HITLER: THE RISE AND FALL. (2016) A DOCUMENTARY REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

hitler rise and fall

HITLER: THE RISE AND FALL: THE MAN BEHIND THE MONSTER. (2016) A DOCUMENTARY BY STAN GRIFFIN. NARRATED BY CHRISTIEN ANHOLT. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

It took me two nights to watch all two-hundred-and-seventy-eight minutes of this gripping documentary, which amounted to three episodes a night at forty-five minutes each. This was surprisingly manageable, especially as it was the weekend and I was bloody well due a little me-time, lol.

Anyway, the documentary does exactly what it says on the tin, charting Adolf Hitler’s life and- ahem- life’s work from his relatively humble beginnings to his meteoric rise to become ruler of Germany and the Nazi Party, before, well, you know. The war and stuff. All the stuff he did. You know what I mean. We’re not supposed to mention it…

Various Professors of History and assorted academics who’ve nearly all written books on Hitler sit around chatting to camera about what they’ve learned about Hitler over the years and, coupled with the little dramatisations and recreations with actors and actresses going on in the background, it all actually makes for rather thrilling viewing. Here for your delectation is my own interpretation of the facts as presented by HITLER: THE RISE AND FALL. A sort of ‘HITLER FOR DUMMIES,’ if you will.

Hitler was born in 1889 in Austria-Hungary to a civil servant father who brutalised him physically and whom Hitler despised utterly, and a mother who worshipped him but understandably couldn’t protect him from his father’s wrath.

When Alois Hitler- the Dad- passed away in 1903, I doubt if Hitler shed many tears, unlike at the death of his mother four years later, which devastated him. It was the first major blow of his life. Probably the next one was when he was rejected for Art School in Vienna.

Apparently he wasn’t good at drawing people, but wasn’t bad at all at sketching buildings. In fact, he had a lifelong obsession with architecture and was always dreaming up ideas for fabulous buildings and town centres in his mind.

During his last days in the Bunker, while Berlin burned around him and the Russians were within shelling distance of the Reich Chancellery, instead of making plans to save himself and his entourage or to broker a peace deal with the Allies, Hitler fiddled endlessly with a scale model of a town plan of Linz in Austria, which he planned to turn into a cultural capital ‘after the war.’ I wonder when was the exact moment at which he finally realised that there would be no ‘after the war’ for him and his Party…?

Anyway, his special talent was really for public speaking. Boy, could he talk. He could- and did- talk for Germany. After World War One, in which he rather startlingly won an Iron Cross for ‘bravery’ (I always think of him as a bit cowardly, actually), he turned to politics. His early days in the Nazi Party saw him cutting his oratorial teeth on the speeches he made to admiring Party members.

He started to develop his anti-Semitic views around this time and was a real asset to the Nazi Party, which by the way he didn’t ‘found’ but he did join it very early on, when it was still in its infancy.

There’s a disturbing image for you anyway, the Nazi Party as a chubby baby complete with rattle and bonnet being wheeled round the park in an antique stroller by a uniformed Nanny. ‘Take me once round the park, Smithers, I’m feeling fussy…!’

The failed Beer Hall Putsch of 1923 came next, in which Hitler and his pals, including General Ludendorff from WW1, sought to stage a coup that would ultimately challenge the government in Berlin. Hitler was sentenced to five years in prison for his part in the Putsch but served only one, getting out early for, ‘of all things, good behaviour…!’

During his time in Landsberg Prison, Hitler dictated his autobiography, MEIN KAMPF, to his adoring deputy Rudolf Hess. I said dictated, not dedicated, lol. I don’t know if the book ever had the benefit of proper editing but most historians agree that it’s a major snooze.

He waffles a lot in it about his ideas on race and suchlike. They’re not at all what you’d call liberal. Some form of ethnic cleansing is implied. It’s seemingly badly written and a crashing bore, but essential reading, the experts claim, if you want to understand where he got his nutty ideas from or the ‘reasoning’ behind them. I did take it out of the library once, but the endless blocks of dry-as-dust, unbroken-up text made me return it soon after, unread.

