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The Consensus Greatest 100 War Movies

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  • So, we have reached the top ten. Below you will find a list of the first ninety and the pages on this thread where you will find them. If you want to guess at the top ten, allow me to help. First, no 21st Century movies are in the top ten because the sources that I used did not all cover past 2000. Second, here are some movies that are considered by many to be good movies but did not make the 100: Guadalcanal Diary, The Desert Fox, A Walk in the Sun, Sahara, Dunkirk (1958), Midway, Come and See

    100. The Manchurian Candidate (1962) page 1
    99. The Bridges at Toko-Ri
    98. Mrs. Miniver
    97. To Hell and Back
    96. Run Silent, Run Deep
    95. The Alamo (1960)
    page 2
    94. Sands of Iwo Jima
    93. Land and Freedom
    92. Ulzana's Raid
    91. The Sea Hawk
    90. The Man Who Would Be king
    89. Hail the Conquering Hero
    88. The Cruel Sea
    87. They Died With Their Boots On
    86. Foreign Correspondent
    85. Ride With the Devil
    84. Casualties of War
    83. The Train
    page 3
    82. Empire of the Sun
    81. Life Is Beautiful
    80. Twelve O'Clock High
    79. The Story of G.I. Joe
    78. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
    77. Catch-22
    76. Oh! What a Lovely War
    75. The Tin Drum
    74. Scipio Africanus
    73. Ministry of Fear
    72. Colonel Redl
    71. The Third Man
    page 4
    70. Battleground
    69. Beau Geste
    68. Three Kings
    67. Hell's Angels
    66. Hope and Gloty
    65. Pork Chop Hill
    64. Good Morning, Vietnam
    63. Gettysburg
    62. Battleship Potemkin
    61. Tora! Tora! Tora!
    60. Kagemashu
    59. The African Queen
    58. Duck Soup
    57. Notorious
    page 5
    56. The Searchers
    55. The Dawn Patrol (1938)
    54. Best Years of Our Lives
    53. The Dam Busters
    52. The Killing Fields
    51. Birth of a Nation
    50. Ballad of a Soldier
    49. The Big Parade
    48. In Which We Serve
    page 6
    47. Gallipoli
    46. Stalag 17
    45. Sergeant York
    44. Wings
    43. The Last of the Mohicans (1992)
    42. Battle of Britain
    41. Guns of Navarone
    page 7
    40. The Deer Hunter
    39. A Bridge Too Far
    38. El Cid
    37. Breaker Morant
    page 8
    36. The Thin Red Line (1998)
    35. Cross of Iron
    34. Braveheart
    33. Charge of the Light Brigade (1936)
    page 9
    32. The Dirty Dozen
    31. Rome, Open City
    30. From Here to Eternity
    page 10
    29. The Longest Day
    28. Spartacus
    27. Alexander Nevsky
    26. The Big Red Line
    25. The General
    24. Stalingrad (1992)
    page 11
    23. Platoon
    22. Battle of Algiers
    21. MASH
    20. The Great Escape
    19. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
    page 12
    18. Ran
    page 13
    17. Napoleon
    16. Full Metal Jacket
    15. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
    14. Apocalypse Now
    13. Glory
    12. Dr. Strangelove
    11. Casablanca
    Last edited by warmoviebuff; 13 Apr 19, 17:57.

    Comment


    • I personally wouldn't deem Casablanca to be a war movie but I understand the rationale of those who do. Regardless, agreed that it is one of the outstanding movies of all time.
      Last edited by panther3485; 12 Apr 19, 04:17.
      "England expects that every man will do his duty!" (English crew members had better get ready for a tough fight against the combined French and Spanish fleets because that's what England expects! However, Scotland, Wales and Ireland appear to expect nothing so the Scottish, Welsh and Irish crew members can relax below decks if they like!)

      Comment


      • Originally posted by warmoviebuff View Post
        " <snip> ... here are some movies that are considered by many to be good movies but did not make the 100: Guadalcanal Diary, The Desert Fox, A Walk in the Sun, Sahara, Dunkirk (1958), Midway, Come and See ... <snip>
        I'd agree with all of those (except Midway ), being regarded as good movies.

        "England expects that every man will do his duty!" (English crew members had better get ready for a tough fight against the combined French and Spanish fleets because that's what England expects! However, Scotland, Wales and Ireland appear to expect nothing so the Scottish, Welsh and Irish crew members can relax below decks if they like!)

        Comment


        • Be interested to know how Lives of a Bengal Lancer fits in (not on the list) . Oscar nominated, starring Gary Cooper very very loosely based on a best selling autobiography has the dubious distinction of being one of Hitler's favourite films (possibly that's what did for it)..
          Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
          Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

          Comment


          • Originally posted by MarkV View Post
            Be interested to know how Lives of a Bengal Lancer fits in (not on the list) . Oscar nominated, starring Gary Cooper very very loosely based on a best selling autobiography has the dubious distinction of being one of Hitler's favourite films (possibly that's what did for it)..
            Not a bad movie, but...

            LIVES OF A BENGAL LANCER

            Belle and Blade = N/A
            Brassey's = 4.0
            Video Hound = N/A
            War Movies = 4.4
            Military History = no
            Channel 4 = no
            Film Site = no
            101 War Movies = no
            Rotten Tomatoes = no

            Comment


            • PathsOfGloryPoster.jpg


              10. Paths of Glory (1957)

              SYNOPSIS: "Paths of Glory" is a military justice movie set in WWI. A French unit is ordered to make a suicide attack on an impregnable German position. When the attack fails, the French general insists on court-martialing the unit, but settles for three patsies. The three enlisted men are defended by their commanding officer (Kirk Douglas) in their trial before a panel of generals.

              BACK-STORY: "Paths of Glory" was Stanley Kubrick's first great film. The fact that he also directed several other movies on the 100 Greatest list ("Spartacus", "Dr. Strangelove", "Full Metal Jacket") makes a case for his being the greatest war movie director. The movie was based on the novel by Howard Cobb which was published in 1935. The teenage Kubrick had read the book in his father's study. Kubrick had trouble getting funding because of the depressing nature of the plot. This problem was solved when Kirk Douglas was brought on board. His production company took on the task and Douglas was paid 1/3 of the approximately $1 million budget. He was not in it for the money as Douglas was committed to the project in principle. The movie was a critical smash, but only a modest success at the box office and as predicted, did not do well in Europe. In fact, it was banned in France for two decades. Incredibly, the movie received zero Academy Award nominations and is not on AFI's 100 Greatest Movies list!

              TRIVIA: Wikipedia, imdb

              1. Cobb's title comes from a poem by Thomas Gray entitiled "Elegy Written in a Country Courtyard". There is a line: "The paths of glory lead but to the grave"

              2. The rights to the story were purchased for $10,000 from Cobb's widow.

              3. Timothy Carey was fired toward the end for being disruptive and difficult to work with. He also faked his own kidnapping to get publicity. Some shots had to be filmed using a double.

              4. Kubrick divorced to marry Christiane Harlan, the young woman who sang the song at the end. They stayed married until his death in 1999. The song is "The Faithful Hussar". The opening is:

              A faithful soldier, without fear,
              He loved his girl for one whole year,
              For one whole year and longer yet,
              His love for her, he'd ne'er forget.

              P.S. If you think the movie is depressing, it would have been much worse if the English version of the song was sung.

              5. The movie was banned in France until 1975.

              6. Kubrick insisted on shooting the last meal scene 68 times, most of them requiring a new roast duck.

              7. It took three weeks to convert a farmer's pasture into no man's land.

              8. 600 German policemen were hired as extras for the battle scene. Kubrick had trouble getting them to pretend they were scared. Each had a designated kill area where they were supposed to die.

              9. Charleton Heston turned down the Dax role because he was making "Touch of Evil". Gregory Peck was also considered, but was unavailable. As was Douglas, but Douglas became available first.

