25 May 2009

A Dozen More Great World War II Films and Two From Television


Last summer I wrote a post that I called A Mere 25 Great World War II Films. Given that I called the inclusion of 25 films "mere" the question is, can I add to it? The answer is, of course.

Here are 12 more films centered around the second world war and two contributions from television, one a mini series and the other a British telly program. It's not the least surprising that a world war would generate so much powerful cinema. From a war comes action, adventure, drama, tragedy and deeply human stories about how people respond to the very very unusual. For more thoughts on this see my preceding post.

These are offered in no particular order.

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). Okay that's weird, we're starting with a movie set after the war. But it certainly qualifies for this list in my book as it details the effect of war on three vets returning home and to a lesser extent on those they return to. It won a passel of awards at the Oscars including best picture and deserved every last one of them. Dana Andrews, Harold Russell and Fredric March were all brilliant as the three vets.

The Dirty Dozen (1967). Is this a rollicking good war fantasy about a rag tag group of army cons who go on a suicide mission? In a way. But it's also a powerful anti establishment film. It's got a dream cast led by Lee Marvin and including Donald Sutherland, Charles Bronson, Jim Brown and a creepy John Cassavetes. Works on many levels, particularly at action and at sticking it to the man.

Battleground (1949). Wrote about this yesterday. Love this William Wellman directed film about the Battle of the Bulge. Van Johnson on stars. Black and white realism.

Two Women (1960). Yes, women got caught up in war. And how! Sophia Loren stars as one of the women and her character's daughter is the other. What they go throw...oy vey. Vittoria De Sicca directed this story set in war ravaged Italy.

Hell is For Heroes (1962). A recent and long overdue discovery for me that I blogged about recently. How can you resist a movie with Steve McQueen, Fess Parker, Bobby Darrin and Bob Newhart? An eclectic cast and strong film about a platoon that must hold that line until re-enforcements come.

In Which We Serve (1942). It's about a British ship and the men who serve on it. I posted about it last Fall after seeing it for the first time. Noel Coward of all people stars and he co-directed with David lean. The story is told in flashbacks as the ship sinks. Surprisingly realistic.

The Winter War (1989). The war my father bravely fought in for Finland as they held off the Russian bear for longer than anyone would have thought possible. This is a great study of men at war. Coming out of Finland it's not been seen by enough people. Available on DVD.

Destination Tokyo (1943). Yet another film I've already blogged about. Cary Grant as a sub commander on a mission from San Francisco into Tokyo Bay. Can't go wrong. Like many war movies its an excellent buddy film. Made during the war and I'm sure it helped rally folks to the cause -- as if they needed it.

The Americanization of Emily (1964). What have we here? Another film I've blogged about, wow. This is a decidedly different film bearing as it does a powerful anti war message. Seems like a Seventies film but no, some how this came out in 1964. An all time favorite of mine. Great screenplay by the legendary Paddy Chayefsky. James Garner, and Julie Andrews star and yes there's a love story mixed in as well.

Stalingrad (1993). Oh my. This film is not exactly a pick-me-up. Then again you can't exactly make a film about the Battle of Stalingrad that'll leave em laughing. A German made film and those people knew a thing or two about how bleak and murderous that battle was.

A Walk in the Sun (1945). Another vehicle for Dana Andrews who had a worldly all American quality suited to the WWII genre. This time he's in the thick of it in Italy. Long marches, lot of talking among the men, with occasional interruptions by enemy fire.

Heaven Knows Mrs. Allison (1957). How's this, Robert Mitchum and Deborah Kerr star and John Huston directed? Can't go wrong. Our stars are a nun and a marine (guess which is which) stranded on a Pacific Island during the war. For company there areenemy soldiers around. Will they find illicit love? Will they survive? It's worth watching this thoroughly entertaining film to find out.

And from TV:
Band of Brothers (2001). The seminal mini series from Steven Spielberg that HBO featured over several months follows the fortunes of the 101st airborne. We follow from them basic training through D-Day, the bBattle of the Bulge and the liberation of Germany. Realistic, character driven, everything a war film should be, entertaining and illuminating. Good history.

Foyle's War (2002-2008). If you like detective shows and you're interested in world War II have I got a show for you. In star Michale Kitchen you've got the ideal lead. He plays Foyle, a cop in wartime England solving murders, most related one way or the other to the war. Many story lines were based on actual events or conditions. Riveting, entertaining. Highly, highly recommended.

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