D.W. GRIFFITH’S ‘THE BIRTH OF A NATION.’ (1915) ‘THE MOST RACIST FILM OF ALL TIME’ REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

birth elsie captive

THE BIRTH OF A NATION. (1915) DIRECTED BY D.W. GRIFFITH. BASED ON THE WRITINGS OF THOMAS DIXON JR. STARRING LILLIAN GISH, HENRY WALTHALL, MIRIAM COOPER, MAE MARSH, RALPH LEWIS, GEORGE SIEGMANN, WALTER LONG, JOSEPH HENABERY AND RAOUL WALSH.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I’d heard before I ever watched this film that it was possibly the most racist movie ever made, in its depiction of African-American people in America in the time of their Civil War. Having watched the film, I can definitely concur, lol.

Do you know what it reminds me of? A couple of summers ago, I watched a German anti-Semitic movie from the 1940s called JŰD SUSS, in which Jewish people were represented as scruffy bearded moneylenders with big hooked noses, sly dispositions and an insatiable greed for money.

THE BIRTH OF A NATION does pretty much the same to black people, and it glorifies that most racist of organisations, the Ku Klux Klan, an organisation that was birthed during this period right along with the titular nation.

There are even written disclaimers before the movie comes on that basically say, Oh, we’re not being racist or offensive to any one race, we’re just telling it like it happened back then. It’s the truth, so y’all can’t have a go at us for telling the truth. Humph.

Well, the film-makers can’t prevent us viewers who are living in these thankfully more enlightened times for having our own opinions either, so there. If we want to consider THE BIRTH OF A NATION the most racist thing before that wall to keep out ‘dem pesky Mexicans’ that Donald Trump promised to build during his election campaign, then we can. Can I get a ‘Harrumph…?’

The plot is so similar to that of GONE WITH THE WIND (1939), that other huge sweeping Civil War drama (from which I derived literally everything I know about the ‘Murican Civil War, lol), that it seems likely that Margaret Mitchell got at least some of her ideas about writing a Civil War epic from watching THE BIRTH OF A NATION.

GONE WITH THE WIND is a much glossier chocolate-boxy production, however, with the racism milder and more tastefully presented. It is the big stunning Hollywood depiction of the famous War, after all.

THE BIRTH OF A NATION, while beautifully shot and exquisitely presented, is much more warts-and-all in its depiction of the racism, or should I say the shockingly bad and thoroughly unsporting behaviour of the freed black slaves after the Civil War ended. Tut tut…

There’s only one use of the controversial ‘n’ word in the film, and that’s used by a black ‘Mammy’ to another black servant of whom she disapproves. The word ‘Aryan,’ which I thought had been coined by Hitler and which I didn’t realise was in use as far back as 1915, is used once, and in the exact context in which Hitler would have used it too.

There are two wealthy, privileged families, the Camerons and the Stonemans, in the film. Before the Civil War starts, the two families are the best of friends and travel back-and-forth frequently to visit each other.

Once the War begins, however, they find themselves on opposing sides. The Camerons are as ‘Southern’ as it gets, their whole demeanour and appearance simply screaming mint juleps on the lawn and pistols-at-dawn to get ‘satisfaction’ for a real or imagined slight. The Stonemans are on the side of the North.

The Cameron parents send out three sons out to fight for the glorious Cause. I think they thought it’d all be over by Christmas. I genuinely don’t think they expected to lose that war or that only one of their three sons would ever come home. Talk about a wake-up call.

The son that survives the war is Colonel Ben Cameron, known affectionately as ‘the Little Colonel.’ He’s been in love with Stoneman’s beautiful ringleted daughter Elsie since he first saw her portrait as a particularly charming miniature.

When she finally meets him after he’s been injured in the fighting, it’s love at first sight for her too. Which is awkward, as the several years of Reconstruction that happen after the war ends won’t really see any major reconciliation between the defeated South and the victorious North. Their families are basically still enemies, in other words. Capulets and Montagues, with the pair of star-crossed lovers in the middle.

Halfway through the movie, which by the way clocks in at a whopping three-and-a-quarter-hours long, a certain assassination of major historical importance takes place in a theatre, of all places.

It’s only when this happens that the film’s infamous racism starts kicking in. Prior to this, it was mainly a film about the Civil War, with some really well-done scenes of battle and fighting which are pretty much incredible for the time.

But once the man known as ‘the South’s best friend’ is out of the picture, the American political scene descends into a sort of chaotic free-for-all. The Southerners are deeply, deeply chagrined when the ‘Negroes’ or ‘darkies’ are given the vote and are encouraged to use it to vote the South’s ‘oppressors’ into power. Well, you just try resisting the tempting promise of ‘forty acres and a mule,’ lol.

