Voices in Wartime

Feature Films--The Eagle Has Landed to The Execution of Private Slovik


The Eagle Has Landed (1976), Director: John Sturges, Running time: 134 minutes.

 

John Sturges's adaptation of Jack Higgins's best-selling suspense novel stars Michael Caine as Nazi Col. Kurt Steiner. When the Nazi high command learns in late 1943 that Winston Churchill will be spending time at a country estate in Norfolk, it hatches an audacious scheme to kidnap the prime minister and spirit him to Germany. Heinrich Himmler (Donald Pleasence) assigns Colonel Max Radl (Robert Duvall) to mastermind the operation. He enlists the aid of Steiner, who has been imprisoned for subordination, by offering him a chance to save his life. Liam Devlin (Donald Sutherland), an IRA lifer who hates the British, also signs on for the mission. Steiner and his commando team parachute into the small village of Sudley disguised as Polish soldiers. As they await the arrival of Churchill, one of the commandos rescues a boy from drowning in a nearby river, inadvertently revealing his Nazi colors in the process. Steiner realizes that some changes will have to be made in his timetable.

 

Empire of the Sun (1987), Director: Steven Spielberg, Running time: 153 minutes.

Roundly dismissed as one of Steven Spielberg's least successful efforts, this very underrated film poignantly follows the World War II adventures of young Jim (a brilliant Christian Bale), caught in the throes of the fall of China. What if you once had everything and lost it all in an afternoon? What if you were only 12? Bale's transformation, from pampered British ruling-class child to an imprisoned, desperate, nearly feral boy, is nothing short of stunning. Also stunning are exceptional sets, cinematography, and music (the last courtesy of John Williams) that enhance author J.G. Ballard's and screenwriter Tom Stoppard's depiction of another, less familiar casualty of war. (N.F. Mendoza for Amazon.com)

 

Enemy at the Door (2002), Directors: Martyn Friend and Mike Vardy, Running time: approximately 673 minutes per series, two series.

This compelling hit British drama series, produced by London Weekend Television, details the overwhelming pain and frustration experienced by the Channel Islands inhabitants during the German occupation of World War II. The uneasy relationship maintained by the islanders and the Nazi's is continually threatened as constrictive regulations dampen morale, accusations of rape add fear and suspicion, while murders, spying, and a plot to assassinate Hitler, entangle high ranking officials from both sides. This masterfully acted series stars Alfred Burke (The House on Garibaldi Street, Longitude) as the German Military Commandant charged with maintaining order and Bernard Hosfall (Braveheart, Gandhi) as the chosen representative for the islanders, both of whom will make choices that could cause a turn in the direction of the war. Featuring extraordinary writing, period style cinematography and archival footage, Enemy at the Door remains one of the finest World War II dramas ever produced.

 

Enemy at the Gates (2001), Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud, Running time: 131 minutes. 

September 1942. The German Army has advanced to the gates of Stalingrad. The Russian Army holds on desperately. It is so poorly equipped that every pair of soldiers is given a single rifle--the second man only gets the weapon when the first is cut down. Trapped in no man's land between the opposing armies, Russian recruit Vassili Zaitsev (Jude Law) finally acquires a rifle from Political Officer Danilov (Joseph Fiennes). Danilov is astonished when Zaitsev picks off several German officers. On their return to the Russian lines, Danilov writes about Zaitsev's exploits in the army newspaper. Zaitsev is assigned to a sniper unit. He kills more German officers and, thanks to Danilov, becomes a hero. In retaliation, the Germans bring in sharpshooter Major König (Ed Harris) from Berlin to hunt Zaitsev. The two snipers engage in a desperate duel, as the appalling Battle of Stalingrad rages.

 

The Enemy Below (1957), Director: Dick Powell, Running time: 97 minutes.

In The Enemy Below Robert Mitchum and Curt Jurgens are respectively captains of a U.S. destroyer and a German U-boat whose vessels come into conflict in the South Atlantic. Both are good men with a job to do, the script noting Jurgens' distaste for Hitler and the Nazis and engaging our sympathy with the German sailors almost as much as the Americans. Made at the height of the cold war of the 1950s, the film delivers a liberal message of co-operation wrapped inside some spectacular action scenes and a story which builds to a tense and exciting, moving finale.  (Gary S. Dalkin for Amazon.com) 

 

Escape from Sobibor (1987), Director: Jack Gold, Running time: 120 minutes.

During WWII, Sobibor was a notorious Nazi death camp. This gripping, fact-based drama chronicles the courage of an inmate who managed the largest escape from such a place. Thanks to him, over 300 prisoners were freed.  (Sandra Brennan for All Movie Guide)

 


Europa Europa (1990), Director: Agnieszka Holland, Running time: 113 minutes.

This "incredible, true story" (Los Angeles Times) is at once "eye-opening, harrowing and humorous" (Leonard Maltin) as it recounts the severe actions a young boy must take in order to survive the Holocaust. Based on the autobiography of Solomon Perel, a young German Jew, the film "bounds from one jaw-dropping episode to the next" (The New Yorker) and puts you in the middle of war-torn Europe where ingenuity, timing and luck are the key to survival. Separated from his family at the age of thirteen, Solly (Marco Hofschneider) takes on various identities to hide his Jewish heritage. First passing himself off as an orphan and later as one of the "Hitler Youth," Solly carries on his charade, hoping desperately to keep his identity hidden and make it through the war alive.  

 

Every Time We Say Goodbye (1986), Director: Moshé Mizrahi, Running time: 98 minutes.

An American flyer who joined the RAF before his country was in the war is recovering from a leg injury in Jerusalem. Through an English friend he meets a quiet Jewish girl whose close-knit family originally came from Spain. The two are attracted to each other but she is convinced their diverse backgrounds mean it could never work; not only is he a gentile, his father is a protestant minister. So though they keep running into each other in the small community, they find themselves just as frequently parting again.

 

Eye of the Needle (1981), Director: Richard Marquand, Running time: 111 minutes.

Donald Sutherland (Outbreak) and Kate Nelligan (Up Close & Personal) ignite the screen as ill-fated lovers in this "exciting, emotionally involving thriller" (New York Magazine).Based on the best-selling novel by Ken Follett, this searing mystery is a roller coaster ride of suspense, centering on the relationship between a master spy and a brave woman with the fate of the world hanging in the balance. Englishmen know him as Faber, but to the Fatherland, he's the lethal spy known as "The Needle." On his way back to Germany, Faber is shipwrecked on an island outpost where he befriends Lucy, a beautiful Englishwoman who lives there with her family. Lonely and scorned by her bitter, crippled husband, Lucy falls for the enigmatic stranger, not knowing that he's a traitor determined to prevent the D-Day invasion. But as their passion erupts, Lucy discovers the brutal truth as love and war melt into an electrifying climax of eroticism, adrenaline and terror! 

 

The Execution of Private Slovik (1974), Director: Lamont Johnson, Running time: 122 minutes

This made for TV film tells the story of Eddie Slovik, who was executed by the Army in 1945, the only American soldier to be executed for desertion since the Civil War.

 

 

Feature Films--The Devil's Brigade to Downfall

The Devil's Brigade (1968), Director: Andrew V. McLaglen, Running time: 131 minutes.

During World War II a special fighting unit is formed combining a crack Canadian outfit and a conglomeration of US Army misfits previously serving time in military jails. After an initial period of conflict between the two groups, their enmity turns to respect and friendship and the unit is sent Italy to attempt a dangerous mission which has heretofore been considered impossible to successfully complete.

 

Diary of Anne Frank (1959), Director: George Stevens, Running time: 180 minutes.