              10. Kubrick panicked and considered a more upbeat ending for box office reasons, but Douglas insisted on the book's ending.

              Belle and Blade = 4.0
              Brassey's = 5.0
              Video Hound = 4.4
              War Movies = 5.0
              Military History = #2
              Channel 4 = #23
              Film Site = yes
              101 War Movies = yes
              Rotten Tomatoes = #23

              HISTORICAL ACCURACY: Howard Cobb was inspired by a newspaper story about an incident in the war where four French poilu were executed for unit cowardice. After the war, their families sued and two families were rewarded one franc each and the other two got nothing. It was not uncommon in the French army and others (not including the A.E.F.) to execute men to strengthen the will of others.

              OPINION: This was only Kubrick's fourth film, but you can clearly see the style that made him one of the great directors. The cinematography by George Krause is magnificent. "Bridge on the River Kwai" took that Oscar, but you could argue that "Paths to Glory" is superior and certainly deserved a nomination. Speaking of which, although it could be argued that "Bridge" is the overall better film, no one in their right mind would say today that the nominees "Peyton Place", "Sayanora", "Witness for the Prosecution", and "Twelve Angry Men" were more deserving than "Paths". Especially those first two! The movie is famous among film buffs for the long tracking shots (especially the battle scene) and Kubrick's abrupt cuts. He is not big on fades in this movie. The interior scenes with their baroque mise en scenes and the deep focusing are a clinic. We also get a lot of off-centered shots. Disconcertingly to modern war movie lovers, the film lacks the frenetic cutting used to add to the fog of war. In "Paths of Glory", you know what is going on during a battle. You are not lost or confused.

              The musical score is sparse, but Gerald Fried (who went on to score "Gilligan's Island"!) encouraged the use of snare drums in war movies. The closing song was of Napoleonic vintage and ends with the lines: "Oh please Mother, bring a light / My sweetheart is going to die". Coincidentally, Louis Armstrong had a hit with a version of it one year before the movie was released.

              The acting is outstanding. Douglas is his usual charismatic self, even more so because he was passionate about the project. His Dax is one of the great anti-authority figures in war movie history and ahead of his time in the genre. He runs the gamut of that stereotype. Sarcasm, slow-burns, seething, and finally snapping. The supporting cast is not intimidated. MacReady and Menjou are all-time slimy. Morris (who was a highly decorated ace in WWII) creates one of the great cowards in war movie history. Ralph Meeker does his best work in an underrated career. The most fascinating character is Ferol. The eccentric Carey plays him to the hilt and his scene stealing aggravated the rest of the cast. For instance, when he is being led by the Father to the execution and he bites into his arm - that was unscripted and almost got him punched in the face by the bemused Emile Meyer. Carey was fired towards the end of the 64 day shoot and a double had to be used for the confession scene.

              The movie is not subtle in its themes. It has been described as an anti-war movie, but it is more appropriately labeled as an anti-command movie. The battle scene is certainly horrific, but it is only seven minutes and no major character is killed. The real focus of the plot is the machinations of the generals. Broulard and Mireau are loathsome, but fairly representative of high command in the war. Obviously, French high command in particular (Broulard resembles Joffre), but all of the belligerents in general. It is no secret that the tactics used in the war were pigheaded, but the script enlightens about the use of court-martials to "motivate" the common soldiers. A related theme is the dominance of the officer class over the enlisted. Not only are most officers motivated by promotion (as opposed to the grunts just trying to survive), they use their position to wriggle out of culpability. The only caveat I have with the themes is the ending cantina scene tends to dilute them. The movie would have been better served ending with the executions. However, considering the rumors that Douglas had to prevent Kubrick from giving the men a reprieve, it could have been much worse. Having a tearful singalong by the cannon fodder signals that war goes on. By the way, contrast the females at the end of "Paths of Glory" and "Full Metal Jacket". 'Nuff said. The songs have a similar vibe, though.

              How realistic is it in military matters? The trenches are a little too wide, but that was to facilitate those awesome tracking shots so all is forgiven on that score. The night patrol seems typical, although fratricide by a cowardly leader was uncommon. The main battle sequence is so well done that I show it in my American History class to prepare my students for their letter from a soldier at the front assignment. (The other clips are from "All Quiet", "Sergeant York", and "The Lost Battalion".) Special kudos to the German police officers who were the extras and did some of the better dying in a war movie. The sound effects bear mentioning. The whining of the artillery shells and the resulting explosions add to the impression of Hell on Earth.

              In conclusion, "Paths of Glory" is one of the great war movies and definitely belongs in the top ten. It sets out to make an impression and it succeeds perfectly. Kubrick plus Douglas is a winning combination, as seen in "Spartacus". It is more court room and behind the scenes oriented than most war movies, but it does have one of the great combat scenes to balance that. Considering some of the laughable inclusions on the list, "Paths" is comfortably placed.
              Last edited by warmoviebuff; 13 Apr 19, 09:22.

              Comment


              • The_Bridge_on_the_River_Kwai_poster.jpg


                9. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

                SYNOPSIS: The Japanese force British prisoners to construct a railroad through the jungle of Burma in WWII. The British commander (Alec Guinness) agrees to take over supervising the construction of a bridge, partly to prove the superiority of British culture. He becomes obsessed with constructing the best bridge possible. An American (William Holden) who escaped from the camp is sent back with a special forces unit to blow up the bridge.

                BACK-STORY: "Bridge on the River Kwai" is the screen adaptation of Pierre Boulle's Bridge Over the River Kwai (I do not know why they changed the title). Boulle channeled his experiences as a POW in Southeast Asia during WWII and based his main character on French officers who collaborated with their Japanese captors. Boulle was awarded the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar even though he did not write it. Carl Foreman and Michael Wilson were uncredited at the time because they were blacklisted due to the McCarthyism of the 50's. Both were given posthumous trophies in 1984. It was directed by David Lean (who co-directed "In Which We Serve" and went on to do "Lawrence of Arabia"). The movie was filmed in Sri Lanka so the crew and actors had to deal with diseases and jungle critters. It was not an easy shoot, but considering what the real-life POWs went through, I hope no one complained. The movie was a huge financial and critical success. It cost $3 million to make and made $27 million. It was the #1 movie of 1958. It won seven Academy Awards: Picture, Director, Actor (Alec Guinness), Adapted Screenplay, Score, Editing, and Cinematography. Sessue Hyakawa was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. The movie is #36 on the most recent AFI Top 100 Films list.

                TRIVIA:

                1. David Lean clashed with his actors, especially Guinness and James Donald. Both thought the novel and movie were too anti-British. Guinness, who was mainly known for comedies, wanted to play Nicholson more sympathetically and with a sense of humor. Lean insisted he was "a bore". Midway through the shoot, Lean invited Guinness and his family to view his parts of the film. The Guinnesses left without a word, but the next day Alec told Lean he had brought out his best performance.

                2. Guinness patterned his walk from "The Oven" after his son who was recovering from polio.

                3. Lean almost drowned in the fast-flowing river.

                4. Sri Lanka had no film developing facility, so film had to be sent back to England. The bridge explosion footage was lost on the way. After a frantic search, it was found sitting on the tarmac at the air port in Cairo, Egypt in the hot sun for a week. Normally, it would have been ruined, but miraculously it was unharmed.

                5. British composer Malcolm Arnold was given just ten days to do the score. He said it was the worst experience of his career.

                6. The marching song was the "Colonel Bogey". The iconic tune appeared in the film by accident. Lean complained about the sloppy marching of the actors (and extras) and recommended that someone whistle a marching tune. One of them started whistling "Colonel Bogey" and the rest is history. Producer Sam Speigel nixed singing the lyrics because he considered them lewd. (e.g. Hitler has only got one ball)

                7. Spencer Tracy turned down the Nicholson role because he felt it need an Englishman. Sir Laurence Olivier turned it down to direct "The Prince and the Showgirl (Marilyn Monroe)". Guinness originally turned it down, but Jack Hawkins convinced him to change his mind.