What seems to be portrayed in the film is a sort of reverse racism perpetrated against the white people by the black people. White people are disenfranchised, shoved off the pavement, chained up and ridiculed by the newly-freed ‘blacks,’ who are shown to be at least as eager for revenge against their former masters as they are to have the right to vote conferred on them.

We see faithful black servants, who still want to remain with and serve the families who previously ‘owned’ them, being rounded up and monstrously ill-treated by the freed ‘blacks’ for not being loyal to the new order.

They’re not allowed the freedom of choice about what they want to do next, they’re just castigated roundly for wanting to stay with their white ‘families.’ Well, striking out on your own can be scary. Maybe they feel safer where they are, especially the older people.

Ben Cameron, the one remaining son of the Camerons and the chap that’s in love with his enemy’s daughter Elsie, gets the bright idea of forming the Ku Klux Klan after seeing some local kids messing about with some bed-sheets. This is the organisation that means to put those uppity ‘blacks’ and ‘carpetbaggers’ firmly back in their place. 

Pretty soon the local black population of Piedmont- that’s where they all live- is being terrorised by white-hooded riders too cowardly to show their faces or take direct ownership of their actions.

The most haunting and chilling scenes in the film are similar to those in GONE WITH THE WIND when Scarlett O’Hara, now married to a big girl’s blouse called Frank Kennedy whose lumber business she’s taken over for her own, drives her carriage through the ‘Shanty-Town’ occupied by freed black people, who are portrayed as reprehensible ne’er-do-wells in the film. She does this against the advice of the people around her. Who cares about any possible danger, she clearly thinks to herself, when I’ve got lumber to sell…?

Scarlett may not care a snap of the fingers for her own honour, but there are certain men in her life who do, very much so, in fact. After Scarlett is attacked by one of the black inhabitants of this Shanty-Town, a posse of able-bodied men is speedily gotten up and they go out to the Shanty-Town to clean up the cesspit it’s apparently become. One of these men never comes home at all, and another one nearly doesn’t make it back in one piece…

In THE BIRTH OF A NATION, the youngest sister of Colonel Ben Cameron, he of the Ku Klux Klan, wanders off alone to play by the Spring when she’s been expressly ordered to stay away from there, presumably because it’s dangerous in its isolation from the rest of the town.

There, Flora the sister is pursued by a black man called Gus, who’s already been presented as evil to the viewer, who has ‘ideas above his station’ now. Because black people are now allowed to ‘inter-marry’ with white people, Gus has the idea that the pretty little ringleted Flora is up for grabs. Flora is petrified and runs for her life through the woods…

I won’t tell you how this episode ends for Flora, or for Gus, but if the word ‘lynching’ were to spring unbidden into your mind, well, you wouldn’t be too far off the mark. These are some very chilling and unforgettable scenes.

The period costumes in THE BIRTH OF A NATION are absolutely stunning, especially the women’s dresses, hats and parasols. Even their hair, of which they have masses and masses, is beautifully dressed. Even though the film is black-and-white, you can tell that the costumes are even more detailed and glamorously gorgeous than their Technicolor counterparts in GONE WITH THE WIND.

A couple of miscellaneous items now for y’all to peruse. Not all the black characters in the film are played by black actors and actresses. Rather, they are played by white people gotten up in ‘blackface,’ with the big white lips and everything, a process used back then which would be completely unacceptable today. Apparently, D.W. Griffith had his own reasons for so doing…

Finally, here’s a snippet you don’t get from the film. I learned from the booklet that comes with the film that D.W. Griffith’s earliest memory is of seeing his father ‘jokingly’ threaten an elderly black servant- who’d once been his slave- with a sword, and over a too-tight haircut, of all things. Hmmm. It might all have been a big hilarious jape to Paw Griffith, but I doubt if the old black man who thought he was about to breathe his last was wetting his britches with laughter.

The ending of THE BIRTH OF A NATION is undoubtedly ridiculously racist, and the sudden unexplained appearance of Jesus Christ is like something that Hitler’s Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels might have dreamed up for one of his little anti-Semitic newsreels. If you have to blink and rub your eyes and look again, don’t worry too much about it. I did too…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

 

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1945: IN CINEMAS NOW. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

jews

1945. (2017) DIRECTED BY FERENC TOROK. ADAPTED FROM THE SHORT STORY ‘THE HOMECOMING’ BY CO-SCREENWRITER GABOR T. SZANTO.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

I saw this one in the cinema today and I loved, loved, loved it. Those of you who know me well know that I love a good black-and-white subtitled Czech or Hungarian movie from any era, modern or vintage, and if it’s a good miserable watch as well, so much the better, lol.

Now that probably makes me sound like I revel in other peoples’ misery and wallow in it the way a piggy-wig rolls in muck but I can assure you that that’s not the case. I just can’t seem to get to grips with comedy. I genuinely prefer to have my heart-strings tugged than my funny-bone tickled.