George Stevens (Giant) directed this 1959 film adaptation of the hit play based on the writings of Anne Frank, the Jewish girl from Amsterdam who hid in an attic with her family and others during the Nazi occupation. As Anne, Millie Perkins is something of a milky eyed enigma and—in retrospect—too old for the part; but she is surrounded by an outstanding cast, including Joseph Schildkraut as Anne's patient father, Ed Wynn as a cranky dentist who moves into Anne's "room," and Shelley Winters as the loud Mrs. Van Daan. Stevens turns the many overlapping dramas of the caged characters into the foundation of Anne's growth as a young woman, ready for life and love just at the moment the dream comes to an end. Beautifully shot by cinematographer William C. Mellor, and written by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett from their stage production. (Tom Keogh for Amazon)

 

Die Bruecke (1961), Director: Bernhard Wicki, Running time: 100 minutes.

A group of German boys is ordered to protect a small bridge in their home village during the waning months of the Second World War. Truckloads of defeated, cynical Wehrmacht soldiers flee the approaching American troops, but the boys, full of enthusiasm for the "blood and honor" Nazi ideology, stay to defend the useless bridge.  (Miranda Callahan for IMDb)

 

The Dirty Dozen (1967), Director: Robert Aldrich, Running time: 245 minutes.

A model for dozens of action films to follow, this box-office hit from 1967 refined a die-hard formula that has become overly familiar, but it's rarely been handled better than it was in this action-packed World War II thriller. Lee Marvin is perfectly cast as a down-but-not-out army major who is offered a shot at personal and professional redemption. If he can successfully train and discipline a squad of army rejects, misfits, killers, prisoners, and psychopaths into a first-rate unit of specialized soldiers, they'll earn a second chance to make up for their woeful misdeeds. Of course, there's a catch: to obtain their pardons, Marvin's band of badmen must agree to a suicide mission that will parachute them into the danger zone of Nazi-occupied France. It's a hazardous path to glory, but the men have no other choice than to accept and regain their lost honor. What makes The Dirty Dozen special is its phenomenal cast including Charles Bronson, Donald Sutherland, Telly Savalas, George Kennedy, Ernest Borgnine, John Cassavetes, Richard Jaeckel, Jim Brown, Clint Walker, Trini Lopez, Robert Ryan, and others. Cassavetes is the Oscar-nominated standout as one of Marvin's most rebellious yet heroic men, but it's the whole ensemble--combined with the hard-as-nails direction of Robert Aldrich—that makes this such a high-velocity crowd pleaser. The script by Nunnally Johnson and Lukas Heller (from the novel by E.M. Nathanson) is strong enough to support the all-star lineup with ample humor and military grit, so if you're in need of a mainline jolt of testosterone, The Dirty Dozen is the movie for you. (Jeff Shannon for Amazon.com)

 


Distant Journey: Daleka Cesta (1949), Director: Alfred Radok, Running time: 108 minutes.

Radok uses experimental cinematography, blending historic footage of the Nazis with a fictional love story between a Jewish woman and her Gentile husband. Soon after the film's release, Stalinist censorship was implemented in Czechoslovakia. Radok fled to Sweden and Czech filmmakers began their long struggle against strict communist censors. Film production declined, and Distant Journey was banned from audiences only to reemerge over forty years later.

 

Divided We Fall (2000), Director: Jan Hrebejk, Running time: 122 minutes.

A daring comedy of ethics, Divided We Fall takes place during World War II in a small, Nazi-occupied town in Czechoslovakia. Josef and Maria, a childless couple, have withdrawn further and further from reality even as the war circles closer to their eerily quiet town. Josef's decision to sleep through a war he doesn't want to acknowledge is soon tested when the Jewish son of his former employer arrives in the middle of the night seeking refuge. David, the sole survivor from his family, escaped from a concentration camp in Poland and managed to return to the only place he knows in search of help. As they harbor David in their pantry over the next three years, Josef and Maria discover the depth of their resolve, forced to play the role of seeming collaborators in order to save themselves and David. Reminiscent more of Yugoslav filmmaker Emir Kustirica's devastating brand of black humor (Underground, Time of the Gypsies) than the saccharine Life Is Beautiful, to which it has been repeatedly compared, Divided We Fall achieves quite a lot, capturing the pervasive suspicion and betrayal of World War II through the unexpected guise of situation comedy. (Fionn Meade for Amazon.com) 

 

Devils on the Doorstep (2000), Director: Wen Jiang, Running time: 139 minutes.

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and banned in its native country, Jiang Wen’s ravishingly photographed anti-war epic is set in 1945 in a Japanese-occupied rural Chinese village. Wen stars as Ma Dasan, a peasant, who, one night at gunpoint, is compelled to shelter two prisoners. One is a captured Japanese soldier who wants to be killed, the other his Chinese interpreter, who wants to stay alive. As the days turn into months, Dasan and his fellow villagers keep their unwanted guests hidden from the Japanese forces, while deciding whether or not to execute their captives. A plan to exchange the men for grain leads to the film’s harrowing and devastating climax.  

 

Docteur Petiot (1990), Director: Christian de Chalonge, Running time: 102 minutes.

This film is an adaptation of the real Dr Petiot's life. During World War II Petiot, a M.D. in occupied Paris, promised to rich Jews, among his patients, to pass them in Spain. In fact he drugged them and burnt them in his coal-range, steeling their wells. After Liberation he was condemned to death.

 

Downfall (2004). Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel, Running time: 155 minutes.

The riveting subject of Downfall is nothing less than the disintegration of Adolf Hitler in mind, body, and soul. A 2005 Academy Award nominee for best foreign language film, this German historical drama stars Bruno Ganz (Wings of Desire) as Hitler, whose psychic meltdown is depicted in sobering detail, suggesting a fallen, pathetic dictator on the verge on insanity, resorting to suicide (along with Eva Braun and Joseph and Magda Goebbels) as his Nazi empire burns amidst chaos in mid-1945. While staging most of the film in the claustrophobic bunker where Hitler spent his final days, director Oliver Hirschbiegel (Das Experiment) dares to show the gentler human side of der Fuehrer, as opposed to the pure embodiment of evil so familiar from many other Nazi-era dramas. This balanced portrayal does not inspire sympathy, however: We simply see the complexity of Hitler's character in the greater context of his inevitable downfall, and a more realistic (and therefore more horrifying) biographical portrait of madness on both epic and intimate scales. By ending with a chilling clip from the 2002 documentary Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary, this unforgettable film gains another dimension of sobering authenticity. (Jeff Shannon for Amazon.com)

 

Featured Films--D-Day: The Sixth of June to Destination Tokyo

D-Day: The Sixth of June (1956), Director: Henry Koster, Running Time: 106 minutes

Robert Taylor portrays an American officer on the front lines of the massive Allied landing, whose special commando unit must destroy a key German gun position. But for Capt. Parker (Taylor), the mission is also fraught with personal complications because he and his commander (Richard Todd) are in love with the same woman (Dana Wynter). Featuring Edmond O'Brien, and building to a stirring climax on the beaches of Normandy, D-Day The Sixth Of June is a moving story of courage and sacrifice both on and off the battlefield. 


The Dam Busters (1955), Director: Michael Anderson, Running time: 125 minutes.

It was one of the most daring and controversial missions in WWII history: On May 17th, 1943, an elite RAF squadron flew deep into Germany’s Ruhr Valley carrying five-ton experimental spinning bombs that needed to be dropped from a height of exactly 60 feet at precisely 240 mph in order to destroy three key dams in the Nazi industrial heartland. Oscar nominees Michael Redgrave and Richard Todd star in this gritty docudrama that depicts the infamous Ruhr Raid from drawing board to attack, hailed by critics as among the greatest war movies of all time.  

 

Dark Blue World (2001), Director: Jan Sverak, Running time: 115 minutes.