                8. Cary Grant and Rock Hudson turned down the Shears part.

                9. Sessue Hayakawa accidentally drew blood when he slapped Guinness, but Alec stayed in character.

                10. The movie is mostly fictional, but Nicholson is based on the actual commander Lt. Col. Toosey. Toosey, however, was far from a collaborator and encouraged the men to be as ineffective as possible. He sabotaged the bridge by having the men introduce termites to the wood. The actual Japanese commander was more reasonable than most Japanese officers. Toosey testified in his defense at his war crimes trial.

                11. There were actually two bridges - one wooden and the other a steel/concrete one. Two years after construction, they were destroyed by an air bombing. The steel one was repaired.

                Belle and Blade = 3.5
                Brassey's = 5.0
                Video Hound = 5.0
                War Movies = 5.0
                Military History = #12
                Channel 4 = #10
                Film Site = yes
                101 War Movies = yes
                Rotten Tomatoes = #26

                HISTORICAL ACCURACY: The Thailand-Burma Railway was constructed by Allied prisoners in a fourteen month stretch from 1942-43. It was to connect Rangoon to Bangkok. The railway's completion was deemed essential to supplying Japanese forces in Thailand. 60,000 prisoners toiled along with many more dragooned civilians. About 13,000 soldiers died.

                The movie accurately depicts the attitude of the Japanese toward the prisoners. The Japanese code of bushido insisted that surrender was a disgrace so the British prisoners were not worthy of respect. There were other factors that explained the mistreatment. The Japanese were unprepared for the huge volume of prisoners when Singapore fell. This explained the poor housing, food, clothing, and medical care. The movie actually underplays the terrible condition the men were in. The actors in the film are much too fit. (They also are not wearing the loin clothes that would have been typical.) Another factor was the fact that the prison administration consisted of second-rate soldiers. A commandant like Saito would have been in a combat unit if he was competent. The prisoners were faced with incompetent and bitter guards. That was a very bad combination. Then throw in that soldiers who are used to being beat are naturally going to take it out on their charges. Usually using bamboo canes. Interestingly, the worst guards were actually the conscripted Koreans. They had a strong propensity to turn their resentment of the Japanese on the PWs.

                The first 40 miles of the construction was easy and then the Japanese government upped the timetable by months. This resulted in the "Speedo Period" named after what the frantic engineers kept yelling: "speedo! speedo!" At around this time a new group of 7,000 prisoners (mostly Australians) arrived after a 150 mile march that lasted 17 days. It is doubtful they were whistling when they arrived. 47% of this "F Force" did not survive the war.

                The building of the bridge was actually pretty easy. The Japanese engineers were competent and did not need any help. It was across the Mae Klong River, not the Kwai River (Boulle liked the sound of "Kwai"). Only a few died in the construction. It was after the bridge was finished that construction through the jungle got really rough. This was partly because of the monsoon season which the movie overlooks. There were two bridges in reality. One was a temporay wooden one to get supplies across the river and the one the movie was modeled after was made of stone and steel.

                As far as the main characters, the movie is way off. The commanding officer in charge of the bridge crew was a Lt. Col. Philip Toosey. He was pretty much the opposite of Nicholson. He encouraged the men to work slower and to sabotage whenever they could. However, he did insist on adherence to the Geneva Conventions and was subsequently beaten for it. He did not argue that officers should not work. In fact, junior officers routinely worked and senior officers supervised. There was a Major Saito, but he was second in command and had a reputation for being relatively benign. Toosey testified for him at his war crimes trial and they became friends after the war. The fictional Clipton represents the real heroes in the railway construction - the medical officers. They had to deal with diseases like malaria and cholera as well as malnutrition.

                It probably will not surprise you to learn that the ending is completely fictional. There was no attempt to blow up the bridge. The stone bridge was brought down by American B-24 bombers by June, 1945.

                OPINION: "The Bridge on the River Kwai" is a classic epic war film. Not surprising since David Lean and "epic" go together. Here we get the density of the jungle instead of the sweep of the desert as in "Lawrence of Arabia". And both his signature films feature a deeply flawed main character. Lean made a film that is not blatantly anti-war. He described it as about "the folly and waste of war". Other themes include strong leaders butting heads, the importance of principles in warfare, and what is proper behavior for a POW.

                In order to explore these themes, Lean and the screenwriters had to defy reality a bit. There certainly were Nicholsons in the British Army. However, the same strict adherence to principles before capture would have made it highly unlikely that type of personality would have collaborated like Nicholson did. If a commander had chosen to aid the enemy's war effort, it would have been for much more crass and craven reasons than Lean gives Nicholson. It is also extremely unlikely that the other officers and men would have abandoned slacking and sabotage for working harder to help the enemy complete a vital railway. There certainly would have been more debate over the cooperation. As it is, Clipton sticks out as a lone voice in the wilderness. You do have Shears sneering at Nicholson, but his character is mainly there to contrast the British and American attitudes toward discipline, principles, and officers.

                This is not to say that the Nicholson character is ridiculous or flawed. The plot could not exist without him. As played by Guinness (in possibly his best performance), he is fascinating. There are times when you admire his bravery and endurance in pursuit of maintaining the principles his life is based on. But more often you shake your head over his borderline treason. In this respect, the Clipton character mirrors the audience. Saito is also a strong character and more accurately reflects the Japanese officer class than Nicholson reflects the British. The arc of Saito from obstinate bully to Nicholson’s lap dog is heavy-handed, but necessary. Shears is another character that had to be forced into the plot (literally, because in the book he is a British commando who had not been in the camp). If it is a British movie and there is a minority major American character, they always behave like Shears. Brash, anti-authoritarian, and individualistic. Basically, Holden is playing Sefton from "Stalag 17".

                Speaking of acting, the movie is top notch. The cast is very good with the odd exception of Horne as Joyce. What is this B-List actor doing mixing with the heavyweights? I guess you could say the odd casting paid off for Lean because Horne rescued him when he almost drowned in the river. Jack Hawkins is his usual solid self as the stereotypical stiff upper-lipped Warden. The role is basically the one played by Anthony Quayle in "Guns of Navarone". James Donald is crucial as the film's conscience - Doctor Clipton. He would go on to play the same personality in "The Great Escape".

                The movie is technically magnificent. The cinematography was award-winning as to be expected from a Lean film. Jack Hildyard makes good use of the jungle locale. The scenery is beautiful. There is a variety of long-range shots, deep focus, and stationary camera. No slo-mo. The score probably did not deserve the Oscar, unless they were rewarding the film for being an epic without the usual pomposity of music. There are long stretches, like the rigging scene, where there is no music. It is likely that the "Colonel Bogey March" that book-ends the film is the primary reason for the award. The sets are great. The camp is squalid, although probably a bit more liveable than in reality. The bridge is outstanding. It took longer to build than the real one (8 months). Its demolition with the train passing over is one of the greatest scenes of that type. It is similar to the one in "The General".

                In conclusion, it is understandable that "The Bridge on the River Kwai" is high on the list and many would argue it belongs in the Top 10. Part of this is due to reputation. Looking at it from a modern perspective, the film is a bit overrated. As an adventure story, it is slow moving and lacking in adrenaline and suspense. There is hardly any action. As a prisoner of war movie, it downplays the horrors the men went through. As a character study and clash of cultures, it is excellent. However, for a war movie fan, there are many more impactful films. "The Bridge on the River Kwai" is a war movie classic for the non-war movie lover. Everyone can enjoy it, but I can't get excited over it. I would argue it is not as good as lower ranked (but similar) movies like "The Great Escape".
                Last edited by warmoviebuff; 14 Apr 19, 10:08.