There’s not much to laugh at here but this is the best new film I’ve seen all year, seeing as THE MEG and JURASSIC WORLD 2: FALLEN KINGDOM weren’t as brilliant as I was expecting them to be…! Ah well. Often, when you watch something for the second time you actually like it better so we’ll see what happens with these two summer blockbusters in the future.

1945 is the story of one day in the life of a small rural village in Soviet-occupied Hungary, namely the twelfth of August, 1945. The war’s been over for several months and Hitler’s been dead since the end of April, unless you’re one of the people who think he survived the bunker and the Fall Of Berlin and went off to live happily in Antarctica till he was an old man…!

The years following the end of the war must have been hugely disruptive and sort of transitional as well, as half of Europe seemed to be on the move. There were millions of displaced persons wandering around the place, as soldiers, partisans, prisoners-of-war and inmates of concentration camps were all trying to get home to their own countries, never mind their own homes.

I remember the writer Primo Levi, an Italian Jew who was sent to Auschwitz by the Nazi regime, saying in his co-joined books IF THIS IS A MAN and THE TRUCE that it took him about a full year to get back to his home in Italy from Auschwitz on foot, while having many adventures and meeting many extraordinary people en route.

If I remember correctly as well, he was one of the lucky ones who arrived home to find some semblance of a house and family still remaining. It was sadly very different for many other Jewish people, who arrived home to find complete strangers living in their houses and running their businesses. I don’t know how many Jews managed to grab back their own land and/or property but I do know that many never did.

In 1945, the town clerk, a fat bald cigar-chomping busy man who’s seemingly the tiny town’s most prominent citizen, is preparing for the wedding later that day of his son.

He’s- Pops, that is- rushing around playing the big ‘I am’ with the local peasants, accepting drinks and distributing largesse and congenial greetings to everyone he meets. He’s the town bigwig and this wedding is presumably going to be the best he can afford for his boy.

Pops’s wife is depressed and deeply unhappy with the upcoming nuptials. She thinks the bride-to-be, Roszi, is a gold-digger who just wants to get her sweaty mitts on the son’s shiny new drugstore, of which she’ll become the proprietress after today.

Well, I don’t know if that bit’s true or not but I can tell you that she’s right to be suspicious of Roszi because Roszi, excuse my French, is a dirty trollop who’s having a sexual affair with the town’s hottest guy, Jancsi. Well. The dirty strumpet. Humph! So maybe a happy ending is never really on the cards for Roszi and Arpi, her intended groom. We’ll have to see.

Besides the wedding, the big news of the day is that two Orthodox Jewish men, father and son perhaps, have landed at the town’s train station and they’re making their way slowly into town, walking behind the horse and cart that’s carrying their two big trunks.

The news of these two men, one old and bearded and the other young, dark and clean-shaven, has struck terror into the hearts of the townspeople, who are quickly made aware by the railway stationmaster that the two Jews are making their way into town slowly but steadily. Why should the villagers be this frightened?

Well, let me explain a bit of the back-story. Hungary was practically swept clean of its Jewish population by the Nazis in World War Two. I think about 400,000 Hungarian Jews were deported to ‘camps in the East’ which, of course, was merely Nazi-speak for concentration camps in Germany or Poland, many of which were not only places of detention but death camps as well.

And what happened to the houses, businesses, furniture, clothing, even the domestic pets and children’s toys that they had to leave behind? Often, they had very little advance warning that they were going to be getting on the deportation trains, so the stuff they were forced to leave behind far outweighed the meagre possessions they were able to take with them.

Well anyway, in many cases their non-Jewish neighbours, the ones who were not deported by the Nazis because they weren’t Jewish, simply helped themselves to the vacant houses, apartments or businesses. In some cases they were able to procure documents to say that they’d acquired the properties legally but morally, they were no more entitled to them than you or me would be today.

In the film, half the village is terrified by the impending arrival of the two Jews because some of them- the villagers- are living comfortably in the Jews’ old houses, using their cookware and sitting around on their furniture.

The drugstore supposedly ‘owned’ by groom-to-be Arpi, son of the town clerk, is the property of one such ‘disappeared’ Jew, a family man by the name of Pollack, whose dusty old family photo album is still in the shop somewhere.

I’ll tell you this one thing I’ve picked up in my researches. If you didn’t much care for a particular Jewish person back then or if you took a liking to his fancy apartment or his thriving business, you could report him to the Nazis and, when the Nazis inevitably deported the Jewish person and often his whole entire family with him, it was very likely that you could get to keep his apartment or his business for yourself. Greed was a big factor in many of these ‘reportings.’

This is exactly what’s happened here in the case of the Pollack family. Half the village has seemingly put their names to a signed paper of accusation that saw the family being deported and maybe murdered as well.