The film relays the little-known WWII story of Czech fighter pilots who escaped the Nazi occupation of their country to fight in Britain's Royal Air Force. Those who survived the battles were placed in work camps upon their return home by a then-entrenched, paranoid Communist regime. Sverák (Kolya) tacks back and forth between Franta (Ondrej Vetchy), a worldly captain in the defunct Czech Air Force, and Karel (Krystof Hádek), his earnest young recruit, as they leave home to fight the enemy on foreign soil. Only one returns to tell his story, from a prison hospital bed. While enduring life in the RAF with fellow Czech pilots, Franta and Karel manage to fall in love with the same woman, learn English, swing dance, recite poems, sing rousing Czech songs, and perform heroic feats. Dogfights in the air and inevitable losses ensue, but it is the genuine camaraderie evoked by a gifted cast of Czech actors that saves the film from effusive excess. Like a charismatic captain steeling his company before battle, Sverák can't resist indulging romantic clichés, but his actors, in their fresh intensity, are more than up to the task set before them. (Fionn Meade for Amazon.com)


Das Boot (1982), Director: Wolfgang Petersen, Running time: 293 minutes (mini-series).

In the midst of World War II, as the tide turns against the Axis, a German U-boat crew is sent out to patrol the Atlantic and fire at Allied ships bringing supplies to England. The submarine also carries a press correspondent, there to report from the front lines of nautical warfare. Meanwhile, the crew's captain (Jürgen Prochnow) is becoming disillusioned with the Nazi regime and with war in general. What starts out as a routine mission is soon livened up beyond the crew's expectations when their boat's surprise attack on a convoy is thwarted by a fast-moving destroyer. Battered by depth charges, the crew must pull together to survive the attacks of their unseen enemy.

 


Day One (1989), Director: Joseph Sargeant, Running time: 140 minutes. 

The use of the atomic bomb to end WWII was one of the most controversial events in human history.  This Emmy-winning 1989 miniseries brings the conflicts to life in wrenching performances by a stellar cast.  Michael Tucker is Hungarian physicist Leo Szilard, who helped persuade the U.S. government to build the bomb and later had second thoughts; David Strathairn is anguished J. Robert Oppenheimer; Brian Dennehy is no-nonese General Leslie Groves.

 

Decision Before Dawn (1951), Director: Anatole Litvak, Running time: 119 minutes.

Rooting for a German soldier was a daring choice for a movie made in 1951, but Decision Before Dawn justifies the risk; this is a crackling good war movie. In late 1944, the Allies are pushing through Europe but need intelligence behind German lines. Two Americans (Richard Basehart, Gary Merrill) recruit German POWs and enlist them to spy on their former Fatherland. We follow the adventures of one such agent, arrestingly played by the young Oskar Werner, who parachutes into Bavaria and gathers information. (Oddly, the film abandons Basehart and another recruit, marvelously played by Hans Christian Blech, who has also gone under cover.) The well-deployed suspense is accompanied by a constant examination of what it means to be German, and what loyalty to one's country really entails--dutiful devotion or skeptical rebellion? This question doesn't go deep (there's a sense that the movie is a make-nice effort toward a new economic ally), but the film is on solid ground whenever the clockwork suspense takes over. Hildegarde Knef (here billed under her Hollywood spelling, Neff) turns up as a conflicted fraulein. Director Anatole Litvak, shooting on location, gets some amazing shots of bombed-out buildings and ruined towns; in that sense, the film is almost like a documentary record of the postwar landscape. Decision Before Dawn was nominated for the best picture Oscar, but became a lesser-known film in the decades that followed. It deserves a higher profile.  (Robert Horton for Amazon.com)


Der Fuchs von Paris (1957), Director: Paul May, Running time: 98 minutes.

Der Fuchs von Paris (The Fox of Paris) is set in Paris, not long after the Allied invasion of the continent in 1944. Hardy Kruger stars as Captain Eustenwerth, a German officer who turns his back on the losing Nazi cause and joins the Resistance. In a similar vein, General Quade (Martin Held) struggles to save the lives of the men he has left by tacitly defying orders from the German High Command. Through a series of unfortunate coincidences and misunderstandings, both of these idealistic individuals find themselves on opposite sides of the fence, culminating in impending execution for Eustenwerth.  (Hal Erickson for All Movie Guide)

 

The Desert Fox (1951), Director: Henry Hathaway, Running time: 88 minutes

James Mason delivers a strong performance in this fascinating portrait of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. In the early 1940's, Rommel's juggernaut Afrika Korps dominated North Africa. But as the tide turned and he came to the painful realization that his Fuhrer, to whom he hd sworn allegiance, was destroying Germany, his ingrained sense of duty pushed him into a conspiracy against Hitler. Co-starring Jessica Tandy as Rommel's wife and Cedric Hardwicke as another anti-Hitler conspirator, The Desert Fox is an intimate look at one of the most respected military tacticians of modern times.


The Desert Rats (1953), Director: Robert Wise, Running time: 88 minutes.

Richard Burton stars in this exciting story of the stubborn, courageous men who held Rommel at bay in North Africa despite hopelessly outnumbered. The year is 1941, and Rommel has the British in full retreat. All that stands between him and the Suez Canal is the fortress of Tobruk, manned by a small army of Australian troops who are ordered to hold this vital position at any cost. Many of the men are green recruits, and it falls to Capt. MacRoberts (Burton) to whip them into shape. A bold tactician who realizes they will soon be overwhelmed if they do not take the offensive, MacRoberts leads countless daredevil raids that keep the superior enemy off-balance and earn his men the famous nickname they "won with blood and bore with pride." Directed by Robert Wise and co-starring James Mason in a reprise performance as Field Marshall Rommel (whom he first played in "The Desert Fox"), this stirring blend of action and history pays tribute to the heroic men known in the annals of war as The Desert Rats.


Destination Tokyo (1943), Director: Delmer Daves, Running time: 135 minutes.
The offbeat casting of Cary Grant as a submarine captain pays off in this tense WWII underwater picture; he ably trades in his sophistication for the sweaty close quarters of an action movie. The mission: Infiltrate the mined harbor of Tokyo itself, a feat book-ended by a brief confrontation in the Aleutians and a depth-charge chase through the open sea. Skipper Grant is supported by the usual stock crew of Navy melting-pot types, with John Garfield drawing duty as the resident dame-crazy fantasist. (Somebody forgot to put the saltpeter in his chow, apparently.) The solid action alternates with dialogue that tends toward the schmaltzy or jingoistic (the movie's become somewhat notorious for its unusually nasty propagandistic jabs at the Japanese enemy). Destination Tokyo was the directing debut of Delmer Daves, who would later excel in smart Westerns such as 3:10 to Yuma. (Robert Horton for Amazon.com)

 

Featured Films--Cabaret to Cross of Iron

Cabaret (1972), Director: Bob Fosse, Running time: 124 minutes.

A female girlie club entertainer in Weimar Republic romances two men while the Nazi Party rises to power around them. It is the city of Berlin in 1930, a time when political unrest racks the country, the economy has been destroyed, and millions of unemployed roam the streets. Enter into this chaos an American cabaret dancer, working at the downtown "Kit-Kat club" where anything goes on the stage. Into this young dancer's life come several characters such as a rich German politician, a young Jewish man struggling with his identity, an Englishman teacher from London, and of course the all-knowing, all-seeing Master of Ceremonies. (Written by Anthony Hughes for IMBd)

 

The Caine Mutiny (1954), Director: Edward Dmytryk, Running time: 125 minutes.

During the Second World War, onboard a small insignificant ship in the U.S. Pacific Fleet, an event occurs unlike any that the United States Navy has ever experianced. A Ship's Captain is removed from his command by his Executive Officer in an apparent outright act of mutiny. As the trial of the mutineers unfold, it is then learned that the Captain of the ship was mentally unstable, perhaps even insane. The Navy must then decide: was the Caine Mutiny a criminal act or an act of courage to save a ship from destruction at the hands of her Captain.

 

Captain Corelli's Mandolin (2001), Director: John Madden, Running time: 129 minutes.

