During the last winter of the Civil War, cavalry officer Amos Dundee leads a contentious troop of Army regulars, Confederate prisoners and scouts on an expedition into Mexico to destroy a band of Apaches who have been raiding U.S. bases in Texas. Continue reading Sam Peckinpah – Major Dundee (1965)
Once more, Vlacil’s films are largely about subjects that are not seen on screen. With some spoilers, here we have a story set in 1947 when Ukrainian right-wing anti-Communist guerillas, looking like and feeling like Nazi’s, are trying to fight their way through Czechoslovakia to Austria. They come out of the forest to occupy a family’s countryside farm house, kidnapping a doctor to help heal one of their wounded, but this could just as easily be about the post-war occupying forces in Eastern Europe, or the occupying Soviet forces in the 60’s, as there is an initial belief that there is nothing anyone can do, or to coin a STAR TREK phrase, `Resistance is futile.’ The film has a very languid pace which establishes the mood and pace of this small village, much of it is wordless, with a Sergio Leone acid-western feel, easily the most outstanding feature is the original music by Zdenek Liska, which plays on the inner psychological turmoil, providing an unseen character in the film. The father gives the appearance of passivity, as he is outmanned and outgunned, while his eager young son wants a taste of immediate revenge. But a wiser course of action is called for, waiting, giving the impression he is yielding to their demands, as the father wants to protect the lives of his wife and children, which allows for large doses of screen time where various family members are performing daily farm chores, just trying to survive this ordeal, while interspersed in each frame are men with machine guns who sadistically threaten their every impulse. This farmhouse under occupation represents a country under occupation, all feel like helpless victims where every moment is spent in fear, any minute things could spin helplessly out of control, and this film skillfully gets under everyone’s skin. Continue reading Frantisek Vlácil – Stíny horkého léta aka Shadows of a Hot Summer (1978)
Alfred Hitchcock’s particular contribution to the War effort consisted of two French-language short subjects, slated to be distributed in France after the Liberation. The first film was Bon Voyage; the second was Aventure Malgache. In the latter film, Paris’ Moliere Players enact a thrilling tale of the French Resistance. The fact-based story concerns Claurousse, who boldly operated on behalf of the Underground in Nazi-occupied Madagascar. Sent to prison by the Vichy government, Claurousse is rescued by the British, and is thus able to continue tweaking Hitler’s nose. As in his previous Murder and his later Stage Fright, Hitchcock seems delighted with the opportunity to combine the specialized world of the theater with the more treacherous terrain of intrigue. Long available only for archival showings, Aventure Malgache was released to videotape in the mid-1980s, often in tandem with Bon Voyage. Continue reading Alfred Hitchcock – Aventure malgache AKA Madagascar Adventure (1944)
On August 9, 1945, the Americans dropped an atomic bomb on Nagasaki. This film, based on a story by Mitsukaru Inoue, describes the daily life of people in Nagasaki the day before that fateful event. It presents the human drama of people’s lives, and their feelings of joy and sadness. These include a newlywed couple, an expectant mother, and lovers who must say farewell because the boy is called to serve in the army. Each of these people, like others in the city, hoped to live with their dreams for ‘tomorrow’. But tomorrow never comes for them, as their lives are brought to an abrupt and unexpected end. Knowing how the story ends, in this case, doesn’t detract from it at all; rather, it enhances the emotional impact, which is further heightened by the poignant musical score from Teizo Matsumura. ‘Ashita’ is the first film in Kazuo Kuroki’s ‘War Requiem Trilogy,’ which also includes ‘Utsukushii Natsu Kirishima’ (2002) and ‘Chichi to Kuraseba’ (2004) Continue reading Kazuo Kuroki – Ashita AKA Tomorrow (1988)
Hitler’s Madman is based on an all-too-real wartime atrocity. John Carradine portrays Heydrich, the vicious SS officer put in charge of Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. Heydrich is killed by the Czech underground, prompting the Nazis to plan a horrible retaliation. The Gestapo selects the Czech village of Lidice for annihilation: They kill all the male villagers, throw the women and children into concentration camps, and torch Lidice into nonexistence. The victims of Nazi tyranny become martyrs to the underground cause, ending the film on a note of triumph. Based on a narrative poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay, Hitler’s Madman was produced by the “poverty row” PRC studio, but was sold to MGM and given a class-A presentation at choice theatres throughout the U.S. Continue reading Douglas Sirk – Hitler’s Madman (1943)
King Arthur Was a Gentleman is a 1942 British musical comedy film, directed by Marcel Varnel, starring Arthur Askey as Arthur King. Set during World War II, the plot involves the diminutive Arthur joining the army to prove himself to his girlfriend Susan (Evelyn Dall), who is in the same unit as him. Here, his idealistic notions about King Arthur prompt his messmates to trick him into believing that a sword they have dug up is the fabled Excaliber. Armed with this talisman Arthur strides forth to deal with the Wehrmacht. Continue reading Marcel Varnel – King Arthur Was a Gentleman (1942)
The middle segment of Ingmar Bergman’s late ’60s trilogy of films set on the island of Fårö, Shame is less enigmatic than Hour of the Wolf and more harrowing than The Passion of Anna. It’s impossible to think that Bergman wasn’t in some way affected by the worldwide debate over American involvement in Vietnam when he wrote the script for Shame, though its politics are neutral. Bergman is much more interested in exploring the inability of civilians to get out of the way of a war and what the consequences are when it does touch them. Precisely because Jan and Eva Rosenberg take no sides in the civil conflict they are trying to avoid, their basic reaction to danger is one of pure survival… When Eva tries to recall a remark that would comfort her, her memory fails her; it’s one of the most powerful scenes in the career of one of the world’s greatest filmmakers.
— Tom Wiener, AllRovi Continue reading Ingmar Bergman – Skammen AKA Shame [+Extras] (1968)