                Comment


                • Das_boot_ver1.jpg


                  8. Das Boot (1981)

                  SYNOPSIS: "Das Boot" ("The Boat") is the story of a tour by a German u-boat in the Battle of the Atlantic in 1941. The movie follows the inner workings of the boat and the extreme hardships the crew goes through.

                  BACK-STORY: "Das Boot" ("The Boat") is a German submarine movie directed by Wolfgang Petersen. Originally the movie was going to be made by John Sturges starring Robert Redford and then by Don Siegel starring Paul Newman. Thankfully, both projects fell through. It is based on the novel by Lothar-Gunther Buchheim. Although fictional, Buchheim used his experience as a correspondent on U-96 on a tour in 1941. The Werner (Herbert Gronemeyer) character is based on Buchheim. Buchheim began as a technical adviser, but had a falling out with Petersen because of what Buchheim considered unrealistically enhanced dramatic license. The movie took three years to produce (1979-81) and was the most expensive German film up to then. It was released in 1981 at 150 minutes and then shown as a miniseries at 300 minutes. The version I am reviewing is the definitive Director's Cut which clocks in at 209 minutes. The original version was a big hit in Germany and the U.S. It was an even bigger critical success. It was nominated for Academy Awards for Director, Cinematography, Adapted Screenplay (Petersen), Film Editing, Sound, and Sound Effects Editing. Stunningly, it was not nominated for Foreign Film.

                  TRIVIA:

                  1. The actual U-96 made eleven patrols from Dec., 1940 to Dec., 1942. It was turned into a training vessel after its combat career. Buchheim was on the seventh patrol which was Oct. - Dec., 1941. The captain was Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock. They sank one ship in a convoy, underwent a depth charging, was resupplied in Spain, heavily damaged by two bombs dropped by a Swordfish while passing by Gibraltar, and eventually ended up at St. Nazaire.

                  2. The same full-scale replica was used in "Raiders of the Lost Ark". At one point, it cracked in two during a storm and went down. It was later recovered and patched up with wood planks.

                  3. It was the second most expensive German movie, after "Metropolis".

                  4. It was filmed in sequence so the men's beard and hair would look naturally growing. To make sure the skin stayed pallid, the actors were kept out of the sunlight during the filming.

                  5. Jan Fedder (Pilgrim) accidentally fell off the bridge during a storm scene and broke two ribs. When someone yelled "man overboard!", Petersen thought it would be a good idea, not realizing it had actually happened. The shot was left in the film and Pilgrim's role had to be adjusted.

                  6. Otto Sander (Thomsen) was really drunk.

                  7. Rutger Hauer turned down the role of the captain to make "Blade Runner".

                  8. The acting crew had to undergo training to navigate the cramped interior.

                  9. The human figures on the 35-foot model were modified Ken dolls.

                  Belle and Blade = 5.0
                  Brassey's = 4.0
                  Video Hound = 5.0
                  War Movies = 5.0
                  Military History = #3
                  Channel 4 = #17
                  Film Site = yes
                  101 War Movies = yes
                  Rotten Tomatoes = #24

                  HISTORICAL ACCURACY: Analyzing this movie for historical accuracy is problematic. The film is based on a novel so it is hard to determine what in the novel is true. The movie does follow the book closely which means the questions about accuracy focus on the book. There was a U-96 and it was commanded by Heinrich Lehmann-Willenbrock for its first eight patrols. He was the 6th highest u-boat ace based on tonnage. He won the Iron Cross. The submarine was credited with sinking 27 ships in 11 patrols. Buchheim (Werner in the movie) was a Navy correspondent who was embedded for propaganda purposes. It appears that the patrol he based the book on was the 7th one. My research on that patrol shows that Buchheim enhanced the story quite a bit. In fact, even if Buchheim used incidents from other patrols, it is still hard to find the incidents that appear in the book and in the movie. The seventh patrol saw the sinking of only one freighter and one significant depth charging. There was no Gibraltar incident on any of the patrols. The u-boat sailed from St. Nazaire (the movie understandably used La Rochelle because the sub pens are intact there and were essential to the verisimilitude of the film). It also returned to St. Nazaire, but not to the reception shown in the film. U-96 was sunk under similar circumstances when the submarine pens at Wilhelmshaven were bombed in 1945.

                  So, what could have happened? It seems likely the submariners partied hard considering the u-boat service had the highest mortality rate of any service in WWII for any country. Adm. Donitz did make a habit of seeing off the individual boats. The depressed vibe may be a bit laid on, but autumn 1941 was the first unhappy time for the u-boats. In 1941, convoys became more effective and more escorts came into play. Also, anti-submarine technology improved with the use of ASDIC (sonar). The movie implies that the u-boat war was on a path downward from then on, but in reality there was to be a second "happy time" with the entry of the U.S. The vibe in the movie is more appropriate for 1943 when the Battle of Atlantic was clearly lost. It seems unlikely that the depth of depression and cynicism would have sunk that low by autumn 1941.

                  The movie accurately reflects the fear the pinging of sonar caused for the crew. By this stage of the war, Ultra was being used to reroute convoys away from wolf packs. Of course the U-96 would not have been aware of this and the movie makes no allusion to the code-breaking. The movie does make a point of depicting the use of the Enigma machine to decode messages from submarine command. The u-boat crews were noted for being outspoken in their cynicism and the Captain evidences that. As far as the Nazi on board, this stock character has been criticized, but it seems likely there would have been someone like him on board. Actually, I would have thought there would have been more than one fanatic. While the incidents in the movie can be questioned, the u-boat is as real as it can get. The movie interior was an exact copy of a Type VII-C on display in the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.

                  OPINION: The effort that went into this movie is amazing. It reminds me of "Master and Commander". Great attention was paid to the interior details, but there were also several models that were used for exterior scenes. One was an eleven foot long model used for the ocean storms. It was hollow and driven by a man laying inside on his stomach. The same model was borrowed by Spielberg for "Raiders of the Lost Ark". There were dolls on the tower that were moved by remote control. For the depth charge scenes, the interior mockup was on a hydraulic apparatus called a gimbal that allowed for realistic (even dangerous) hurling of bodies and objects. The filming in this tight environment is incredible. A special version of the steadicam was developed by cinematographer Jost Vacano who wore padding so he could move and not be hurt by encounters with the walls and hatchways. One of the great war movie shots is when the crew rushes to the bow of the boat to speed the crash dive. It is done in one continuous shot with no cuts. The cinematography overall is great. In the opening scene in the Bar Royal, Vacano has a long shot where the camera moves around the room to catch the revelry.

                  The acting matches the technical virtuousity. The cast was relatively unknown even if Germany. Most went on to good careers. Prochnow is perfect as the Captain and Wennemann matches him as the Chief. Gronemeyer is appropriately awed, wide-eyed, and terrorized by his experiences as the neophyte Werner. Erwin Leder makes a good impression as Johann. It was his first acting role and you won't be able to forget his face. The entire cast was serious about making the picture special. They all agreed to avoid sunlight during the production to get the sallow look. The movie was shot in sequence so the men's beards reflected time at sea. The actors went through a type of boot camp so they could maneuver through the cramped interior smoothly.

                  There have been many submarine movies. It is a subgenre that has had great staying power and "Das Boot" (even though it is considered the last word on submarine movies) is not even the last example. Hollywood still finds the cramped confines conducive to drama. "Phantom" is just the latest proof that the subgenre will never die. What makes "Das Boot" special is the way it gets the life of the submariners right. The sailors behave as you would expect a German u-boat crew to behave. Some veterans took umbrage with the crude language, but that seems revisionist and the book (by an ex-submariner) is even cruder. No movie has depicted life on a WWII submarine better. Any submarine. At screenings in America, when the statistic of 30,000 German submariners dying appeared on the screen, the audience applauded. By the end of the film, few rejoiced in the tragic exemplification of that stat. You care about these men. They are not the enemy. Speaking of which, the movie does not cut to the anti-submariners. U-96's foes are faceless.