Now they’re scared shitless- excuse my French again- that the two Jewish men who are walking towards the town are representatives or relatives of the Pollacks, come to see their rightful property returned to them. Their rightful property which the townspeople seem to have divvied up quite neatly between them…

Cracks are appearing in various relationships in the town as husband accuses wife and wife accuses husband of having been greedy enough to send the Pollacks to their death and take their property for themselves. Some people are actually rushing around madly hiding bits of crockery and shit. It’s disgusting to witness, such petty, petty thievery.

Some of the villagers are desperate to hold onto what they mistakenly tell themselves is ‘theirs’ now, whereas others, to give them their due, are crippled with the guilt of what they’ve done and they simply can’t live with themselves any longer.

In the meantime, the two silent, solemn-faced Jews are making their way steadily towards the town from the train station and the fact remains that the worried villagers don’t actually know for a fact what these two men want.

What will happen when they find out for sure? The ending is visually stunning and the film itself is well worth seeing. Just don’t expect any laughs, lol. I certainly didn’t expect any and I was more than satisfied.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

CHURCHILL. (2017) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

winnie speech

CHURCHILL. (2017) DIRECTED BY JONATHAN TEPLITZKY. STARRING BRIAN COX AND MIRANDA RICHARDSON.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

CHURCHILL (2017) and DARKEST HOUR (2017), which I reviewed recently as well, are actually quite similar to each other. They each tell the story of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill as he prepares to face one of the two most troubling and problematic- yet ultimately victorious- events of World War Two.

DARKEST HOUR shows us Winnie, whom some people still regard as the greatest Briton who ever lived, fretting himself half to death over the monumental event that became known as Dunkirk, when thousands of British soldiers were rescued from the French coast by English vessels, many of them civilian crafts, getting them out just before the Germans were able to swoop in and cause a massacre.

Though the whole operation must have been rendered necessary by a mistake or failure on the part of the Allies- why else would so many Allied soldiers have been so nearly turned into sitting ducks for the Nazi forces in that one handy area of France? I’ll probably be reviled for pointing this out but one can’t help wondering why it was ever allowed to occur in the first place!- Dunkirk made heroes out of many hundreds of ordinary courageous British civilians, and rightly so. See, I’ve finished that point on a high note. Call off your (bull?)dogs, lol.

CHURCHILL sees Winnie, Field Marshal Montgomery (Monty) in his trademark little beret and duffel coat, and the American General Dwight ‘Ike’ Eisenhower preparing for the momentous event that they termed OPERATION OVERLORD.

It became known as D-Day or the Normandy Landings and it involved thousands of American and British soldiers, in the biggest land-sea-air operation of the entire war, landing in France with their tanks and guns, all fired up for the liberation of France from the Germans.

OPERATION OVERLORD managed to bring about the very turning point in the war it was hoping to achieve, although the three lads, Winnie, Monty and Ike, were terribly afraid that it mightn’t work. The weather was a crucial factor in whether or not the gambit would succeed.

After much faffing about and discussion of meteorological charts, it was decided to make a run for it, as it were, during a break in the stormy weather and, mercifully, it worked. God and Mother Nature were clearly both on the side of good that on that fateful day, June the 6th, 1944.

Germany, of course, would not capitulate until the 8th of May, 1945, about a week after the suicide of Adolf Hitler, so there was still nearly a full year of the war left to run.

This was bad news for the millions of prisoners-of-war, political prisoners, Jews, Roma gypsies, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses and so-called ‘enemies of the Reich’ who still languished in concentration camps across Germany and Poland, in appalling conditions and with almost no hope of a return to normal life.

Still, D-Day probably marked the official beginning of the end for Hitler and his short-lived Third Reich. They managed to do an awful lot of damage though, didn’t they, in the twelve short years they were in power? Books are still being written about that period and films like this one have never been more popular. We’ve had about three of them- these two, and DUNKIRK- out in the last year or two. Not bad going for twelve short years…

Anyway, Winnie is openly critical in CHURCHILL of OPERATION OVERLORD. He thinks that the soldiers will be massacred as they land in France. He’s thinking very much of Gallipoli, in the First World War, for the failure of which he himself was blamed. It’s clear that he’s agonised over this failure every day of his life since and he still can see the blood mixing with the foam of the waves and hear the anguished cries of dying men.

I’ve always found the whole Gallipoli thing to be hard to understand but here’s what happened, to the best of my limited knowledge. Winnie was the First Lord Of The Admiralty back then. Hoping to knock Turkey, Germany’s ally, out of the war for good, he and his colleagues arranged for a humongous amphibious Allied Landing- oh, one of those, lol!- on the Gallipoli peninsula, which was part of Turkey.

As far as I can make out, it was a massacre as the Turks were much better prepared for this Landing than the Allies knew of. As well as British and French casualties, so many Australians died during this campaign/battle that the Australians’ commemoration of Gallipoli on the 25th of April, known as ANZAC Day, is the biggest date in the calendar every year.

