Tag Archives: World War II

Reach For The Sky

Directed by Lewis Gilbert
Produced by Daniel M. Angel
Written by Paul Brickhill, Lewis Gilbert & Vernon Harris
Starring Kenneth More
Muriel Pavlow
Lyndon Brook
Lee Patterson
Alexander Knox
Music by John Addison
Cinematography Jack Asher
Distributed by Rank
Release date United Kingdom 10 July 1956 (London)
United States 30 April 1957 (NYC)
Running time 136 Minutes

Reach For The Sky is the inspirational true story of Flight Commander Douglas Bader, who despite losing both his legs in a flying accident was able to become a hero of the Battle Of Britain, and then spent four years as a German prisoner of war.

Once upon a time this film, which was the most popular British film of 1956, would have always been shown on Australian TV. I remember seeing it many times on a Sunday afternoon, but it would be over 25 years since I can remember it last being on TV. (Perhaps ABC2 shows it nowadays late at night?!) Fortunately it has been recently released onto DVD by Magna Pacific, through their connection with Britain’s Granada International. It forms a part of their Silver Screen Collection, and is one part of a 3 DVD set, with The Heroes Of Telemark (starring Kirk Douglas and Richard Harris) and Malta Story.

I found rewatching Reach For The Sky to be a good experience. It is a very British film and I found Kenneth More’s portrayal of Bader to be a little clichéd, with all of the stiff upper lipped fighting spirit and courage that he showed. The crash that crippled Bader is well staged as are the WWII battle scenes, even if they do use some original and stock footage. Overall the film is a  very enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours.

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The Time Machine

Directed by George Pál
Produced by George Pál
Written by David Duncan
H. G. Wells (novel)
Starring
Rod Taylor
Alan Young
Yvette Mimieux
Sebastian Cabot
Whit Bissell
Music by Russell Garcia
Editing by George Tomasini
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date 17 August 1960
Running time 103 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

The Time Machine is a sci-fi film made in 1960 by George Pal and stars Robert Taylor. It roughly follows the plot of H.G. Wells’ novel from the late 19th century in which an inventor creates a time machine and goes into the future to discover that mankind has torn itself apart through war. It does of course deviate away from the novel as it features scenes of World War I, World War II and the possibility of nuclear annihilation, things that Wells could not have possibly predicted.

When Taylor’s character H. George Wells goes into the future (1966 to be exact) and discovers that the world has been destroyed in a nuclear holocaust, he then decides to go thousands of years into the future to see i anything could have survived this destruction. He discovers that the human race has split into two species, the surface dwelling Eloi who are beautiful and seemingly carefree and ignorant, and the underground Morlocks, who are ugly and beastly and cruel. The Eloi have everything that they need provided to them by the Morlocks, who breed them like cattle only to cannibalise on them once they reach an age of maturity.

George ends up saving the Eloi and destroying the Morlocks and in doing so falls in love with the beautiful Eloi girl Weena. He then goes back to his own time where he relates his tale but is not believed by his friends. Because of this he returns to the future at the conclusion of the film.

The film is a typical 1960s type sci-fi film, of which their were hundreds. It is a very good fantsy film but the special effects are not all that special by 21st century standards. The use of stop motion animation and time-lapse photography is very quant when compared to today’s CGI but it was state of the art for its time. All in all the film is quite enjoyable as there has been a lot of thought put into the plot and the feelings of Taylor’s character. While the acting is a bit over the top, which was standard for 1950s and 60s sci-fi I still liked the movie.

By the way you may recognise Alan Young who plays Wells’ friend Filby. You may even recognise the Scottish accent he uses throughout the film. At around the same time that the Time Machine was released he was appearing in the first season of TV’s Mr. Ed as Wilbur Post. Since the 1980s he has lent his voice and Scottish accent to Uncle Scrooge McDuck for Disney.