                  The plot is linear and somewhat episodic. It builds nicely to its overt anti-war message. It is not perfect, however. The depth chargings are a bit repetitive with each topping the last. By the end of the movie, the boat has had everything but the kitchen sink thrown at it. The movie cannot escape some of the clichés submarine movies are noted for. It is the opposite in all ways from "U-571", but it is not flawless. Judging from my earlier analysis of submarine clichés, it features two very common ones. The sub has to go below "hull crush depth" and yet the hull is not crushed. The sub withstands not one, but three depth chargings with the depth charges exploding alongside the sub. Unrealistically close, by the way. It does avoid several other tropes. There is no command conflict. The captain is no Ahab hunting his white whale. Noone is left on deck during a crash dive and no debris and oil are released to fool the hunters. Most importantly, the sub is on a routine patrol. No special mission.

                  The biggest problem with the movie is it is implausible in parts. Some of the set-ups are trite. The boat encounters the burning freighter to set up the emotional scene where they back away from the drowning victims. The Captain threatens to shoot Johann so later he can redeem himself. Redemption is a common theme in war movies, but it's the captain's threat that makes no sense. I think he would have empathized with a fellow submariner who had been on numerous patrols. My biggest problem with actions taken in the movie is with the captain's decision to try to run through the strait on the surface. That was an act of insanity by a leader who the movie has portrayed very positively before then. This reminds me of how Captain Miller in "Saving Private Ryan" is a role model, but actually a moron tactically-speaking. For a u-boat ace, the Captain sure likes to stay on the surface when there are hunters nearby.

                  In conclusion, "Das Boot" is a very good movie, but it is not great. I have to admit that in my opinion it is slightly overrated. In the worthy attempt to be firmly anti-war, it has a narrative arc that is consistently downward. Each episode is more depressing than the last until the twist of the ending. In my opinion, the plot would have been more effective as a roller coaster ride than a downward spiral. This does conform to the novel, but movies have the right to improve on their sources. "Das Boot" would have been better if it had included some of the thrills of u-boat combat. There is too much prey and not enough predator. The torpedoing of the three enemy ships is given short shrift. The three depth chargings are not. It is not surprising that it is ranked at #6 since it is a critics' darling.

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                  • Saving_Private_Ryan_poster.jpg


                    7. Saving Private Ryan (1998)

                    SYNOPSIS: "Saving Private Ryan" is a fictional tale of the hunt for the last surviving sibling of three WWII soldiers. A small unit of Army Rangers (led by Tom Hanks) is sent into the Normandy countryside to locate Ryan who had paradropped as part of the D-Day invasion. The movie opens with the famous Omaha Beach scene and closes with the defense of a bridge in a French town.

                    BACK-STORY: "Saving Private Ryan" originated from writer Robert Rodat seeing a monument to eight siblings killed in the Civil War. He brought the idea to producer Mark Gordon. The movie was a huge critical and box office success. Made for around $70 million, it made over $480 million and was the highest grossing film of the year. The Omaha Beach set and reenactment cost $12 million and used 1,500 extras (including amputees) and 40 gallons of fake blood. The Ramelle set was built from scratch, including the bridge and the river. It was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won 5 (Cinematography, Sound, Sound Editing, Film Editing, and Director). Incredibly it lost Best Picture to "Shakespeare in Love" in the most egregious miscarriage in Oscar history. Almost as perplexing was Hanks' loss to Roberto Bergnini. The movie is currently #71 on AFI's list of greatest movies of all time. It is #10 on their list of Cheers, #8 on the Epics list, and #10 on the Inspiring list.

                    TRIVIA:

                    1. It was the first Spielberg film that he did not develop himself. His agent sent him the script. It was also sent to Tom Hanks at the same time. When they found out they both had the script and both were interested, they decided to corroborate.
                    2. Spielberg meant the film to be a tribute to his father who was a radio operator on a B-25 in WWII. His first films as a teenager were WWII movies.
                    3. The story was based on the four Niland brothers. Edward was paradropped into Burma and presumed dead. Bob was with the 82nd Airborne and was killed in D-Day fighting a rearguard action. Preston was also a paratrooper in D-Day and was killed the day after Bob while assaulting a German artillery position. When the Pentagon learned of the three deaths, a chaplain was sent to find Fritz who was with the 101st Airborne (he was friends with Warren Muck and Don Malarkey of "Band of Brothers" fame). Fritz also fought in D-Day. He was sent back to America. Later, it was learned that Edward was taken captive by the Japanese and escaped from a prison camp.
                    4. The actors were put through a ten-day boot camp by Dale Dye. It featured marching, living in tents, eating MREs, and weapons training. Damon did not participate so the other actors would develop animosity toward the character.
                    5. Robin Williams introduced Matt Damon to Spielberg. Spielberg was looking for an unknown actor for Ryan, he had no idea "Good Willing Hunting" would explode. Edward Norton turned down the role to make "American History X". Damon ad-libbed the story about his brother and the ugly girl.
                    6. Michael Madsden turned down Horvath, but suggested the next best thing - his buddy Tom Sizemore. Sizemore was in the midst of his drug problems so Spielberg insisted he take regular drug tests and promised him he would be fired immediately and the part reshot if he failed any. Billy Bob Thornton turned down the role because he was afraid of water and did not like the beach scene.
                    7. The Omaha Beach cinematography was inspired partly by Robert Capa's photos. The reduced color caused DirecTV and the Dish Network to add the color back for showings due to complaints from idiot viewers who thought there was something wrong with their TVs.
                    8. The French town was built on an abandoned WWII air base. It took four months. Rubble was brought in from nearby construction projects.
                    9. 3,500 custom-made uniforms were used. 2,000 replica weapons were made, 500 were capable of firing blanks.
                    10. The film was shot in chronological order. It took 59 days. 25 were used just for the beach scene. That famous scene was not storyboarded. Most of the extras were from the Irish Army Reserve and local reenactment groups. The scene used 20-30 amputees for dismemberments. Supposedly 40 barrels of fake blood were used.
                    11. The Tiger tank was a remodeled T-34/85. Two of the landing craft were WWII vintage.
                    12. Although he claimed he would have accepted an NC-17 rating in order to avoid cutting any violence, sources say five minutes were cut to get the R-rating.
                    13. Historian Stephen Ambrose had to ask for the film to be stopped at around the twenty minute mark during a special showing so he could compose himself.
                    14. The two Germans who are shot while trying to surrender on the bluff behind the bunker are actually trying to tell the Americans that they were conscripted Czechs.
                    15. When Miller tries to call "CATF, CATF" on the radio, it stands for Commander: Amphibious Task Force.
                    16. It is possible to throw mortar rounds after striking them on the base plate. Charles Kelly did this during his Medal of Honor exploit in WWII Italy.
                    17. The body count is over 200.
                    18. Mellish and Caparzo were not in the original script. Neither was Steamboat Willie.
                    19. Vin Diesel was paid only $100,000 which means this was the last movie where he was paid what his acting was worth.
                    20. Here is what the German is telling Mellish as he stabs him: "Give up. You have no chance. This is much more easy for you. Much easier."

                    Belle and Blade = 4.0
                    Brassey's = 5.0
                    Video Hound = 5.0
                    War Movies = N/A
                    Military History = #8
                    Channel 4 = #1
                    Film Site = yes
                    101 War Movies = yes
                    Rotten Tomatoes = #38


                    HISTORICAL ACCURACY: SPR does not claim to be based on a true story, it does not even claim to be inspired by a true story. This is a bit surprising because it could legitimately claim that inspiration by way of two sources. The 5 Sullivan Brothers all perished when the U.S.S. Juneau went down off Guadalcanal. This led to the adoption of the Sole Survivor Rule in which the Pentagon attempted to avoid the loss of entire sibling sets. A stronger connection to the film is to the Niland family. Frederick Niland was a paratrooper in Normandy who was pulled out of combat and returned home after two brothers were lost in D-Day and a third was shot down over Burma (and survived Japanese imprisonment). In spite of the similarity to the Niland story, it is obvious that Spielberg's film is meant to be fictional. For that reason, it is more appropriate to discuss how realistic it is rather than how accurate it is.