Winston Churchill resigned from the Admiralty as a result of the Gallipoli disaster and, even though he obviously went on to become the British Prime Minister in later years, he was always understandably sensitive from then on to the notion of ‘amphibious landings’ of huge amounts of Allied soldiers on foreign war-torn shores.

Winnie comes up against Field Marshal Montgomery and General Eisenhower, the actual Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe who later became the American President, on the subject of the D-Day Landings. He thinks that the whole thing is sheer bloody madness and nothing more than an invitation to a mass slaughter.

Monty and Ike, however, maintain that this Landing has been planned for weeks now, it’s the right thing to do and, furthermore, they’re not going to let an old duffer like Winnie put a spoke in the wheel at this late stage.

Luckily for them, it does turn out to be the right thing to do but it’s a bitter pill for Winnie to have to swallow, especially when these top Army lads make out that he’s an anachronism left over from the First World War, as out-of-date as a piece of period furniture or something.

In CHURCHILL, he and the then King, George the 6th who is the father of the present-day Queen Elizabeth (in 1944, ‘Lillibet’ was just eighteen years old), bemoan together the face that they have to sit quietly at home, like a pair of superannuated geriatrics, waiting to hear the results of OPERATION OVERLORD from other people.

They’re too old, for one thing and, for another, as the Prime Minister and King of England respectively, they owe it to the people of England to keep themselves safe and not to get their heads blown off in a battle somewhere across the Channel as they’ve actually been thinking of doing. I can understand that they both feel useless but with great power comes great responsibility. Tough titty, in other words, lol.

Miranda Richardson plays Clementine Churchill here. She has two modes: she’s either shaking her head fondly at Winnie’s naughtiness and eccentricity and stubborness or being terribly passive-aggressive about the fact that he has hardly any time for her now that he has the troubles of the whole world on his shoulders.

Well, she should probably have expected that when she married him. Statesmen and kings and Prime Ministers have to do the job they signed up for or else they’ll be letting their people down. It’s hard on the wives and families but I’m sure that there are a lot of material compensations to make up for it, and I bet they wouldn’t volunteer to give these up either, lol.

Both films, DARKEST HOUR and CHURCHILL, see Winnie fighting his war with the brilliant, impassioned speeches that are still quoted to this day. I don’t like, however, that both films try to get humour out of an old man’s eccentricities and his physically ageing body in his nightshirt and bare feet.

DARKEST HOUR was particularly guilty of this, showing Winnie’s bare legs as he hopped nekkid out of the bath and ran across the landing in the nip while his young female secretary hovered, mortified.

I’m surprised they didn’t go the whole hog and show him clipping his horny old toenails and breaking wind in the jacks as well. Or maybe they’re planning on putting these scenes into the next big film on Churchill. Leave the guy some dignity, for Chrissakes.

I’ll be eternally grateful to both films, however, for teaching me the difference between Dunkirk and D-Day, two things I’d mixed up for literally years. In the first scenario, Allied soldiers were rescued from the coast of France and in the second, Allied soldiers were transported to the coast of France in order to carry out the liberation of this country. And I’m sure those snooty French peeps were eternally grateful, lol, and lived happily ever after and never ever looked down their noses on the rest of the world again…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

SIR ALEC GUINNESS IN ‘HITLER: THE LAST TEN DAYS.’ (1973) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

hitler the last ten days

HITLER: THE LAST TEN DAYS. (1973) DIRECTED/SCREENPLAY BY ENNIO DE CONCINI. STARRING SIR ALEC GUINNESS, SIMON WARD, JOHN BENNETT, BARBARA JEFFORD, JULIAN GLOVER, MARK KINGSTON, JAMES COSSINS, JOSS ACKLAND, DIANE CILENTO, ANGELA PLEASENCE, ANDREW SACHS AND DORIS KUNSTMANN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘The heart of Germany has ceased to beat. The Fuhrer is dead.’

Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister For Propaganda.

While Bruno Ganz in DOWNFALL (2004) is my favourite screen Hitler of all time, Sir Alec Guinness (BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS) is utterly magnificent here as the funny little man with the toothbrush moustache who reduced his country- Germany- and capital city of Berlin to ruins and rubble after one of the worst wars the world has ever known.

Seen through the eyes of a young adjutant who brings Hitler rare good military news in the bunker and has the dubious pleasure of being invited to stay till the end, it’s the story of Hitler’s last days in the underground bunker of reinforced concrete in the grounds of the Reich Chancellery.

Sir Alec is marvellously made up to resemble the Fuhrer. It’s eerie how much he looks like him. He’s got the mannerisms down to a T as well and the pomposity that Hitler displayed when treating the bunker inmates to one of his interminable monologues. It’s so funny the way they all had to stand around smiling politely and pretending to be interested in every word that fell from their Fuhrer’s lips.

Towards the end, we know from history that Hitler gave up discussing the war he knew to be lost, and instead rambled on endlessly about the care and training of dogs, his favourite subject, and the evils of smoking, another of his favourite soapbox topics.