Battle of Britain

Directed by Guy Hamilton
Produced by Harry Saltzman & S. Benjamin Fisz
Written by James Kennaway,
Wilfred Greatorex
Starring Laurence Olivier
Hein Riess
Trevor Howard
Robert Shaw
Christopher Plummer
Michael Caine
Edward Fox
Susannah York
Ian McShane
Kenneth More
Ralph Richardson
Patrick Wymark
Michael Redgrave
Curt Jürgens
Nigel Patrick

Music by Ron Goodwin
William Walton
Cinematography Freddie Young
Editing by Bert Bates
Distributed by United Artists
Release date(s) 15 September 1969 (UK)
Running time 133 minutes
Country UK
Language English
German
Polish
French

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few“.

Battle Of Britain features an all-star cast of fine British actors BUT their performance is not the major attraction here. The real reason for watching this film is for the terrific special effects and the great scenes filled of Spitfires and Hurricanes taking on (a whole mess of) Messerschmitts in a huge battle royal over London. The actors really have very screen time anyway as we go from one action scene to another. The dog fights are all chaotically brilliant and gives the viewer the feeling that they are in the midst of battle. No wonder that these scenes have influenced most dog fight movies since. This is purely plane porn, while the actors are just props in between the action scenes.


You Nazty Spy!

Directed by Jules White
Produced by Jules White
Written by Felix Adler
Starring: Moe Howard
Larry Fine
Curly Howard

Richard Fiske
Lorna Gray
Dick Curtis
Don Beddoe
Florine Dickson
Little Billy
John Tyrrell
Bert Young
Joe Murphy
Eddie Laughton
Al Thompson
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s) January 19, 1940
Running time 17′ 59″
Country United States
Language English

Satire was never the Three Stooges forte, they were known more for their slapstick and poking each other in the eyes, yet their greatest film was a satirical look at World War II that was more biting than anything that Chaplin could do. In fact this film was released nine months before Chaplin’s The Great Dictator! Moe was the first ever actor to spoof Hitler.

This is a most unusual short when compared to the Stooges other films. I suppose that is because it is quite clever and not as one dimensional as their other movies. I suppose that they were more venomous and serious with their humour because of their Jewish heritage and to make a profound statement about the atrocities happening in Europe at the time.


Lifeboat

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Produced by Kenneth Macgowan
Written by Novella:John Steinbeck
Screenplay: Jo Swerling
Uncredited: Ben Hecht
Starring: Tallulah Bankhead
William Bendix
Walter Slezak
Mary Anderson
John Hodiak
Henry Hull
Heather Angel
Hume Cronyn
Canada Lee
Music by Hugo W. Friedhofer
Cinematography Glen MacWilliams
Editing by Dorothy Spencer
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date January 11, 1944
Running time 96 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Lifeboat is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s most interesting works. It could easily be dismissed as being anti-Nazi propaganda, but in my mind this is more than just an anti-German film. It was released during World War II and there are some scenes where Walter Slezak’s German U-Boat captain Willi comes across sympathetically, but by the film’s conclusion we are in no doubt that he is nothing but a heartless barbaric monster. Apparently Hitchcock had conflicting views on Germans during the war, as he loved German expressionist cinema, which is where he learnt his trade, but he hated the Nazis and their atrocities. Also Hitch’s Britain was at war with the Nazis, struggling to survive the German onslaught.

The film really has nothing to do with the war, except on the surface, and is best viewed as a character study of what lengths people will go to when put into a life or death situation. That Willi is such a villain is not really the point of the film, as we see that when the tables are turned, that good people who are not indoctrinated in Nazi fanaticism have the potential to become monsters too, if that is the only way for them to survive. When faced with death, or at the very best internment in a Nazi concentration camp until the end of the war, we see the characters emotions’ laid bare and how their actions change, depending on the hopelessness or otherwise of the situation until in the end, they commit an act of murder just the same as the ‘evil’ Nazi.

The film at times feels very claustrophobic, being as it is set for its entirety on a lifeboat. There are a few good performances from Tallulah Bankhead and especially Canada Lee as the only real voice of reason. Hitchcock also has a very memorable cameo, and he was nominated for an Academy Award for best director for this film.

* Purchase the Region 1 (North American) version of Lifeboat from Amazon *