Set on the Greek island of Cephallonia, the drama begins in 1940 with occupation by Italian troops, awkwardly allied with the Nazis and preferring hedonistic friendliness over military intimidation. That attitude is most generously embodied by Captain Corelli (Nicolas Cage), who is instantly drawn to the Greek beauty Pelagia (Penélope Cruz) despite her engagement to Mandras (Christian Bale), a resistance fighter whose absence leaves Pelagia needy for affection. Mandras's eventual return—and the inevitable attack by German bombers and ground troops—threaten to stain this Greek-Italian romance with deeply tragic bloodshed.  (Jeff Shannon for Amazon.com)

 

Captains of the Clouds (1942), Director: Michael Curtiz, Running Time: 113 minutes

Brian McLean is a ruthless bush-pilot in Canada. He offers some other pilots an opportunity of earning a lot of money, but he marries the girl-friend of one of them. After listening to Churchill's famous "Blood, Sweat and tears" radio address he and some other pilots decide to join the RCAF—and his superior is always the pilot whose girlfriend he has married. Due to this, and the fact that McLean doesn't like to obey, he gets troubles.


Carrie's War (2004), Director: Coky Giedroyc, Running time: 90 minutes.

At the start of World War II, 14-year-old Carrie and her younger brother Nick are separated from their mother and evacuated from war-torn London to a rural village in Wales. Upon their arrival, they are assigned to live with a troubled family, the puritanical shopkeeper Mr. Evans, a widower, and his spinster sister, a timid woman named Lou. While Lou is thrilled to lavish attention on the children, Mr. Evans remains cold and distant. But Carrie and Nick’s fortunes take a turn for the better when they’re sent to fetch a Christmas goose from mysterious Druid’s Bottom, a manor house occupied by a self-professed witch named Hepzibah and Mr. Evans’s ethereal, estranged sister, Mrs. Gotobed. Filled with magical adventures and first love, this heartfelt and faithful adaptation of Nina Bawden’s beloved novel stars Alun Armstrong (Bleak House), Lesley Sharp (The Full Monty), Pauline Quirke (David Copperfield), Geraldine McEwan (Miss Marple), and Keeley Fawcett (At Home with the Braithwaites) as Carrie.

 

Casablanca (1943), Director: Michael Curtiz, Running Time: 103 minutes

World War II Morocco springs to life in Michael Curtiz's classic love story. Colorful characters abound in Casablanca, a waiting room for Europeans trying to escape Hitler's war-torn Europe. Humphrey Bogart plays Richard "Rick" Blaine, a cynical but good-hearted American whose café is the gathering place for everyone from the French Police to the black market to the Nazis. When his long-lost love, Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), surfaces in Casablanca with her Resistance leader husband, Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), Rick is pulled into both a love triangle and a web of political intrigue. Ilsa and Victor need to escape from Casablanca, and Rick may be the only one who can help them.

 


Catch-22 (1970), Director: Mike Nichols, Running Time: 121 minutes

Joseph Heller's novel was one of the seminal literary events of the 1960s, but Mike Nichols's film ultimately proved too literal in its attempt to bring Heller's fragmented fiction to the screen. Still, Nichols, who made this on the heels of The Graduate, seemed the ideal candidate to tackle this Buck Henry adaptation. The story deals with bomber pilot Yossarian (Alan Arkin), who has flown enough missions to get out of World War II but can't because the number of missions needed for discharge keeps getting raised. The satire and absurdity of Heller's book get lost in Nichols's effort to give screen time to the members of his all-star cast, which includes Orson Welles, Jon Voight, Bob Newhart, Anthony Perkins, Richard Benjamin, and Martin Sheen, among others.  (Marshall Fine for Amazon.com)

 

Charlotte Gray (2001), Director: Gillian Armstrong, Running Time: 121 minutes

The title character of the film, which is based on a popular novel of the same name by Sebastian Faulks, is a young Scottish woman (Blanchett) who has come to London to help with the war effort. After quickly falling in love with a dashing pilot who is summarily shot down in southwest France, the intensely patriotic Charlotte joins a special operations outfit in order to find him. Competent melodrama to this point, the film goes astray from here. Since repeated references are made to Charlotte's fluent French, it is hard to maintain any suspension of disbelief when she parachutes into Lezignac and we discover that the French resistance fighters she works with speak English with alternately French or British accents (while the Nazis continue to speak German without subtitles). A similarly perfunctory schema of good versus evil among the citizenry is soon laid out as collaborators and patriots are painted with equally simplistic strokes. Blanchett, along with Billy Crudup and Michael Gambon, gives a lively performance despite a shoddy script, but director Gillian Armstrong's conceits to a mainstream audience seem jumbled and not a little condescending. (Fionn Meade for Amazon.com) 

 

Colditz (2005), Director: Stuart Orme, Running time: 184 minutes.

The Nazis claimed no one could escape from Colditz Castle, the notorious World War II POW camp and former mental instiution.  Allied officer Jack Rose, a prisoner, was convinced otherwise, and with fellow members of the Rose gang, engineered an ingenious plan of escape.  What Rose didn’t know was that even in freedom, betrayal lurked just a step ahead.  Other stars in this TV miniseries include Sophia Myles, Damian Lewis, Jason Priestly, James Fox and Laurence Fox.

 

Come and See (1985), Director: Elem Klimov, Running Time: 142 minutes 

Come And See focuses on 13-year-old Florya (Kravchenko) as he staggers through these terrors. After digging a gun out of the sand where it lies buried with a dead soldier, the young boy leaves his mother and twin sisters, still happy and smiling. The partisans leave him behind when they march off to battle, hoping to preserve his innocence, but there's no such luck for Florya. After getting caught in an air raid (an incredible sequence where the trees around the actor are blown out of the ground), he returns home to find his family has been murdered. He's then captured when hiding in another village and witnesses further butchery.


Come See the Paradise (1991), Director: Alan Parker, Running Time: 133 minutes

Portraying one of the shadier details of American history, this is the story of Jack McGurn, who comes to Los Angeles in 1936. He gets a job at a movie theatre in Little Tokyo and falls in love with the boss's daughter, Lily Kawamura. When her father finds out, he is fired and forbidden ever to see her again. But together they escape to Seattle. When the war breaks out, the authorities decide that the Japanese immigrants must live in camps like war prisoners.


Concerto (2008), Director: Paul Alexander Morales, Running time: NA.

Concerto is about how, in the last part of World War II, a special piano concert is held in the forest outside Davao City, in Mindanao. In these boondocks, a displaced Filipino family becomes acquainted with a group of Japanese officers, similarly camped nearby. Family values are questioned as the family treads the thin line between enemy and friend with the occupying Japanese.

 

Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939), Director: Anatole Litvak, Running Time: 110 minutes

Litvak's melodrama is a fascinating snapshot of American attitudes to the rise of Nazism in 1939, and was released months before war was declared. If Robinson's tenacious FBI man was so desperate to nail home-grown adherents to the ideology, and if Lukas's Dr. Kassel is such an obviously loony Hitler wannabe, it's almost surprising that the American government left it as late as it did to enter the Second World War: there's not a sliver of ambivalence or apathy in the attitudes of the good guys. Sanders and Tree are among the conspirators plotting to form a Stateside branch of the Master Race.

 

Conspiracy (2008), Director: Frank Pierson, Running Time: 96 minutes

By the winter of 1942, Hitler's dream of Aryan supremacy had become a nightmare. His armies could be found freezing and starving on the Eastern front, and America's fighting forces had just entered the war to the West. On January 20th of that year, 15 officials attended a conference at Wannsee on the outskirts of Berlin. Comprised of mid-ranking SS commanders and a variety of government ministers, the meeting was organized by SS Major Adolf Eichmann, under the direction of the ruthless and efficient Chief of Security Reinhard Heydrich. It was to be a polite conference with food, wine and some debate, but beneath this thin veneer of manners lay an evil intent. By the meeting's close, the fate of six million lives would be decided, and a terrible machine put into operation that would alter the shape of the world. Conspiracy is based on the only surviving record of that meeting. It would be the blueprint for Hitler's "final solution."  