Eva Braun, his mistress, had to have a sneaky fag on the sly in order not to upset the Fuhrer, and then stuff her face with mint leaves to get rid of the smell. As if the smell of mint wouldn’t arouse as much suspicion, lol. Smokers never learn.

Doris Kunstmann does an excellent job as Eva Braun, Hitler’s mistress for fifteen or so years whom he only married on the last day of his life. She was careful to always epitomise Hitler’s ideal notion of German womanhood, ‘charmingly feminine’ in traditional German dress with nothing in her pretty little empty head but thoughts of nail polish and dressing up.

In the bunker, as in the film, Eva has little enough to do but change her hair and outfit every five minutes. She’s Hitler’s Little Helpmeet, always there to soothe his worried brow or massage the weight off his troubled shoulders. What does she get from him in return?

Precious little, as far as one can see. He doesn’t give her his name until the day before they both die, and she was looked down on and denigrated much of the time. It must have hurt like hell when Magda Goebbels got to act as Chief Woman In Hitler’s Life on important occasions while Eva Braun was tucked away upstairs like an embarrassment.

Speaking of Magda Goebbels, the chap playing her husband Joseph looks uncannily like Hitler’s rather sinister, club-footed Minister for Propaganda. He was basically Waylon Smithers (THE SIMPSONS) to Hitler’s Mr. Burns, toadying for the older man, laughing at all his little jokes and being the yes-man that was the only kind of companion Hitler could tolerate.

The film is pretty much accurate in the way it portrays the last days of the Third Reich as seen from the bunker. The daily military briefings continued more or less right to the end, with Hitler screaming blue murder from behind his desk at his Generals when they failed to deliver the miracles he wanted. Which, towards the end of the war, was frequently.

It’s almost like watching a madman at work when he tries to move his various armies around the map from point A to point B, with never a thought for the fact that these armies were already mostly decimated by the Russian and American armies who by then were encircling Berlin like a crowd of hipsters round a coffee-stall at a craft fair.

The campaign was over, the war was lost but Hitler still pored over his military maps, when he wasn’t off in his wonderfully satisfying daydreams of turning the Austrian city of Linz into the cultural capital of the world once the war was over. It was all pie-in-the-sky, like so many of Hitler’s promises, ambitions and dreams. He had pretty much lost touch with reality by this stage.

Angela Pleasence, Donald’s daughter, has a cameo here as a member of the Hitler Youth who comes to the bunker while the whole of Berlin is under fire, including the Reich Chancellery. She’s come to collect a box of signed photographs of Hitler to give to the Hitler Youth as a reward/incentive for going into battle against the Russians and Americans.

Battle, and they’re only children! But the way Hitler dismisses their almost guaranteed deaths as an inevitable by-product of war is cold and chilling. These kids have parents and families and pets and lives and potential. By what right does he order all this to be thrown away?

And what good will a signed photo of his ugly mug, or even half-a-dozen Iron Crosses, be to a pre-teen boy or girl who’s facing down the barrel of a Russian or American gun…? There’s really no answer to that question, is there?

Diane Cilento, who plays the sexy schoolteacher Miss Rose in THE WICKER MAN (1973), portrays gutsy flying ace Hanna Reitsch here. She arrives at the bunker with her injured colleague General Von Greim and we quickly establish two things.

One, she has no regard whatsoever for Eva Braun and can’t believe that her beloved Fuhrer would waste his time on such an empty-headed little floozy and two, she is a fanatical National Socialist and an ardent Hitler-lover in particular.

She adores Hitler and wants to die in the bunker with him but Hitler has just made the badly-injured von Greim head of the Luftwaffe and so, for now, they will continue to have responsibilities above-ground, far from this stifling, claustrophobic Kingdom of the Moles that the bunker has become.

Some of the things that Hitler says in the film positively beggar belief. When going through his papers, trying to decide which of his things to burn or keep, he declares that he wants photos of himself to survive, as he doesn’t want to be misrepresented in pictures and art the way Jesus Christ had apparently been. To even mention himself in the same breath as Our Lord…!

Of course, we all know how he felt about the Jews. The way he talks about them here, talking about ‘stamping them out,’ he makes them sound like insects or a type of annoyingly treatment-resistant vermin you’d need a particularly strong poison to kill. He says these things so casually, even off-handedly, that it serves to make them all the more abhorrent and shocking to the viewer.

The end is done very well here. We have first of all the off-camera betrayals of Goering and Himmler, Hitler’s closest ‘friends,’ if you could call them that, and the execution of Fegelein, Eva Braun’s sister’s husband, whom Hitler decides has betrayed him also. Hitler can’t cope with all these defections, these terrible shocks to his rapidly failing system.

