Chisum (1970): John Wayne, John Agar, Forrest Tucker, and Richard Jaeckel.

The 1982 Academy Award nominated comedy short film The Great Cognito makes an implied reference to Sands of Iwo Jima. The only character to be seen onscreen is an entertainment impersonator, who actually changes into the people and events he talks about in his comic patter, using Will Vinton‘s technique of stop-motion claymation. In the end, while talking of Iwo Jima, Cognito breaks down in tears and leaves the stage, blubbering about how “…John Wayne gets shot.”

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Exploiting A Symbol

8/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
9 November 2006

Although Clint Eastwood’s recent Flags of Our Fathers has told the real story about the flag raising at Iwo Jima, it hasn’t diminished any of the impact that Sands of Iwo Jima has, either back when it was released or viewed today.

In fact because the three surviving flag raisers, Joseph Bradley, Rene Gagnon, and Ira Hayes all were in this film it’s even more proof of how the symbolic flag raising has become mythologized.

Of course the real heroism was in capturing the island that was less than a 1000 miles from the main islands of Japan and the airfields on Iwo Jima that could be used by our bombers for land based flights. It took about a month to do that, the flag was raised on the fifth day.

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I read a history of the United States Marine Corps from it’s formation during the American Revolution. Over the course of its history it was interesting to learn that the Marines many times were threatened with extinction, to be folded into either the army or navy right up to and including World War I.

Right after World War I a very farsighted man named John A. Lejeune became the Marine Corps Commandant and he saw that we would be in a war in the Pacific with the Japanese as our foes. He also saw that the survival of the Marines as an entity involved them training for a very specialized kind of mission, amphibious warfare. He started training them for that and come World War II they were certainly ready.

John Wayne as Sergeant Striker got one of his most memorable parts of his career in Sands of Iwo Jima. Striker is a tough as nails Marine Corps lifer whose got a job to whip a lot of recruits into shape for the later Pacific landings after Guadalcanal. He’s also got one lousy personal life as his wife’s left him and taken their son.

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Wayne got his first Oscar nomination for Best Actor in this part. There’s a couple of other films he should have gotten a nomination for, but that’s another story. Among his competition in 1949 was Kirk Douglas for Champion, Richard Todd for The Hasty Heart, and Gregory Peck for Twelve O’Clock High. Note three of the nominees were for World War II related films. But the winner that year was Broderick Crawford for All the King’s Men. At least Peck and Wayne both got Oscars later in their careers.

John Agar who was trying to carve out a reputation as being more than Mr. Shirley Temple back then plays the son of a former commander of Wayne’s who has a problem with his Dad and takes it out on Wayne attitude wise as a surrogate father. Julie Bishop and Adele Mara play women drawn to both Wayne and Agar respectively.

Of the supporting cast who play members of Wayne’s platoon, my favorite is Wally Cassell, the wisecracking city kid who finds a tank to help his platoon out during a sticky situation.

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Flags of Our Fathers teaches us about how the flag raising symbolism became part of the Marine Corps heritage. Sands of Iwo Jima exploits that symbol in the best sense of the word. After almost sixty years, it’s still a fine film with a grand performance by the Duke.

William Manchester notwithstanding

Author: inspectors71 from Fly-Over Country
13 March 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I remember seeing this film as a child and wondering if combat looked as antiseptic as it does in Sands of Iwo Jima, then the Japanese soldiers dropped into a foxhole of Marines and started bayoneting them. The scene still frightens me, regardless of how many times I’ve seen Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers.

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The great William Manchester wrote about being a Marine in the Pacific in his memoir Goodbye, Darkness. He talked about how phony the movie was, how John Wayne-ish and Hollywoodized it portrayed the sort of in-your-face combat he experienced. He and a friend were thrown out of a theater for laughing so hard at the histrionics and the clichés.