 

The Counterfeit Traitor (1962), Director: George Seaton, Running Time: 140 minutes

There's no way out for American-raised Swede Eric Erickson. Either he becomes an Allied spy, or he faces a trumped-up charge of Nazi collaboration. "How does one get to be so cold-blooded?" Erickson snaps at the English agent blackmailing him. "Watching German planes bomb London helps enormously," is the reply. 

William Holden portrays Erickson in this taut thriller that progresses from subterfuge to discovery and finally to breathless escape. The story, based on Alexander Klein's book, is true. And the use of European locations where the actual events transpired adds to the film's authenticity. From start to finish, "The Counterfeit Traitor" provides suspense and moral choices that can only come from real life. 

 

Crash Dive (1943), Director: Archie Mayo, Running Time: 105 minutes

En route to submarine duty in Washington, naval officer Lt. Stewart (Tyrone Power) meets the enchanting Jean Hewitt (Anne Baxter). He begins a whirlwind courtship, unaware she is already engaged to the commander (Dana Andrews) under whom he is about to serve. Just when both men learn they are in love with the same woman, they are forced to work closely on a dangerous commando raid against Nazi tankers.



Cross of Iron (1976), Director: Sam Peckinpah, Running Time: 132 minutes

A very strong anti-war message film, set during World War II and told entirely from the German perspective. A German Army Sergeant doggedly struggles to keep his platoon intact while surviving the horrors of the Russian front in 1943.

 

Featured Films--Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace to The Burmese Harp

Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace (2000), Director: Eric Till,  Running time: 90 minutes.

What is a moral person to do in a time of savage immorality? That question tormented Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German clergyman of great distinction who actively opposed Hitler and the Nazis. His convictions cost him his life. The Nazis hanged him on April 9, 1945, less than a month before the end of the war. Bonhoeffer's last years, his participation in the German resistance and his moral struggle are dramatized in this film. More than just a biographical portrait, Bonhoeffer: Agent of Grace sheds light on the little-known efforts of the German resistance. It brings to a wide audience the heroic rebellion of Bonhoeffer, a highly regarded Lutheran minister who could have kept his peace and saved his life on several occasions but instead paid the ultimate price for his beliefs.

 

Border Street (1950), Director: Aleksander Ford, Running time: 122 minutes.

One of the first post-World War II films to deal with the Holocaust, Border Street recreates the circumstances surrounding the doomed Warsaw Ghetto uprising, in which a small, heroic band of Jews chose to resist the Nazis rather than face deportation to Auschwitz or Treblinka. The story unfolds through the eyes of four characters who live in the same building: David and Jadzia are two Jewish youths who fight the Nazis as their only choice for survival, while gentiles Bronek and Wladek consider the occupation an insult to their Polish heritage. Aleksander Ford's heart-wrenching film focuses on the common goals of the Poles and Jews as they stage a valiant effort to rid themselves of the Nazi menace. Border Street is at once a compelling drama and a page out of history.

 

The Bridge (Die Bruecke) (1961), Director: Bernhard Wicki, Running time: 100 minutes.

In this 1959 West German film, seven German teenagers are conscripted into the Wehrmacht and assigned to defend a supposedly strategically unimportant bridge, resulting with tragic consequences."

 

A Bridge at Remagen (1969), Director: John Guillermin, Running time: 117 minutes.

Based on a true account of a skirmish near the end of World War II. In an effort to commandeer an important bridge on the northern Rhine River, allied forces do battle with retreating Germans who have every intention of destroying the bridge and cutting off the enemy route.

 

A Bridge Too Far (1977), Director: Richard Attenborough, Running time: 176 minutes.

Richard Attenborough's ambitious, all-star adaptation (by William Goldman) of Cornelius Ryan's book, gives an account of the Battle of Arnhem. In 1944, the Allied powers attempt to expedite the end of the war with a costly operation to capture six bridges connecting Holland to Germany ended in Allied defeat. 

 

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Director: David Lean, RunningtTime: 162 minutes.

One of the all-time great war films, The Bridge On The River Kwai is yet another classic from the marvelous David Lean. The film is an outstanding, psychologically complex adaptation of Pierre Boulle's 1952 novel, a classic story of English POWs in Burma forced to build a bridge to aid the war effort of their Japanese captors. British and American intelligence officers conspire to blow up the structure, but Colonel Nicholson (a fabulous Alec Guinness), the commander who supervised the bridge's construction, has acquired a sense of pride in his creation and tries to foil their plans. Although credited to screenwriter Carl Foreman, the script was actually written by blacklisted writer Michael Wilson. The film garnered seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor (Guinness).


The Bunker (1981), Director: George Schaefer , Running time: 145 minutes.

Anthony Hopkins gives an Emmy Award-winning performance as Adolf Hitler over the 105 days of his decline. With the Third Reich crumbling around him, Hitler rages as he faces the final hours before a choice must be made between suicide and surrender.



The Burmese Harp (1956), Director: Kon Ichikawa, Running time: 116 minutes.

Kon Ichikawa's Buddhist tale of peace, The Burmese Harp, is universally relevant in various eras and cultures, although it comments specifically on the destruction of Burma during World War II. Based on the novel by Michio Takeyama, The Burmese Harp stars a Japanese platoon stationed in Burma whose choir skills are inspired by their star musician, Private Mizushima (Rentaro Mikuni), who strums his harp to cheer the homesick soldiers. As the troop surrenders to the British and is interred in Mudon prison camp, Mizushima escapes to be faced with not only his imminent death, but also the deaths of thousands of other soldiers and civilians. Relinquishing his life as a military man, Mizushima retreats into a life of Buddhist prayer, dedicating himself to healing a wounded country. Filmed in black and white, strong visual contrasts heighten the divide between peace, war, life, and death in this highly symbolic film. Scenes in which the Japanese soldiers urge opposing forces to sing with them portray military men regardless of alliance as emotionally sensitive. Showing the humanistic aspects of war, such as the male bonding that occurs between soldiers, doesn't justify war as much as deepens its tragedy. This release includes interviews with the director and with Mikuni, further contextualizing its place in Japanese cinema. The Burmese Harp, with its lessons in compassion and selflessness, is so transformative that viewing it feels somewhat akin to a religious experience. (Trinie Dalton for Amazon.com) 

 

Featured Films--Back to Bataan to Bon Voyage

           

Back to Bataan (1945), Director: Edward Dmytryk, Running time: 95 minutes.

After the fall of the Philippines to the Japanese in World War II, Col. Joseph Madden (John Wayne) of the U.S. Army stays on to organize guerrilla fighters against the conquerors.

 

         

Ballad of a Soldier (1960), Director: Grigori Chukhrai, Running time: 88 minutes.

Russian soldier Alyosha Skvortsov is granted a visit with his mother after he singlehandedly fends off two enemy tanks. As he journeys home, Alyosha encounters the devastation of his war-torn country, witnesses glimmers of hope among the people, and falls in love. With its poetic visual imagery, Grigori Chukhrai's Ballad of a Soldier is an unconventional meditation on the effects of war, and a milestone in Russian cinema.


          

Band of Brothers (2001), Executive Producers: Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, Running Time: 999 minutes

This 10-part HBO television miniseries focuses on Easy Company, a group of American soldiers in World War II, tracking their experiences from the beginning of boot camp to the end of the war. Anchored by actors Damian Lewis and Ron Livingston, the series gives detailed attention to their experiences as a group, as well as the way that each of them develops individually. 

 

         

Battle Cry (1955), Director: Raoul Walsh, Running time: 148 minutes.

Van Heflin, Aldo Ray and Tab Hunter star in Raoul Walsh's hard-hitting-action epic of Marine Corps heroism in the WWII Pacific, based on Leon Uris' gritty best-seller.