                    The Omaha Beach scene has been justifiably lauded for its realism (including by veterans of the assault) and still remains the most realistic reenactment of any combat in war movie history. However, it is not perfect. The Americans landing on Dog Green sector were actually transported on British landing craft, not Higgins Boats. The carnage rings true, but the time compression makes the conquest of the bluff seem much too quick and easy. And by the way, bullets lose too much momentum when they enter water to be able to kill men, as depicted in the film. (I am certainly not arguing against that cinematic decision.)

                    As to the mission, it seems unlikely that a crack squad of Rangers would have been sent on this type of mission to find one man. In reality, a chaplain located Fritz Niland. The sniper duel is reminiscent of a confrontation involving Marine sniper Carlos Hatchcock in the Vietnam War. He put a bullet through the enemy's scope at about 100 yards. In the film, Jackson estimates his shot at 450 yards which puts it out of the range of possibility given gravity's effect on a bullet's trajectory. The assault on the radar installation makes no sense other than to develop the plot. Considering that the unit was on a mission that originated with Gen. Marshall himself, it is highly unlikely they would have taken on a risky, unnecessary scrum. To make matters worse, the heroic Capt. Miller decides to make a frontal assault with the medic tagging along. As far as allowing the prisoner to go, Miller certainly would not have faced charges for the common sense alternative.

                    As far as the last battle is concerned, there are several problems. Although there were such things as "Sticky Bombs", they were a British experiment and were not make-shift. I found no evidence that they were described in the U.S. Army Field Manual. It was possible that mortar shells could be armed by hitting them on the base plate and then thrown to explode on a target. As far as the tanks are concerned, there were no Tiger tanks in that part of Normandy at that stage of the war. Also, tactically the Germans would probably have sent the infantry in first. By the way, the tanks used in the film were Soviet T-34s mocked-up to look like Tigers. I have no problem with that. What I do have a problem with is why the tanks did not use their machine guns. I suppose that game changer would have messed with the plot. Speaking of tanks, Miller would not have been able to fire a machine gun into the tank's viewer. One last thing: the P-51 that arrives to save the day had no ability to fire a rocket or drop a bomb. (Joining all the other fighter planes in war movie history that dropped ordinance they did not have.)

                    OPINION: The acting in "Saving Private Ryan" is very good. Tom Hanks is his usual outstanding self, but the supporting cast is strong and there are no weak performances. Even Vin Diesel (thankfully not in the film long enough to do damage) ups his game and dies well. Speaking of which, SPR has the highest quality of death scenes that I have seen in a war movie. SPR is famous for the ten-day boot camp the actors were put through by Dale Dye in preparation for their roles. Matt Damon (Ryan) was purposely left out so he would be treated subconsciously as an outsider. For a movie that attempts to be as close to reality as possible, the actors do not come off as like they are playing army men. They gripe a lot and question the mission. They do not want to accept the new guy (Upham) and never really bond with him. They respect Capt. Miller, but only grudgingly follow him when he issues questionable orders. This is realistic considering some of the stupid decisions he makes.

                    "Saving Private Ryan" is not remembered for its dialogue. In fact, in one of the most powerful scenes (when Mrs. Ryan is notified about her sons' deaths), there is not a spoken word. The movie does have some nice dialogue. Robert Rodat's script was nominated for Best Original Screenplay. Much of the dialogue is terse and the most famous line is simply: "Earn this." The monologues are well done, especially when Wade describes pretending to be asleep when his mother would come home and when Miller finally reveals his previous life. Best line: "This Ryan better be worth it. He'd better go home and cure some disease or invent a longer-lasting lightbulb or something. 'Cause the truth is, I wouldn't trade 10 Ryans for one Vecchio or one Caparzo." (Miller)

                    SPR was lauded for creating a new style war movie when it came out and many of the masses swallowed this analysis. In reality, it merely puts a different spin on the classic war movie template. It is after all a hero leading a small unit on a mission. The hero is forced to assume command. The unit is heterogeneous. There is a conflict within the group between Reiben and Horvath that is resolved by external pressure. There is a ritual recalling the peaceful past (listening to the song on the gramophone). The movie clearly alternates from combat to rest/exposition. The movie does lack a redemption character.

                    SPR combines two standard war movie plot tropes. The first half is the patrol on a mission and the second half is a last stand. Both segments incorporate the "who will survive?" angle. Although not groundbreaking as far as those tried and true elements, the way the screenwriter handles them is quite good. The objective is certainly outside the box- a mission to rescue one soldier. The plot is very manipulative of the audience and takes advantage the non-war movie lovers who would find much of it fresh. It pulls all the emotional strings reaching a crescendo at the end. It throws in a German character to link key scenes and contrive the ending. As ridiculously implausible as this arc is, it is not embarrassing like in "The Big Red One".

                    Although incorrectly credited with modernizing the war movie plot, SPR can be credited with taking war movie combat to a new level of realism. It is popular these days to downplay the greatness of the movie, but the opening scene is still the most amazing combat scene ever filmed and has not been topped after fifteen years and many challengers. That one scene will be remembered as a seminal moment in war movie history. I also would like to remind everyone that Dale Dye was the technical adviser.

                    The cinematography of Janusz Kaminski richly deserved the Oscar. He managed to get a newsreel feel by desaturating the colors. Equally impressive are the sound effects. The sounds of battle have seldom been better hearing due to explosions and combat stress. The monstrous roar of the Tiger tanks in the final battle is straight out of a horror movie. It could be argued that SPR has the best sound and visual effects of any war movie.

                    In conclusion, it is popular lately to take shots at "Saving Private Ryan" and I have to admit that upon watching it for the tenth time and reading about some of the mistakes, it is not perfect. However, it is clearly a masterpiece as entertainment for the masses. People like me have to remind ourselves that not everyone has seen a lot of war movies. Tropes are not as obvious to average viewers. More specifically, most people are not concerned with the use of a Higgins Boat in place of British LCAs. You can accuse Spielberg of manipulating the emotions of the audience, but he is a master at this and he is at the top of his game here. When you watch some of his more recent efforts like "War Horse", you can appreciate the relative sublety of this film and be thankful it's earlier Spielberg. In my opinion, its position in the top ten is appropriate. And it is better than the next two by far.

                    Comment


                    • I haven't seen this movie for several years but if I remember correctly, the exact two words uttered by Capt Miller (Hanks) are "Earn it!" rather than "Earn this!". (Obviously, I stand to be corrected if I've got that wrong.)
                      Excellent review, BTW (as your reviews tend to be); and my level of agreement would not be less than 90 percent on this one.
                      "England expects that every man will do his duty!" (English crew members had better get ready for a tough fight against the combined French and Spanish fleets because that's what England expects! However, Scotland, Wales and Ireland appear to expect nothing so the Scottish, Welsh and Irish crew members can relax below decks if they like!)

                      Comment


                      • Originally posted by panther3485 View Post
                        I haven't seen this movie for several years but if I remember correctly, the exact two words uttered by Capt Miller (Hanks) are "Earn it!" rather than "Earn this!". (Obviously, I stand to be corrected if I've got that wrong.)
                        Excellent review, BTW (as your reviews tend to be); and my level of agreement would not be less than 90 percent on this one.
                        As usual, we're both right! Miller follows "Earn this" with "Earn it". We'll have to wait to meet our maker to determine which quote was more important, I guess.

                        Comment


                        • Originally posted by warmoviebuff View Post
                          As usual, we're both right! Miller follows "Earn this" with "Earn it". We'll have to wait to meet our maker to determine which quote was more important, I guess.
                          Being too impatient to wait that long (at least, I hope it's a long time yet), I'm quite happy to let you decide right now.