Yet, the average viewer would be hard-pressed not to feel for John Wayne’s broken, alcoholic Marine non-com, and the squad he commands. The best moment of the film isn’t the tragic, inevitable ending, but Wayne’s discovery that his love interest is just as damaged and as hurt as he is.

With that in mind–and William Manchester notwithstanding–this is more than just a war movie, and that’s why it’s so good.

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Classic war film with a magnificent John Wayne as tough sergeant fighting Japanese

7/10
Author: ma-cortes
22 November 2007

This is a flag-waging and patriotic tribute to US marines .Very decent war scenes along with documentary footage that convey us the assault troops establish on the Pacific islands, but like the navy, the US army fought its way from island to island in the Pacific. Striker(Wayne) and his squad(Forrest Tucker, John Agar,James Brown,Richard Jaeckel,James Brown,Richard Webb, among others) are responsible for the capture of the Pacific islands. And, of course, the picture brings to life one of the most famous images of the Second World war- Joe Rosenthal’s photograph of US marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima, on the morning of February 23, 1945 and with special appearance of the three living survivors of the historic flag raising of Mount Suribachi. John Wayne is top-notch as valiant but deranged sergeant Striker training rebellious recruits and soldiers in this believable war film . Wayne won his only Oscar nomination, before his obtaining in ¨True grit¨. Supporting cast is frankly magnificent. The motion picture is well directed by Allan Dawn.

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The film is based correctly on Iwo Jima battle in a hard-fought US operation, one of the most difficult campaigns of the Pacific theater . US capture of Japanese-held island in the Bonin group , about 1450 km south of Tokyo after intense fighting Feb-March 1945. Fortified by the Japanese, it held two airfields, with a third under construction, and was a valuable strategic target for US forces as it would provide a base for land-based bombers to raid the mainland of Japan. It was assaulted by US Marines 19 Feb 1945 after a prolonged air and naval bombardment. The 22000 Japanese troops put up a fanatical resistance but the island was finally secured 16 March. US casualties came to 6891 killed and 18700 wounded, while only 212 of the Japanese garrison survived.The film is dedicated to the United States Marine Corps whose exploits and valor have left a lasting impression on the world and in the hearts of their countrymen . Appreciation is gratefully acknowledged for their assistance and participation which made this picture possible.

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A Great Classic triumphs over age and minor flaws.

Author: Cleon from United States
18 August 2003

Yes, today some of it seems campy and jingoistic, but Sands of Iwo Jima, is such a classic that it can’t help being a worthy way to spend 100 minutes.

First of all, there is John Wayne as Sergeant Stryker. Stryker was the model on which virtually every screen portrayal of a tough sergeant is based. The character’s angst and intensity also give us a rare glimpse of John Wayne’s true acting ability. In most movies he just portrayed himself, but there is no swagger in Stryker, just loneliness, fear, and hope. He is by far the most convincing character in this movie, and one of the top from any war movie, period.

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Next: the history. Ok, the actual characters have no basis in fact, but the battles certainly do. The battles for Tarawa and Iwo Jima were very important to the war and tragically costly in lives. They deserve to be remembered. The production mixed a lot of actual footage taken at the actual battles and mixed it in with the regular film. The two look fairly similar since both are black and white, but you can tell what is real and what was shot for the movie. One’s first reaction to this might be that the production went cheapskate, but, in a way, the use of real stock battle footage was more moving than an epic legion of extras like in The Longest Day. You just can’t beat reality for realism, and seeing the real islands and the real marines is an eerie reminder of how many men died in those horrific battles.

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Finally: the supporting cast. Ok, I can’t rave about them all, but most were entertaining, especially Wally Cassell. Also, Forrest Tucker puts in a fine performance, the only one remotely close to Wayne’s in its depth.

Some of the anachronisms are a bit funny, but my only real complaint in the whole movie was John Agar’s character Peter Conway. I don’t know who was at fault for it, Agar or the writers, but his character is hard to take. I think we are meant to like him, but for about the first 90 minutes that is pretty much impossible.

Otherwise, it’s a great movie. See it!

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