 

 

          

Battle of Britain (1969), Director: Guy Hamilton, Running time: 132 minutes.

A powerful and colorful portrayal of an understaffed, technically inferior royal air-crew who valiantly holds off the superior forces of the German Luftwaffe. This pivotal battle of World War II could have led to the Germans winning the war. The incredible cast includes Michael Caine, Robert Shaw, Curt Jurgens, and Laurence Olivier.

 

 

          

Battle of the Bulge (1965), Director: Ken Annakin, Running Time: 170 minutes.

An action-packed drama about the battle that brought World War II to a close in Europe. It tells a tense tale of the complicated events leading up to that historical confrontation -- and presents us with a group of strong-willed, highly individual military men who play key roles in the shaping of their country's destiny. Foremost among them is Kiley, an American lieutenant colonel who must overcome his fellow officer's high-handed skepticism to convince him that the supposedly defeated Germans are poised to strike.

 

 

         

Beach Red (1967), Director: Cornel Wilde, Running Time: 104 minutes

American troops storm ashore on a Japanese-held island and push inland while their enemies plan a counterattack in this look at warfare. Soldiers on both sides are haunted by memories of home and the horrifying, sickening images they find in combat.  

 

 

          

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), Director:  William Wyer, Running Time: 168 minutes.

Three WWII veterans return home to small-town America to discover that they and their families have been irreparably changed.

 

 

         

Between Heaven & Hell (1956), Director: Richard Fleischer, Running Time: 94 minutes

Robert Wagner, Terry Moore, Broderick Crawford and Buddy Ebsen star in this absorbing drama about a young, self-centered recruit who comes of age during WWII. Sam Gifford (Wagner) is a successful cotton planter who treats his sharecroppers as if they were little more than farm machinery. But during combat in the Pacific, as he sees "quality" people crack, endures life under a sadistic officer (Crawford), and learns true friendship, from a "cropper" (Ebsen), Gifford slowly discovers there's more to a person than social class and good breeding.  

 

 

           

The Big Red One (1980), Director: Samuel Fuller, Running Time: 163 minutes

The famous 1st Division of the U.S. Army is the background for this World War II film. Marvin stars as an experienced sergeant with four teenagers in his squad. Combat period covers the landing in North Africa through the invasion of Europe.



Bitka Na Neretvi (1969), Director: Veljko Bulajic, Running time: 175 minutes.

In the beginning of 1943. by Hitler's personal order, German generals started executing the "Weiss" plan for the
destruction of Partisan units. Pushed by far more powerful enemy, the Partisans, with Supreme Headquarters,
4500 wounded and typhus patients, have found themselves surrounded in Neretva valley. Only one bridge remained,
with heavy enemy forces waiting on the other side, preparing for massacre on wounded fighters and helpless people.
Tito ordered to destroy the bridge. Surprised, enemy transfered his forces to the other side, predicting that Partisans
will attempt the suicidal break through. But, during only one night, Partisans managed to build a provisional bridge
near the destroyed one and cross to the other side, tricking the enemy. (IMDb)

 

         

Black Book (2006), Director: Paul Verhoeven, Running time: 146 minutes.

In the darkest days of World War II, Jewish fugitives attempt to escape occupied Holland – only to face a Nazi ambush. Rachel Stein (Carice van Houten) alone survives the attack and joins the Dutch Resistance to avenge her family. She soon confronts the ultimate test: she must infiltrate German headquarters by tempting Captain Ludwig Mÿntze (Sebastian Hoch). In the heat of passion, he uncovers her duplicity...but keeps her secret. Then Rachel's espionage reveals that a murderous traitor lurks within Resistance ranks. Unable to fully trust anyone, Rachel navigates a minefield of deception and becomes an enemy to both sides. Epic, passionate, breathtaking, Black Book relates an untold story of World War II where the distinctions between good and evil become blurred by the complexities of human nature.  

 

 

          

Blood Oath (1990), Director: Stephen Wallace, Running Time: 108 minutes 

The island of Ambon in Indonesia, 1945. During the War, the number of Australian POWs on the island had dropped from 1100 to less than 300 due to abuses by their Japanese captors. Capt. Cooper is the chief prosecutor. In a mass grave, the bodies of 300 executed servicemen have been unearthed. Cooper assumes that the massacre was ordered by Baron Takahashi, Japanese commander on Ambon. But the one potential witness has gone mad and is due to be shipped back to Australia. No captured airmen were found alive on the island at all, not even the four-man crew of a reconnaissance plane shot down late in the War. Takahashi is returned to the island in the custody of an American officer, Maj. Beckett. But there is little evidence with which to prosecute the Baron. Cooper thinks he could make a case for the missing airmen if only their bodies could be located. And why does Maj. Beckett appear interested in not seeing Takahashi convicted? Cooper gets a break when Lt. Tanaka, a communications officer and a Christian, surrenders himself.  (Written by David Stanko for IMDb)

 

          

Bon Voyage (2003), Director: Jean-Paul Rappeneau, Running time: 115 minutes.

Bon Voyage gathers a collection of romantics, fools, and survivors, and puts them together in Bordeaux in 1940. Loosely arranged around the ditzy figure of a famous grand-dame actress (Isabelle Adjani), these hapless creatures trip over each other very amusingly during the course of a couple of frantic days. The central character is actually a young writer (the winning Gregori Derangere), who's torn between panting after the actress or aiding the pretty daughter (Virginie Ledoyen, 8 Women) of an important scientist trying to escape to England. It would be hard to say that any of this amounts to anything substantial, but director Jean-Paul Rappeneau whips it together very attractively, and the Bordeaux location offers luscious views of a pre-war city. Rappeneau's delightful 1966 comedy La Vie de Chateau, set in Normandy just before D-Day, treads some of the same turf. (Robert Horton for Amazon.com)  

 

Feature Films--Army of Shadows to Au revoir, les enfants

         

Army of Shadows (1969), Director: Jean-Pierre Melville, Running Time: 145 minutes

France, 1942, during the occupation: Philippe Gerbier, a civil engineer, is one of the French Resistance's chiefs. Given away by a traitor, he is interned in a camp. He manages to escape, and joins his network at Marseilles, where he makes the traitor be executed... This non-spectacular movie shows us rigorously and austerely the everyday of the French Resistants: their solitude, their fears, their relationships, the arrests, the forwarding of orders and their carrying out... Both writer Joseph Kessel and co-writer and director Jean-Pierre Melville belonged to this "Army in the Shadows".  

 

         

Ashes and Diamonds (Popiol i Diament) (1961), Director: Andrzej Wajda, Running time: 103 minutes.

Maciek, a young Resistance fighter, is ordered to kill Szczuka, a Communist district leader, on the last day of World War II. Though killing has been easy for him in the past, Szczuka was a fellow soldier, and Maciek must decide whether to follow his orders. (Kevin Dorner for IMBd)   

 

 

       

Attack (1956), Director: Robert Aldrich, Running time: 107 minutes.

During the closing days of WWII, a National Guard Infantry Company is assigned the task of setting up artillery observation posts in a strategic area. Lieutenant Costa knows that Cooney is in command only because of 'connections' he had made state-side. Costa has serious doubts concerning Cooneys' ability to lead the group. When Cooney sends Costa and his men out, and refuses to re-enforce them, Costa swears revenge. (Written by Buxx Banner for IMDb)

 

 

          

Attack on the Iron Coast (1968), Director: Paul Wendkos, Running Time: 90 minutes

During the WWII occupation of France, the heart and strength of the German Navy sits in a heavily guarded port known as the Iron Coastand it'll take a crackerjack team of Allied commandos to destroy it. Lloyd Bridges gives "one of his best screen performances" (Box office) as a major hell bent on seeing a deadly mission through to its "blazing finale" (Films & Filming). Major Wilson (Bridges) is a loose cannon, and his latest mission is a perfect fit. He must take an old minesweeper filled with explosives and ram it into the Nazi's prized naval port. The problem is, he and his crew will have only five minutes to escape this floating torpedo before it blows. Even if they succeed in taking down the stronghold, will they live to see the tide of war turn?  

