View Full Version : What I did on Veterans Day...

11-14-2007, 07:31 AM
Last Monday was Veterans Day here in the U.S. It used to be called Armistice Day to commeorate the end of W.W.I but it was later changed to honor all Veterans. After going to the Parade in Albany I sat down and went through my recent additions to my war movie collection.

On Land:
"Battle of the Bulge" (1965) - B-minus - Fonda, Shaw and Ryan... Oh My! Throw in Charles Bronson and you've got one rip roarin' yarn that has almost NO historical accuracy. Tanks are wrong, units are wrong, weather and terrain are wrong... Pheh... But still fun. Robert Shaw is particularly brilliant as Herr Hessler... "Release the boy, shoot the father."

"Wake Island" (1942) - B - Pure middle of the war "propaganda" rushed out the door almost before the bullets had stopped. More historically accurate than "Battle of the Bulge" but not by much. Donlevy tears up the screen as "Artillery Caton" and William Bendix provides the comic relief as a reluctan Marine who's hitch ends about 1 day too late. Taken as the moral booster it was intended, a great film.

"Bataan" (1943) - B-Plus - Same as "Wake Island" above though with more pathos and grit. Star studded cast of players some of whom would become house hold names later like a young Dezi Arnez and Loyd Nolan. Tale reads like a then modern day Alamo as 13 soldiers heroically stand off the Japanese to the last man. Again, mid war propaganda but with a terrible ring of truth to it.

"The Desert Rats" (1953) - B-Minus- Strange American production covering the story of an Australian infantry unit commanded by a British Officer trying to hold off Rommel's Afrika Corps out side the Fortress of Tobruk. Notable as Sir Richard Burton's first starring role in an American film production. Only poor production values keep this from being a first rate production. James Mason makes a surprise cameo apperance reprising his portrayal of Erwin Rommel.

On Sea:
"Sink the Bismark" (1960) - C - Typical "stiff upper lip", British portrayal of the 2nd World War events. While passable and historically accurate, the film never engages you. The use of rather pathetic models fails to make one suspend disbelief and miserable attempt to throw a romance into the flick makes it even worse... pheh... Only thing silier than the models in the bathtub was/is the inclusion of Johnny Horton's vile song of the same name. Neson must've been spinning in his grave.

"They Were Expendable" (1945) - A - John Ford at his finest. Depicting the same early war period of defeat and disaster as "Wake Island" and "Bataan" this film focuses on the early war exploits of P.T. Boats. Plywood boats that relied on speed and maneuverability to deliver torpedos against larger boats. John Wayne takes second billing behind Robert Montgomery's nuanced and stirring portrayal of Lt. Commander Brickley who carries on as his men and boats are whittled away day after day. Ford who served with the Naval Reserve during the war gets it right with this one. One of his best.

"In Which We Serve" (1942) - A - Middle of the war film starred, directed and produced by the great playwright Noel Coward. Too old to serve he produced this film to help his country who was at that the time the film started, fighting the Germans alone. Coward stars as Capt. Kinross of the H.M.S. Torrin, a destroyer commissioned just before the war. The story of the ships birth and demise are told in Citizen Kane like flashbacks. A gripping and gritty story without a happy ending. The film also marks the directorial debut of David Lean who helped Coward direct the film.

"The Cruel Sea" (1953) - B-Plus - Basically tells the same story of "In Which We Serve" but with less beauty, varnish or sentimentality. This film marks the beginning of the period where film began de-mythologizing WWII and its' actions. Jack Hawkins portrays a reserve officer who's little escort ship "Compass Rose" through U-Boat infested waters of the North Atlantic. Through the film you watch as he degenerates from a warm philosophical almost father figure to a driven, haunted "Queeglike" figure driven to kill U-boats at any cost. In a brilliant scene, after forcing a U-boat to the surface and coming face to face with his enemy for the firs time in 5 years of warfare, Hawkin's screams at his cheering crew to:

"Shoot the bloody *******s!!!"

In The Air:
"Air Force" (1943) - B-Plus - Another film made while the issue was still in doubt. This film focuses on the B-17 Flying Fortress "Mary Anne" which flew from Frisco to Pearl Harbor just in time to be caught up the events of December 7th. The plane then flys on to Wake Island and the to the Phillipines, showing the desperate situation at each stop. In the end the ship flys on to Australia but not before particpating in a fictional defeat of a "Jap invasion fleet." Only the poor models and rampant mid-war racism of the dialogue keeps me from giving it an "A". John Garfield is at his rip-roaring best in this film as is long time character actor Harry Carey.

"Dawn Patrol" (1938) - B - Remake of 1930 original of the same title. This version puts Erroll Flynn and David Niven in roles first done by Richard Barthelmess and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. The original was so well done that the aerial dogfight scenes were lifted for the remake 8 years later. The story follows the lives to two fliers forced to take green kids up in "canvas coffins" against the superior numbers and machines of the German Air Force. The loss of life and senseless slaughter of the conflict soon take it's toll on both the pilots and thier friendship. Some of Flynn's finest acting.

"12 O'Clock High" (1949) - A - Made shortly after the war this film shows the cost, both physical and mental, of America's daylight bombing campaign agains Germany during WWII. Gregory Peck's Oscar Nominated portrayal of Brigadier General Frank Savage is both poignant and powerfall. You watch as the war tears him down brick by brick and inch by inch. Released archival footage from both the U.S. Air Force and the Luftwaffe lends a great deal of authenticity to the story. An added bonus is Dean Jagger's Oscar winning portrayal of Unit Adjutant Harvey Stoval, a lawyer in civilian life who's biggest client was now "the 518th Bombgroup and I want to see my client win it's case.".

Da Worfster

11-14-2007, 09:40 AM
You gave they were expendable aa "A"? That movie was based on a book by the same name. In the movie there is one scene where 2 or 3 PT boats make an attack run on a mogami class cruiser, in broad daylight. The cruiser spots them, but because they are so small an fast and nimble the cruiser can't hit them. LOL. In reality the IJN destroyers could run down a PT, and the massed fire power from a mogami class cruiser would shred a PT boat in a few moments, they weren't heavily armored, they were made of plywood. A heavy machine gun could destroy one. The normal tactics the PT's employed was sneaking up to firing position in the dark, fire the torps and sneak away. If they were spotted they tried to lay smoke and find a island to hide behind. One advantage they had was shallow draft. They performed decently in the solomon islands intercepting IJN units using the slot. Facinating storys regarding them in the book, the movie?..usual hollywood propoganda drivel. That being said, John Wayne and Robert Montgomery, and a few other old time stars in that flick make it a great movie to watch, I just try not to laugh to hard when they attack.

11-14-2007, 09:45 AM
Wow, you watched all those in one day?

I've seen a few of these, and a few I've had on my list to rent or buy at some point.

Ever heard of a movie called "Tobruk"? I saw it on Comcast On Demand last month, with Rock Hudson and George Pappard. It was decent, but not in my top ten by a long shot.

11-14-2007, 10:06 AM
Some good films there Worf. I notice you mentioned Cmdr. Queeg from The Caine Mutiny, another brilliant film. The scene where Bogart looses it in the court room is gripping.

I would give The Cruel Sea an A myself, bearing in mind the era in which it was made. Like you said, it was the start of a more realistic take on war.