                          Edit: Having said that, I do recall my English teacher, back when I was a kid, telling me that whatever a person hears last - especially if it's just before a significant event - is what sticks the most!
                          "England expects that every man will do his duty!" (English crew members had better get ready for a tough fight against the combined French and Spanish fleets because that's what England expects! However, Scotland, Wales and Ireland appear to expect nothing so the Scottish, Welsh and Irish crew members can relax below decks if they like!)

                          Comment


                          • Originally posted by panther3485 View Post
                            Being too impatient to wait that long (at least, I hope it's a long time yet), I'm quite happy to let you decide right now.

                            Edit: Having said that, I do recall my English teacher, back when I was a kid, telling me that whatever a person hears last - especially if it's just before a significant event - is what sticks the most!
                            But if it's someone saying in French "the blade was sticking but I've sorted it now" not for very long
                            Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
                            Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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                            • Henry_V_%E2%80%93_1944_UK_film_poster.jpg


                              6. Henry V (1944)

                              SYNOPSIS: "Henry V" is based on the Shakespeare play. It covers the political background to Henry's invasion of France, the siege of Harfleur, the Battle of Agincourt, and Henry's wooing of the French Princess Katherine.

                              BACK-STORY: "Henry V" is a masterpiece acted, directed, and produced by Laurence Olivier. His work was so amazing he was awarded an Academy Honor Award at the Oscars. It was nominated for Best Actor, Score, Art Direction, and Picture. (It lost to another war film - "The Best Years of Our Lives"). It was designed to be a morale booster for WWII Britain. Mission accomplished. It was specifically dedicated to England's commandoes and airborne troops. What better subject than the battle that is considered the greatest upset in military history? The story of a small, exhausted army defeating the cream of French knighthood certainly resonated with a Britain facing the supposedly all-powerful Wehrmacht. The movie was a box office success and inspired the British people to carry on. It was the most expensive British film up to that time. Wartime shortages impacted production. For example, shortages of metal led to the decision to make the chain-mail out of hand-knitted gray wool. Many of the extras were servicemen. The official title "The Chronicle History of King Henry the Fift with his Battell Fought at Agincourt in France by Will Shakespeare [sic]" is the longest title to be nominated for Best Picture.

                              TRIVIA:

                              1. The sets were inspired by the medieval Book of Hours.

                              2. It is considered the first Shakespeare movie that was critically and commercially successful.

                              3. The screenplay omitted the harsher aspects of Henry's personality (supposedly due to pressure from Churchill). The movie omits the beheading of the traitors, the threat to sack Harfleur, and the murdering of the prisoners in the Battle of Agincourt.

                              4. Olivier asked William Wyler, Carol Reed, and Ralph Richardson to direct, but they all told him that he was capable of doing it himself. He was only 36 years old at the time.

                              5. Olivier's wife Vivien Leigh really wanted to play Katherine, but David O. Selznick refused to let her out of her contract because he felt the role was too small for her. She never forgave him and never worked for him again. Renee Asherson was chosen because she was the same size as Leigh and thus the costumes could be used for her.

                              6. The model of London that opens the movie was 50' x 70'. It was made of plaster and took four months to construct.

                              7. It was filmed mostly in Ireland to be away from the war and because the Irish could provide the necessary extras.

                              8. There is only one line that is not from Shakespeare. Pistol at the end of the Boar's Head scene quotes Christopher Marlowe: "Farewell, farewell, divine Zenocrata".

                              9. Olivier did his own stunts and also instructed the extras on their stunts. This resulted in numerous injuries for him, including broken shoulders.

                              10. Olivier agreed not to appear in another movie for eighteen months in order to keep focus on the movie. He was rewarded with 15,000 pounds, tax-free.

                              11. The battle lasts ten minutes, but it took six weeks to film it.

                              Belle and Blade = N/A
                              Brassey's = 5.0
                              Video Hound = 5.0
                              War Movies = N/A
                              Military History = #75
                              Channel 4 = #36
                              Film Site = yes
                              101 War Movies = no
                              Rotten Tomatoes = #14

                              ACCURACY: The movie is very faithful to the play. Only one line is not from Shakespeare. The movie does not cover the whole play, by the way. It leaves out some material that tended to show Henry is less than a saintly light. For example, Olivier omits a scene where Henry hangs one of his old buddies for violating his ban on looting.

                              When examining "Henry V" for accuracy, let's look at whether Shakespeare got it right. The background to the invasion is accurate in its portrayal of Henry's motivation. Even the tennis ball incident apparently occurred. Shakespeare goes off the historical path a bit when the army reaches France. The audience is led to believe that "once more into the breach" resulted in the fall of Harfleur, when in actuality the next assault failed and the city gave up when word arrived that a relief army was not coming.

                              The Battle of Agincourt is significantly different than depicted. The play and movie make little reference to the really deplorable state of the British soldiers. They were suffering from dysentery (which we can be thankful is not graphically depicted) and exhaustion. The battle itself is fairly accurate in a simplistic way. The first attack was by cavalry, but the subsequent one was by knights wading through the mud on foot. There is not nearly enough mud in the movie! The melee aspect is realistic, but clearly there was no duel between Henry and the Constable (that is pure Hollywood). There was also no ambush of French cavalry in the woods by archers leaping from trees.

                              The French attack on the baggage train with its killing of the innocents was accurate (even though the movie falsely implies that the French leadership was behind the assault), but Henry's response was not. In fact, he did not respond by returning to the battle. Instead, he gave the infamous order to kill the French prisoners (who were being held for ransom) out of fear that they might rearm themselves and return to the fight. You can debate Henry's decision, but it is no surprise that Shakespeare (ever the patriot) and Olivier (making an inspirational movie) chose to omit this facet of the battle.

                              The aftermath of the battle is pretty spot on. Henry did marry Katherine and was promised the throne when the king died (which did not happen because the much younger Henry died first). I find it hard to believe the wooing scene actually happened, but it's a play.

                              OPINION: This is an amazing movie. Olivier does an amazing job - possibly the greatest all-around performance in movie history. He justly deserved the special Oscar. One wonders if the Academy felt guilty for choosing an inferior film ("The Best Years of Our Lives") for Best Picture (guess which one was a patriotic American film). He was already a renowned actor, but this was his first directing job. (He modestly looked for others to direct it until he was pursuaded he was the best man for the job.) His decision to start the movie in the Globe, then shift to sets, move on to the great outdoors for the battle, then back to sets, and end back at the theater , was nothing short of brilliant. The audience gets a taste of an Elizabethan play and the action of a movie. The use of The Book of Hours as the inspiration for the set designs is awesome. But the kicker is Olivier made a Shakespeare movie that audiences and critics liked. This was a first and is still a rare accomplishment.

                              The only flaws are some inaccuracies in the military aspects. However, Shakespeare did do research for his plays, so any discrepancies are for entertainment purposes or to advance the theme of the play. Olivier's decision to downplay the negative aspects of Henry's personality (he could be a jerk and ruthless) are understandable given the patriotic purpose of the film. If you want to see the warts, see Kenneth Branagh's 1988 version.

                              Another slight quibble is with the acting. Some of the actors chew the scenery a bit. I know this will be defended as realistic portrayals of Elizabethan acting, but it still comes off as over the top.

                              For those wanting consistent excitement, this movie is not your cup of tea. The first half hour is mostly expository. The Battle of Agincourt stands out as a shining diamond in the middle of the movie. Then the last part is a return to the more languid style of the first part. Blame Shakespeare for that, if you must. But just like Mel Gibson with "Braveheart", Olivier might have been wiser to end the movie after the big battle scene. Oh, and did I mention that it is not clearly a war movie. It is more accurately described as a Shakespeare play with a battle in the middle of it.