 

 

         

Au revoir, les enfants (1987), Director; Louis Malle, Running Time:104 minutes

Gaspard Manesse plays Julien, an 11-year-old Catholic boarding-school resident during the Nazi occupation of France. He is witness to the courage of his instructors, who defy the German's anti-Semitic policies and quietly enroll Jewish children into the school under assumed names. Manesse befriends Jean (Raphael Fejto), one of these "instant Catholics." The refugee children are betrayed by a hostile ex-employee of the school, forcing Julien once more to be a bystander to history as Jean and the teachers are arrested. For this return to the French film industry after several years in the US, Louis Malle purged himself of his own bitter memories of life under the thumbs of the Nazis.

 

 

Feature Films--Abigél to Apt Pupil

Abigél (1978), Director: Éva Zsurzs, Running time: Not available.

Abigél takes place in Hungary during World War II. Georgina, spoiled daughter of General Vitay is not delighted when her father takes her to a religious boarding school in a smalltown. She rebels against the strict rules of the school, alienating most of her schoolmates and tries to escape from the school. When her father visits her and learns about this, he decides to tell her why she must stay in the school: he is trying to find a way to get Hungary out of the war before it claims too many lives and he is afraid that his enemies will capture and torture her, thus blackmailing him into betray his cause. Gina agrees to stay in the school, the only place where she is safe. Suddenly she grows up under the weight placed on her shoulders. Life is hard, she often feels she is treated unjustly in the strict school, and even though she makes peace with her schoolmates, often the only "person" to whom she can turn to is a statue nicknamed Abigél in the school's garden; who, according to the legend, helps those who write a message and put it in the vase in her hands. No one in the school knows who's hiding behind the statue, although many students tried to find it out, and at first Gina thinks this is only a childish tradition, but when she gets a message from Abigél, in which "she" reveals to be her father's confidante, she starts to believe, and later, when her whereabouts are revealed to the enemy and her father is captured, only the person behind Abigél can help her.

 

Above and Beyond (1952), Directors: Melvin Frank and Norman Panama, Running time: 122 minutes.

Robert Taylor stars in the personal story of Colonel Paul Tibbets, the pilot of the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Taylor's love interest at the time, Eleanor Parker, plays his wife, and James Whitmore is excellent in a supporting role as his friend. 


Above Suspicion (1943), Director: Richard Thorpe, Running time: 90 minutes.

About to set off on his 1939 honeymoon, an Oxford don is approached by the Foreign Office. Knowing war is near, they need to get information back from an unknown source in Germany and ask for his help, which he readily offers. At first, the American couple find following the secret trail great fun but as they get deeper into southern Germany they realise real danger threatens them both.  (Jeremy Perkins for IMBd)


Achtung! Banditi (1951), Director: Carlo Lizzani, Running Time: 90 minutes.

Story of the Italian resistance in the 1939-45 war. 

 

Aimee and Jaguar (1999), Director: Max Farberbock, Running time: 125 minutes.

It is 1943 as Allied bombs are pelting Berlin and Lilly Wust (Maria Schrader) is bringing up four children as her husband Gunther (Detlev Buck) is away fighting the war. Lilly has a few affairs to help with the absence of affection and being a loyal German she has a bust of Hitler prominently displayed in her house. When Lilly receives a love letter form an admirer who signs off as Jaguar she assumes it is from a man but is intrigued when she discovers that Felice Schragenheim (Maria Schrader) a local journalist is initiating the romance, a relationship forbidden in Germany. Awakened to a passion she has never known Lilly falls madly in love with Felice and moves to divorce her husband causing a mad storm of controversy as the relationship is a lesbian affair and Felice is Jewish and works against Germany as a resistance fighter. The two women make a love pact and try to block out the anti-Jewish persecution of the Nazi movement, but their time is running out.

 

All My Loved Ones (2000), Director: Matej Minac, Running Time: 91 minutes.

Matej Minac's heartbreaking and poignant story of one family's experience at the onset of World War II is inspired by the heroics of English stockbroker Nicholas Winton who saved hundreds of Czech Jewish children from the Nazis and is loosely based on his own mother's personal memories of the time.  

 

 

Ambush (1999), Director: Olli Saarela, Running Time: 123 minutes.

In 1944, a nine-man Marine patrol secretly lands on a Japanese-held island in order to contact a spy who has important information about General MacArthur's planned invasion of the Philippines.


Amen (2002), Director: Costa-Gavras, Running Time: 130 minutes.

Focusing on the Vatican's unwillingness to oppose the Holocaust, and two men who tried to change the system from within, Amen is adapted from the play The Representative by Rolf Hochhuth. It is based on a true story about Kurt Gerstein (Ulrich Tukur), a Nazi soldier who moved up the SS ranks by devising a chemical method to purify soldiers' drinking water. Gerstein is unaware of the horrors of the concentration camps until he is recruited by "The Doctor" (Ulrich Muhe) to adapt the same chemical for use in the gas chambers. Though Gerstein is overwhelmed by the reality of the impending massacre, he does not turn a blind eye. He informs the Swedes, the German Protestant Church, and even the Vatican. But he is sent away, dismissed, and otherwise silenced by all but the tenacious Father Riccardo Fontana (Mathieu Kassovitz), a fictitious character based on a number of priests who fought against the Holocaust. Father Riccardo takes life-threatening risks in a fruitless effort to convince the cardinal (Michel Duchaussoy) and the Pope (Marcel Iures) to rise above their fears of Nazi retribution.

 


 

The Americanization of Emily (1964), Director: Arthur Hiller, Running Time: 115 minutes.

During the build-up to D-Day in 1944, the British found their island hosting many thousands of American soldiers who were "oversexed, overpaid, and over here". That's Charlie Madison exactly; he knows all the angles to make life as smooth and risk-free as possible for himself. But things become complicated when he falls for an English woman, and his commanding officer's nervous breakdown leads to Charlie being sent on a senseless and dangerous mission. 



 

American Pastime (2007), Director: Desmond Nakao, Running time: 106 minutes.

Powerful story about the dramatic impact WWII had in the home-front as Japanese American families were uprooted from their every day lives and placed into internment camps in Western US in the early 1940's. Faced with a country that now doubted their loyalty and struggling with their new situation, they turn to baseball as a way to handle their plight and find the strength to stand up for themselves becoming a true symbol of honor and pride.


 

Angi Vera (1979), Director: Pál Gábor, Running time: 96 minutes.

At a compulsory political propaganda session at a hospital in communist Hungary in the fall of 1948 Vera Angi, a shy 18-year-old nursemaid, raises and courageously criticizes the hospital's corruption and its neglect of the patients. Her criticism impresses the comrades, particularly as it legitimates their plans to get rid of some politically untrustworthy doctors. The fact that Vera is an orphan of working-class background is particularly useful—she fits the template for new cadres that the Communist Party is looking to promote. The Party needs people like Vera, and soon she is sent to a six-month long political education course for party functionaries.

Vera is aware of her political ignorance, but she is willing to learn; her "tabula rasa" attitude is particularly welcome by the Party well-wishers. The course also enrolls other upwardly mobile workers. Amidst all of them, however, Vera is the best. She is a natural, a genius of the new political correctness. Rather than making friends with younger women, she is attracted to an older aparatchik—Anna Trajan, a sour old maid—who is preparing to enter the nomenklatura as a newspaper editor-in-chief. Anna's tutelage is crucial—she teaches Vera how to recognize and denounce political untrustworthiness, and how to report on the politically deviant.

 

Anne Frank (2001), Director: Robert Dornheim, Running time: 120 minutes.