There are the discussions on the best way to kill oneself in order that one does not fall into the hands of the dreaded Russians. Joseph Goebbels and his wife will poison their six children, who are here in the bunker with them, with the help of Dr. Stumpfegger, the bunker’s doctor-in-residence. They will then kill themselves.

Hitler will shoot himself in the temple like a good German soldier and Eva Braun will take poison, as she doesn’t want to leave a disfigured corpse. The least of her worries, I would have thought, especially as her own and Hitler’s remains were cremated in the garden of the Chancellery outside the entrance to the bunker after they were dead.

Andrew Sachs, better known as Manuel the Spanish waiter from British sitcom FAWLTY TOWERS, plays the very nervous man who marries Hitler to Eva Braun, and who has to ask a coldly furious Hitler if he’s of pure Aryan blood without any defects in his family line. Dressed in black as if for a funeral, a nervous and tearful Eva Braun begins her short married life by starting to write her name as ‘Eva Braun’ in the register instead of ‘Eva Hitler.’

Brilliant bit-part actor James Cossins (THE ANNIVERSARY, FAWLTY TOWERS, SOME MOTHERS DO ‘AVE ‘EM) has a cameo role in the film as a Nazi telling an amusing anecdote in the bunker corridor while holding a brandy and a cigar. How terribly jolly, lol.

The film is interspersed with some genuinely harrowing footage of the damage and destruction wrought by the war to both human beings and the German landscape. The footage is ironically placed throughout the film, for example, when Hitler is praising his cook Constance Manziarly for the fact that cream has always been plentiful in the bunker, we see real black-and-white footage of people scrabbling in the streets for any bits of food they could find because they were, quite simply, starving to death. While the bunker inmates quaffed good liquor and stuffed their faces with the contents of the bunker’s full larders…

The score is filled with the rousing operatic music Hitler loved. Bases on the book ‘HITLER’S LAST DAYS: AN EYE-WITNESS ACCOUNT’ by bunker survivor Gerhard Boldt, this is Sir Alec Guinness’s best-ever performance, in my opinion, and you should try to see this fantastic film before you die. It’s just that good. It may not be the nicest story ever told but it’s certainly one of the most compelling. Watch it…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

JAMES CAMERON’S ‘TITANIC.’ (1997) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

titanic poster

JAMES CAMERON’S ‘TITANIC.’ (1997) WRITTEN, PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY JAMES CAMERON. STARRING KATE WINSLET, LEONARDO DICAPRIO, FRANCES FISHER, BILLY ZANE, BERNARD HILL, KATHY BATES, GLORIA STUART, BILL PAXTON, SUZY AMIS AND DAVID WARNER. CHEESY THEME TUNE PERFORMED BY CELINE DION. MUSIC BY JAMES HORNER.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘If celebrities didn’t want people pawing through their garbage and saying they’re gay, then they shouldn’t have tried to express themselves creatively. Well, at least I’ll always have my crank calls. Old Lady From Titanic, you stink…!’

Homer Simpson of THE SIMPSONS in the episode about the celebrities, starring Kim Basinger, Alec Baldwin and Ron Howard.

I always regret that I didn’t go to see this ‘Nineties blockbuster in the cinema when it was first released, as it must have been spectacular to witness on the big screen. At the time, however, I was fantastically and disastrously embroiled in an affair with a married man that was the blight of my youth and I had, therefore, other things on my mind. Such as his lies. Oh, his terrible, terrible lies!

I love you. He loved me not, gentle readers. I’ll love you till I die. I wish I could set Alanis Morrisette on him, just for that one alone. She feels very strongly about that kind of lie in particular.

My wife and I haven’t slept together for years. What was the new baby called again? I’ll leave my wife for you when the kids are in college. They were toddlers. I’ll never leave you. He left me three fucking times before he left me for good.

Each time hurt worse than the last and made me actually contemplate thinking about considering ending it all, if you get me. Luckily I decided not to bother with all that high drama or I’d never have met you guys.

And so on and so forth, anyway. You don’t need to know how low I sunk. Suffice it to say that it ended. Now let us focus no more on the follies of my youth and concentrate on the big-budget cheese-fest that is TITANIC, the biggest film of the ‘Nineties or maybe even any other decade for that matter.

It’s common practice, of course, to slag it off but I love it and I always have. It’s got gorgeous dresses and fabulous hats, a stunning Kate Winslet, an actress whom I’ve liked in everything I’ve ever seen her in, a broodingly handsome Billy Zane and a plot based on historical fact. The sinking of the TITANIC bit, that is, not the Rose and Jack bit.

The only things I dislike about the film are that song by Celine Dion and the choice of Leonardo DiCaprio as Kate Winslet’s love interest. I’ve never liked the rather baby-faced youth and I did not like him in this. The very thought of being in a position where I would actually choose a life of poverty with this… this child over a life of comfort and luxury as the wife of the rich and gorgeous Billy Zane brings me out in hives, I kid you not.