                              In conclusion, every cinephile should see this movie because it is a tour de force by a master movie maker. Every cinephile should see this movie and then Branagh's version to see how movie-making and film attitudes changed from 1944 to 1988. It makes for a perfect comparison because the source material is the same. Every literature lover should see it because it is arguably the best rendering of Shakespeare ever filmed. People who do not like to read books can see it and not have to read "Henry V" (warning to lazy British Literature students - it only covers about half the written play). However, as great as it is as a movie, it is not that great of a war movie. I find it greatly overrated on this list. And, by the way, the Branagh version is better.
                              Last edited by warmoviebuff; 18 Apr 19, 10:46.

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                              • GrandeIllusion.jpg


                                5. The Grand Illusion (1937)

                                SYNOPSIS: "La Grande Illusion" is a WWI prisoner of war movie. It is a French film. The main characters are a debonnair knight of the air (Jean Gabin) who comes from the lower class and an upper crust staff officer (Marcel Dalio). They are held in a prison camp with a heterogeneous group of comrades and then are transferred to a castle where the commandant (Erich Von Stroheim) is an aristocratic ex-ace who bonds with the kindred noble - the staff officer. The hunky French pilot escapes with a Jewish prisoner and hook up with a German widow.

                                BACK-STORY: "The Grand Illusion" is a film by the acclaimed French director Jean Renoir, son of the famous Impressionist painter. He wrote the screenplay along with Charles Spaak. Renoir was inspired by his own experiences as a reconnaissance pilot in WWI, but the film is far from autobiographical. Von Stroheim wore Renoir's uniform in the movie. The title of the film was influenced by the book "The Great Illusion" by British economist Norman Angell. Angell argued that war was useless because nations have common economic interests. Good call, Norm! The movie was famously banned in Italy and Germany. Goebbels even had Renoir labeled "Cinematic Enemy #1" and attempted to have all copies of the prints destroyed. Fortunately, a print was recovered by the U.S. Army (no, not by the Monuments Men) after the war and Renoir was able to accomplish a celebrated restoration.

                                TRIVIA: wikipedia, imdb, TCM

                                1. The title was a reference to a book called "The Great Illusion" by British journalist Norman Angelle. The theme of the book was that future wars would be idiotic because of the intermingling of international economies. Angelle won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1933.
                                2. The story originated with director Jean Renoir. He collaborated with Charles Spaak. They were sued for plagiarism by a WWI prisoner of war whose memoir had some similarities to the movie's script.
                                3. It was the first foreign language film to be nominated for Best Picture by the Academy Awards.
                                4. It was the first movie in the Criterion Collection.
                                5. FDR was given a private screening.
                                6. Renoir and Erich von Stroheim clashed a lot at the beginning. After the latest disagreement, Renoir broke into tears and then von Stroheim did too. They hugged and cooperated from then on.
                                7. Jean Gabin was France's greatest star for decades.

                                Belle and Blade = N/A
                                Brassey's = 5.0
                                Video Hound = 5.0
                                War Movies = 5.0
                                Military History = #7
                                Channel 4 = #61
                                Film Site = yes
                                101 War Movies = yes
                                Rotten Tomatoes = #2

                                HISTORICAL ACCURACY: The movie is not based on a true story, so historical accuracy is not a factor. I was very curious about the portrayal of the prison camps because they were so different than what we are used to seeing in WWII POW movies. It turns out that the relatively cushy life in the camps shown in the movie is fairly representative of reality. The Germans did establish camps for officers (Offizierlagers) in castles, hotels, etc. The officers got much better treatment than the enlisted. They had more space, better food, and did not have to work. They were allowed recreational activities like theatricals. In some camps they were even allowed to go on walks outside the camp if they swore on their honor not to escape! The Germans also had "reprisal camps" designed partly to punish escapees. It seems likely that Marechal and Boldieu would have ended up in one of these instead of in the castle. Rauffenstein is representative of the fact that commandants were sometimes disabled officers. The camp guards did have a reputation for being humane so "Arthur" is typical.

                                The diet of the prisoners was poor. Not surprising because due to the Allied blockade the German people were suffering from malnutrition, too. The prisoners did get to supplement their food with parcels from home, but it seems highly unlikely that Rosenthal's family could have sent enough parcels to allow the meals the crew routinely eats in the camp. Plus, the French prisoners were noted for receiving substantially less parcels than the British.

                                The reference to Fort Douaumont seems accurate. The fort did fall to the Germans in Feb., 1916 and then was recaptured by the French in Oct., 1916. The movie's time frame must be actually referring to the French recapturing part of the fort in May which they held only temporarily.

                                OPINION: "Le Grande Illusion" is famous for its themes. Renoir was aiming at class divisions. Specifically, the gulf between the upper and lower classes. Marechal, a mechanic before the war, and Boeldieu, a nobleman, represent the opposing classes. Surprisingly, Renoir does not show the conflict between the classes. These characters do not even have a rocky start before developing their friendship. Even Rauffenstein treats the lower-class inmates with respect, if disdain. Renoir does not make the case that the two social classes can not live together, unless he is contrasting the egalitarian prison camp to peacetime society. Boeldieu blends in easily with his prison mates and only rolls his eyes occasionally. The Boldieu character is the least stereotyped in the movie. Second least is Rauffenstein. Stroheim had a reputation for playing villains so you do not expect him to be so humane. Hell, he did not even mean to kill Boeldieu - he was aiming at his leg. He is more stiffly (literally) upper class than the Frenchman, but only slightly so. He has to work harder to tolerate the commoners, but he is not a pompous ass. The subtheme is that the upper class sticks together. Boeldieu and Rauffenstein feel a kinship that goes beyond national boundaries. Renoir is making the case that in the future there will hopefully be no national boundaries and no class distinctions. The movie makes this prediction.

                                The movie has the technical hallmarks of a masterpiece. The cinematography is not overblown, but shows the ability of a master. He tends toward long takes with few cuts. In other words, the opposite of a modern war movie. When we are introduced to the first group of prisoners, they share a meal (food was important to Renoir) as the camera moves around the table. There is a nice tracking shot during the theater rehearsal. The camera pans over items in Raffenstein's castle room to establish his Prussianness in the mise en scene. The dialogue is nothing special. You do not get the impression you are watching a play transferred to the cinema. The music did not make an impression on me other than to notice there were large stretches where there was no background music to set the mood of the scene.

                                The acting is a strength of the movie. The cast is appealing, which is not surprising since all the characters are appealing. Gabin has a lot of charisma - enough to get a German war widow (who he cannot communicate with) to fall in love with him in record time. Fresnay is not as wooden as Boeldieu could have (should have?) been. He does not twirl his mustache and his flute playing is transcendent. Stroheim is good in playing against his usual villainy. He had a lot of say in the character’s development. Dalio is fine as Rosenthal and does not ham up the Jewishness of the character. Rosenthal is an important cinematic figure given what was going on in Europe at the time.

                                In conclusion, when I first watched "Le Grande Illusion", I wondered what the big deal was. Then I watched the movie again with the commentary track by a cinema expert and I wonder less, but still I don't get what the big deal is. I understand what Renoir was trying to do, but I did not find it effective. It is not genius to point out there was a class problem in Europe. What is perplexing to me is why Renoir chose to make the upper-class characters likeable and why the two classes get along so well in movie. There is not a single negative character in this movie. There is zero dysfunction. How unrealistic! Speaking of lack of reality, I know the depiction of the camps was accurate in the basics, but to portray them as better than being home with the wife was implausible. I also found that the movie lacked suspense. They dig a tunnel and then don't get to use it! They escape from the castle and there are no shots fired and no pursuit! They hide out in a German farm house and no one comes banging on the door! I know it's not "that kind of movie", but that does not make it great entertainment (as many claim). I suppose you could argue that it is a great movie, but I do not think it is a great war movie. There is no way in Hell that it belongs in the top ten.

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