Ben Kingsley, Brenda Blethyn, and Hannah Taylor Gordon star in the stirring tale of one of the most influential young women of the 20th century. Based on Melissa Muller's critically acclaimed book, ANNE FRANK goes beyond the story you already know and paints the true portrait of Anne both before and after she went into hiding. Get to know the high-spirited and popular girl before the war, and experience the challenges of the brave people who risked their lives trying to keep her safe. ANNE FRANK also explores the enduring mystery of who betrayed the Frank family and reveals what happened next.



Anzio (1968), Director: Duilio Coletti and Edward Dmytryk, Running Time: 117 minutes

This film follows the Allied landing at the beaches of Anzio—one of the bloodiest battles of the war thanks to an overly cautious general (Arthur Kennedy) allowing the unprepared Germans time to erect the Caesar Line of defense around Rome.  Robert Mitchum stars as Dick Ennis, an unarmed seen-it-all war correspondent who finds himself in the thick of the fray.  Peter Falk is scrappy corporal Rabinoff, a former shoe salesman who’s grown addicted to the thrill of combat. Together they get stuck behind enemy lines and must fight their way back to warn the troops. Based on the novel by Wynford Vaughan Thomas, this Dino De Laurentis-produced epic strives to be a thoughtful exploration of the roots of why man goes to war, as well as a full-scale action picture. 


 

Apt Pupil (1998), Director: Bryan Singer, Running time: 112 minutes

At the top of his game, Stephen King has a real gift for mining monsters--zero-at-the-bone horror--out of everyday faces and places. Adapted from a novella in the 1982 collection that also spawned Stand by Me and The Shawshank Redemption, Apt Pupil looks at first as if it might draw authentically enlightening terror from the soul-cancer that makes blood relations of a Southern California golden boy (Brad Renfro) and an aging Nazi war criminal (Sir Ian McKellen). Turned on by a high-school course about the Holocaust, Todd Bowden (such a bland handle for this top-of-his-class sociopath!) tracks down Kurt Dussander, a former Gestapo killer hiding in the shadows of sunny SoCal. Blackmailing the old man into sharing his firsthand stories of genocide, the teenager trips out on the virtual reality of the monster's memories. There's perverse play here on the way a kid hungry for knowledge can bring a long-retired teacher or grandparent back to life. Truly superb as James Whale in Gods and Monsters, McKellen brings subtlety to this Stephen King creepshow: his dessicated Dussander is like a mummy or vampire revivified by Todd's appetite for atrocity. 

Considerable talent intersects in Apt Pupil: It's director Bryan Singer's first film since The Usual Suspects, that enormously popular, rather heartless thriller-machine. The outstanding cast also includes David Schwimmer as a Jewish guidance counselor pathetically impotent in the face of Todd's talent for evil, and Bruce Davison as Todd's All-American Dad, lacking the capacity to even imagine evil. And the story itself has the potential for gazing into the heart of darkness right here in Hometown, U.S.A. But Apt Pupil just turns ugly and unclean when it trivializes its subject, equating Holocaust horrors with slamming a cat into an oven or offing a nosy vagrant (Elias Koteas). Reducing the great spiritual abyss that lies at the center of the 20th century to cheap slasher-movie thrills and chills is reprehensible. Both Todd and the writers of Apt Pupil should have heeded the old saw: When supping with the devil, best use a long spoon.  (Kathleen Murphy for Amazon.com)  


 

Feature Films--5 Fingers to 2000 Women (Feature Films that Begin with Numbers in the Title)

5 Fingers (1952), Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Running Time: 103 minutes. 

5 Fingers is based on a true story of WWII espionage in Turkey. In the British consulate in Ankara, an enigmatic spy is selling confidential information to the Germans. James Mason plays Ulysses Diello, a practically perfect manservant who dreams of a better life. He plots to become a 'gentleman' via his spying and teams up with an impoverished Polish Countess (Danielle Darrieux). Buckle your seatbelts, because it's going to be a bumpy night! Mason's suave British demeanor has never been used to such perfect effect. He's spectacular as the pragmatic spy, who is given the codename "Cicero." Danielle Darrieux is nearly as good in her role, as are the supporting cast. The film is as enjoyable and well-made a spy flick as you're likely to ever see.  

 

 

13 Rue Madeleine (1947), Director: Henry Hathaway, Running Time: 95 minutes

A neat World War II thriller, 13 Rue Madeleine benefits from the postwar craze for shooting outside the studio. With Quebec doubling for occupied France, this is a spy movie with a sense of open air. James Cagney plays an OSS agent, training his recruits for an important pre-D-Day mission. When one of them turns out to be a Nazi spy, Cagney must parachute into France himself and straighten things out. Director Henry Hathaway and producer Louis de Rochemont pioneered the docu-drama approach with The House on 92nd Street, and they again use newsreel footage and stentorian narrator here, blended into the fictional story. The script is slightly muddled, but there are a fistful of suspenseful situations and a gang busters ending—as well as the typically wired-up Cagney, who is exactly the guy you want on your side if D-Day is hanging in the balance.  (Robert Horton for Amazon.com)


 

49th Parallel (1942), Director: Michael Powell, Running Time: 123 minutes

At once a compelling piece of anti-isolationist propaganda and a quick-witted wartime thriller, 49th Parallel is a classic early work from the inimitable British filmmaking team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. When a Nazi U-boat crew, headed by the ruthless Eric Portman, is stranded in Canada during the thick of World War II, the men evade capture by hiding out in a series of rural communities, before trying to cross the border into the United States. Both soul-stirring and delightfully entertaining, 49th Parallel features a colorful cavalcade of characters played by larger-than-life actors Laurence Olivier, Raymond Massey, Anton Walbrook, and Leslie Howard.

 


633 Squadron (1964), Director: Walter Grauman, Running Time: 95 minutes

An RAF squadron is assigned to knock out a German rocket fuel factory in Norway,, which is part of the Nazi effort to launch rockets on England during D-day, by flying up a well-defended fjord at low level. 633 Squadron has enjoyed an unqualified string of successes. Their luck changes when they are assigned to bomb a German rocket fuel plant, in Norway which is guarded by heavy anti-aircraft defenses, and the plant is considered bomb-proof. Their nearly impossible mission is further complicated by a German air raid, the difficult approach to the target and the capture and torture of the underground leader who is assisting the squadron. 



1941 (1979), Director: Steven Spielberg, Running Time: 146 minutes

Spectacular is certainly the word for this utterly wild comedy epic directed by Steven Spielberg and nominated for three Academy Awards. Lavish effects sequences highlight this hilarious, all-star extravaganza set in Los Angeles just days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, when fear of a Japanese invasion threw the city into a state of Pandemonium. Screwball characters run wild on Hollywood Boulevard as manic servicemen, zealous store owners, teary-eyed girls and bickering Nazis are thrown together in this fast-rising comic souffle that even features a send up of Spielberg's own Jaws opening.  

 

 

2,000 Women (1944), Director: Frank Launder, Running Time:  97 minutes. 

Gender twist of the familiar PoW formula surrounding the adventures of female inmates at a WW II German internment camp in France. Black gallows humour abounds in this effective piece of propaganda with a heartening plot from writers Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder. Fortunately, among the two thousand women of the title are some of the finest British character actresses of the period. 

In France, a lorry load of female prisoners arrives at a German internment camp set up a former spa hotel. Among them is strong-minded journalist Freda (Phyllis Calvert) and Rosemary (Patricia Roc). One night during an air raid, a British bomber is hit flying over the camp and three of the RAF airmen bale out into the hotel grounds. Freda and one of her comrades find them and decide to hide them in the attic until an escape can be arranged. The situation becomes more complicated when it is discovered that one of the women in the camp, Teresa, is a German spy. They must keep the operation secret, but as tensions mount between the women, their plans become more urgent. 

 

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