Tag Archives: war

Paths of Glory

Paths of Glory (1957)
In the French army during World War I, in order to gain promotion, General Mireau orders an impossible attack against the Germans. When the attack fails, Mireau orders the court martial and execution of three men as an example to the rest of the men. Col. Dax (Kirk Douglas) is appalled and determined to give the men an honest defense, but the powers above have already decided the ending to this story. The greatest enemy isn’t always the men in the other trench, but your own officers. Directed by Stanley Kubrick.

Looking for more WWI films? Check out our list of recommended movies.

Army of Shadows = L’Armee des Ombres

Army of Shadows = L’Armee des Ombres (1969)
Produced in France in 1969, Director Jean-Pierre Melville’s film was not available in the U.S. until 2007. The “army of shadows” is a group of French Resistance fighters who must use their wits and courage to survive in the Vichy France as they spy on the Nazis and instigate acts of sabotage.

This is not your typical action-packed war drama; instead, Melville focuses on the fighters’ states of mind. In doing so, he captures the moral difficulties the Resistance encountered as they fight a brutal enemy and protect themselves and comrades whose arrests or mistakes placed them in danger.

In French with English subtitles.

For more on the film, visit the Criterion Collection website, plus Rotten Tomatoes and Roger Ebert.

Spotlight: Audie Murphy

Spotlight: Audie Murphy
As most of you know, Audie Murphy was America’s most decorated soldier of World War II. After the war, Murphy went to Hollywood and began a movie career under the tutelage of James Cagney. Most of the movies he made were westerns.

Indian Prairie has acquired the Audie Murphy Western Collection, which contains four films. Sierra (1950) is the first. Murphy’s inexperience as an actor shows in this, his second starring western. And his then wife, Wanda Hendrix, gives him no help due in part to her unusual voice. The film is nevertheless worthwhile because of the spectacular photography, the singing of Burl Ives (who sings a few very beautiful ballads and a very comical song for children), and the appearance in small roles of future superstar, Tony Curtis, and television’s most famous western marshal James Arness.

All four films include an introduction by Turner Classic Movies’ Ben Mankiewicz. The special features section of each film includes interesting facts. Also, Sierra includes a mini-biography of Murphy. One of the interesting stories about this film is a mock fast draw gunfight between Murphy and Curtis. If you watch the other films in this collection, you will note how much Murphy grew as an actor.

The other films in the collection are Drums Across the River (1954), Ride Clear of Diablo (1954), and Ride a Crooked Trail (1958). They are all solid westerns well worth watching.

In addition, Indian Prairie has three other Audie Murphy films: His autobiographical To Hell and Back (1955); Night Passage (1957), a film I previously reviewed; and No Name on the Bullet (1959). To Hell and Back was Universal Studios’ biggest box office hit ever, until it was eclipsed 20 years later by Jaws.

Audie Murphy was good actor, who, unlike most actors, was a genuine hero. He stood 5’5”, had a baby face, but with his genuine humility and his life experiences he brought something special to his films. A friend said at his funeral, “Like the man, the headstone is too small.” He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery and after John Kennedy, his grave is the most visited gravesite.

The Pacific

The Pacific (2010) TV-MA
This ten part HBO miniseries offers a realistic and horrifying view of World War II in the Pacific. The series is based on the memoirs of two marines who were there, Robert Leckie and Eugene Sledge, and the story of Congressional Medal of Honor winner Sgt. John Basilone. Some episodes are devoted almost entirely to specific battles: Guadalcanal, Peleliu, and Iwo Jima. Others show the marines on R&R in Australia, on medical leave, or in basic training.

The producers (who include Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg) purposely used relatively unknown actors so that the viewer wouldn’t be distracted by recognizing well-known stars showing up in cameos ala The Longest Day (1962).

Check out the books that served as inspiration:

Did you know? The 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into WWII is Wednesday, December 7.

Changi

Changi (2001)
This Australian miniseries follows the fortunes of six young Australian soldiers who are captured early in the war against the Japanese in WWII and spend over three years in the notorious Singapore POW camp Changi. Each of six episodes focuses on one of the men as 55 years later he prepares for one last meeting with his mates and, through flashbacks, remembers the time they were all together in the camp.

As the series progresses, your attachment to these irreverent and closely united men grows and the poignancy of seeing them both as cocky yet fearful young POWs and elderly men with their lives all behind them becomes almost too much.

The George Segal movie King Rat (1965) is also set at Changi.

Visit the official website for more information about the series and the Changi prison.

The Wind that Shakes the Barley

The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2006)
The film recounts the dramatic story of two brothers and their comrades who join the Irish freedom fighters struggle to win Ireland’s independence from Great Britain in the early 20th century. The British treaty with the Irish is a short-lived victory as the freedom fighters’ disagreement over the terms of the treaty splits the new found country into civil war. Nominated for several British Independent Film Awards, the film provides an understanding view of what drove some Irish to continue the fight as members of the IRA.

Mother of Mine

Mother of Mine (2005)
This Finnish/Swedish film directed by Klaus Härö received good reviews from the Finnish press and several awards internationally.

Mother of Mine is based on a novel by Heikki Hietamies. During the Winter War (which began with a Soviet offensive on November 30, 1939 — three months after the start of World War II) Eero, like many Finnish children, is sent to Sweden as a refugee. He is forever conflicted because he feels his own mother abandoned him and his adoptive mother has a hard time accepting him.

Paradise Road

Paradise Road (1997) R
After Pearl Harbor, European and American women and children try to escape ahead of the invading Japanese. When their evacuation ship is sunk, the women make their way to the coast of Sumatra where they are captured and imprisoned by the Japanese. Two women with musical training (Glenn Close and Pauline Collins) start a voice orchestra and involve other prisoners (including Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Ehle, and Julianna Margulies) in their plan. The prisoners, including Dutch, English, Australian, and American women, squabble but also make friendships across cultural and class lines.

This is a moving film and sometimes hard to watch as many characters we have come to know take the final trip down “Paradise Road,” the name the women have given to death. And the voice orchestra really did exist (check out Song of Survival by Helen Colijn).

The Americanization of Emily

The Americanization of Emily (1964)
Set during World War II in London, Julie Andrews is a war widow. James Garner is the personal assistant to an American admiral played by Melvyn Douglas. His plan is to stay alive. Hers is to get by without getting attached to anyone again. When the two start a relationship, will her ideals come in conflict with his cynicism? This is a thought-provoking movie, surprisingly realistic about relationships between men and women.

Check out the original New York Times review.

Glory

Glory (1989) R
This is a Civil War film, the story of the first and only black regiment, the 54th Massachusetts Cavalry, to actively participate in the bloody business of war. A young white officer from a wealthy Boston family (Matthew Broderick) takes on the grueling job of getting these men ready for battle. He is tough, untried, but idealistically driven to turn these men into soldiers and he does.

This is the heart of the story, watching the unit grow from roughshod to ready, forming bonds of friendship that reveal their own inner problems. The common desire to engage the enemy, thereby breaking down a unique military prejudice, is another absorbing part of the story.

The cast and characters grab your heart and keep it until the final second. A must see.

Also starring Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman. Check out reviews at Rotten Tomatoes.