And I’d much rather settle down to watch TITANIC on December the twenty-sixth than actually going out to brave the shops again like some crazy people do, this time to attempt to exchange the rubbish presents foisted on them by distant relatives and friends for slightly better stuff.

It’s true I neither want nor need a dozen gift-sets of the same foot-care cosmetics I didn’t want last year but what the hey. I’ll simply re-gift ’em next year and on Saint Stephen’s Day, otherwise known as Boxing Day, I’ll stay in with TITANIC and a plate piled high with leftover-turkey sambos and mince pies and wallow in the delicious tragedy of it all.

Rose DeWitt Bukater, played by English Rose Kate Winslet, is a young woman betrothed to Billy Zane’s super-rich heir to a steel fortune, Caledon Hockley. They are travelling to America with Rose’s uptight Ma and, when the TITANIC reaches its destination, Rose and Cal are to be married.

Ma DeWitt Bukater will be relieved a thousand times over when this happens. Her husband is dead and the family money, as she tells her daughter in no uncertain terms, is all gone. The film does a great, if grim, job of highlighting how precarious a woman’s position was in those days if she didn’t have a rich man to protect her.

Ma and Rose will be set for life if Rose marries Cal but Rose, desperate to escape the confines of the life that her Mother and Cal have laid down so rigidly for her, has been making goo-goo eyes at Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jack Dawson, an impoverished, rootless artist who won his ticket for the Ship Of Dreams in a lucky hand of poker.

Jack, who meets Rose when he saves her from committing suicide by jumping over the side of the ship, is teaching Rose all manner of unsuitable things. How to spit like a man, how to go to a ‘real party,’ how to pose in the nip for a randy artist and how to have sweaty, cherry-popping sex in the back of parked automobiles. Tsk, tsk.

Cal and Mrs. DeWitt Bukater are fit to be tied, they’re so enraged at all of this. And then, on that fateful night in April 1912, the ‘unsinkable’ TITANIC hits the iceberg in the freezing cold North Atlantic Ocean and sails right into the history books as one of the biggest disasters in maritime history…

The film portrays the sinking magnificently, in my humble opinion. We see first the disbelief of the passengers, who’ve been assured that ‘God himself could not sink this ship.’ We see the band playing ‘music to drown by’ and the first-class passengers dressing in their finest clothes as they prepare, chillingly, ‘to go down like gentlemen.’ They still don’t really believe that they’ll be required to, though.

Then there’s the absolute chaos as the ship starts to go under and the passengers scramble madly for the wholly insufficient number of life-boats. Then there’s the terrifying splitting in half of the gigantic ship and the deaths by drowning and deaths caused by the knife-sharp cold.

There’s the much-parodied scene as Rose lies comfortably on a nice big door in the ocean while Jack, ever the good little steerage passenger, freezes his balls off in the bitterly cold water. ‘There was room on that raft for the two of youse!’ goes a certain Irish commercial for, I think, Maltesers or something. Well said, that man, whoever he was.

The story is book-ended at both ends with the modern-day story of the late Bill Paxton’s really cute treasure-hunter trying to find a fabulous necklace called The Heart Of The Ocean on the wreck of the sunken ship. The now one-hundred-and-one-year-old Rose is ‘helping’ him although, as the viewers see, ‘a woman’s heart is a deep ocean of secrets’ and she’s pulling the wool over his eyes a little bit, the ancient hussy.

There are so many iconic scenes to remember fondly when the ship sinks. Here are some of mine. The millions of plates falling off their shelves and into the water. The old man and woman huddled tightly together on their bed, determined to die together. The shell-shocked Captain when the water explodes in on him.

The girl floating dead in the water with her dress billowing out around her, filmed from below. Very artistic, is that. It could even be a painting. The ship’s officer shooting himself after he realises he’s killed someone while trying to keep order amidst the chaos.

The rich guy in his dinner jacket sitting there in shock as the water dares to breach the upper echelons of first class. Dreadfully vulgar, the mighty ocean, dontcha know. Must be from the Chippewa Falls ocean, that would explain its appalling lack of good taste…!

Ioan Gruffudd shouting ‘Is there anyone alive out there?’ as he trawls the icy waters for survivors with his little whistle. Rose in the rain on the Carpathia the day after the sinking realising that she has The Heart Of The Ocean in her pocket. After she’s had, like, the entire fucking ocean underneath her when she was on that floating bit of coffin, lol.

I simply adore Rose’s gorgeous red ‘committing suicide’ dress and dinky little shoes. I also love all the scenes that show the lower decks of the ship filling with water first. Those are all top-notch depictions and I honestly don’t see how anyone could have done them better.

I love this film and I watch it every Christmas without fail. I won’t hear a word said against it, not unless you’re bitching about the awful song, lol. Happy New Year now, y’all. Have a good one. And remember to keep a sharp eye out for Celine Dion, as far as I know she’s still alive and could still be singing…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor