By an odd coincidence, all my entertainment (admittedly quite limited) over the past week has been related in some way or the other to Nazi Germany. I watch almost no TV, but I’ve recently been getting a lot of laughs out of the farcical British comedy series, ’Allo ’Allo. And, the book I’m currently reading is Robert Harris’s Fatherland, set in an alternate 1964, where Germany has won World War II—and Hitler reigns.
So why not make it a hat trick, I thought. Let’s watch a WWII film.
Therefore, this. Where Eagles Dare was one of the first war films I ever watched, and till this day, it remains one of my favourite films. When it comes to action/adventure films set in WWII, this one tops my list.
Despite everything more fashionable cinema viewers may say, I love The Sound of Music. I love the songs, I love the mushy romance, I love the children. I love Julie Andrews. I love Christopher Plummer.
Which is why it’s always bothered me that Christopher Plummer used to refer to the film as The Sound of Mucus. Why, I wondered.
Well, this might just furnish some sort of answer to that question. Plummer stars in Triple Cross as a war-era safe breaker who offers his services to the Nazis as a spy in Britain. It’s not a frightfully demanding role, but it offers a glimpse of what Plummer was capable of. And I can understand why he might have thought of his role as Georg von Trapp as a little too much of a cakewalk.
The other day, just for kicks, I was trying to make a mental list of all the directors, 30’s-60’s, whose work I admire. Guru Dutt. Akira Kurosawa. Hrishikesh Mukherjee. Bimal Roy. Raj Khosla (usually). And, of course, the inimitable Alfred Hitchcock. That led to another realisation: I haven’t seen, or reviewed, a Hitchcock film in months. Therefore this, an unusual Hitchcock in that it’s not a suspense film. Instead, it’s a ‘journey’ film, set in a lifeboat bobbing about on the high seas during World War II.
Mitchum’s forte was noir and Western—and war. Though his best-known role in war films is probably that of Brigadier General Norman Cota in The Longest Day, this one’s good too. The Enemy Below doesn’t give Mitchum too much scope to exhibit his acting skills, but it is, overall, a very good war film, suspenseful and with an aura of authenticity that makes it easy to believe all of this action’s actually happening.
When I was about 13, an older cousin taught me how to play Battleships. For someone whose favourite genre of film was war, this was a high point in one’s existence. I spent the next few years teaching the game to anybody I could collar (usually my sister) and delighting in doing exciting things like guessing where my opponent’s submarines, battleships, cruisers, destroyers and aircraft carriers were positioned, then firing salvo after judicious salvo and rejoicing when I’d sunk ‘em all.
I don’t play Battleships any more, but I was reminded of the game when I saw this excellent World War II film, based on the real-life story of the famous German battleship, the Bismarck.
I seem to be on a `love in the time of war’ roll. First it was Usne Kaha Tha, then Hum Dono; and in the middle I even managed to fit in Random Harvest, which though not exactly set during a war, was about a romance which began on the day World War I ended. So here’s another. A musical. Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, and based on James Michener’s stories of the South Pacific.
After Usne Kaha Tha, it’s time for yet another Nanda film (though Sadhana plays an equally, if not more important role in it). And a coincidence: this one too is against the backdrop of World War II. But that’s where the resemblance ends. Hum Dono is a very different story, more mainstream than Usne Kaha Tha, yet equally enjoyable—and with superb music by the underrated Jaidev.
I am occasionally inclined to see a film simply because I adore one particular song of the film. Unfortunately, I score more hits than misses using this criterion. Saranga (1960) is a case in point—it has the classic Saranga teri yaad mein nain hue bechain (one of the few hit songs of Anu Malik’s father, Sardar Malik), but not much else. With Usne Kaha Tha, I had better luck. The lovely Aha rimjhim ke yeh pyaare-pyaare geet liye is a wonderful song, and the film itself is an interesting one.
I was brought up on a diet of Commando Comics, Biggles and Alistair MacLean’s war novels. My greatest wish, when I was ten years old (and rated David Westheimer’s Von Ryan’s Express as the best book ever written), was to see the film version of the book. More about that in a later post, when I’m scraping the barrel for films to review. World War II is an obsession with me (well, almost: it shares space with Westerns, Mughal history, gelato, and a couple of hundred other things). So, a war film, and that too one starring Gregory Peck, was bound to arouse my interest. And am I glad I saw it.
Twelve O’Clock High is a war film that examines the relationships, fears and psychologies of the men who went into battle—and yet it never topples over into melodrama. The action is sparing, the acting excellent, the atmosphere very real.
I’m not a fan of mindless violence and blood and gore, but I’ve always adored old war movies. Whether it’s a fast-paced Alistair MacLean type thriller (read Where Eagles Dare, one of my all-time favourites) or a reliving of a real event, I love the atmosphere: the Schmeissers and the Vickers, the invariably atrocious German accents, the partisan natives, the courage and inherent good-ness of the good guys, which always triumphs over their own other weaknesses. Clichéd, I know, but watchable, too—as in this case.