After Hitler’s early release from prison, he began work on rebuilding the Nazi Party, which had stood by him throughout his, by all accounts, reasonably cushy incarceration. (There were flowers on the table in that prison cell, ffs…!) It was the Great Depression of 1929 that proved to be the key to Hitler’s later success.

With America demanding back the money they’d loaned Germany to get back on her feet after the punitive terms of the Versailles Treaty, Germany was in trouble financially and ripe for some political agitation from Hitler and the Nazi Party.

A stable, healthy German economy was no use to Hitler. But the recession that followed the Crash of ’29 was the perfect environment for the Nazis to flourish, and flourish they did, by promising the German people the only two things they cared about at this time, ‘ARBEIT UND BROT,’ or ‘WORK AND BREAD.’ They even delivered on their promises sometimes.

The elections of 1932 saw Hitler coming second only to Paul von Hindenburg (1847-1934), the elderly President of Germany, who died a mere two years later. Hitler was now becoming established as a political force to be reckoned with.

1933 was even better for Hitler, the funny little man with the toothbrush moustache, poor table manners and queer sense of sartorial style (the top hat and dog whip, seriously?).

He became Chancellor of Germany and, with the aforementioned death of the old President Hindenburg in 1934, Hitler made himself President as well as Chancellor and fixed things so that he couldn’t be removed from office. Dictatorship, anyone?

A lot of stuff happened between 1933 and the start of World War Two that we’ll try to get through quickly. Punitive laws were enforced against the Jews, coming to an explosive head- but by no means ending- on Kristallnacht or The Night Of Broken Glass (November 1938)during which Jewish shops were trashed and their synagogues burned.

In the Irish Jewish Museum here in Dublin, just as a matter of interest, they have on display a piece of a religious scroll saved from a burning synagogue on this terrible night. Hitler was apparently annoyed by the damage to some of Germany’s lovely old buildings during Kristallnacht. Oh dear. How careless of those naughty marauders to damage the buildings.

The Nazi Party brushed Germany’s racial ‘issues’ under the carpet for the duration of the 1936 Olympic Games, which were held in Berlin. Film-maker Leni Riefenstahl, who also incidentally filmed the Olympics, made a movie called TRIUMPH OF THE WILL, about one of the gigantic Nuremberg rallies, that captured all the terrifying glamour and spectacle so beloved of the Nazis. Hitler is represented as a god in this film, literally descending from the clouds in his little aeroplane, the first leader of a country to ever use air travel to his benefit.

During this period also, from 1933 to 1939, ‘enemies’ of the Nazi Party (like the chap who protested that his livelihood had been torn down to make way for lavish extensions to the Berghof, Hitler’s fabulous mountain retreat) were being sent to concentration camps, which already existed. Inmates taken there were supposed to undergo a sort of ‘re-nazification.’ Like the ‘re-Neducation’ in that TREEHOUSE OF HORROR episode of THE SIMPSONS but, like, a million times less fun, obviously.

The dreaded camps were not yet the killing machines some of them ended up being later on when the ‘Final Solution,’ the extermination of the Jews, was properly underway. For now, they were mostly for communists and people who opposed the Nazi ideology. There were eyes and ears everywhere. It was a dangerous time to speak out against the Fuhrer or his Nazi Party.

Hitler became obsessed during this time with the idea of ‘Lebensraum,’ or living space, for the German people. He built up and re-armed the Army that had suffered restrictions as a result of the Versailles Treaty, a humiliating document that had basically ground Germany into the dirt, as Hitler saw it, for having caused World War One.

The reparations Germany had to pay after WW1 were brutally punitive. Hitler metaphorically tore up this hated treaty every time he marched his newly re-armed forces into a different country in yet another stunning land grab, and the people of Germany loved him for it.

He’d united Austria with Nazi Germany without the firing of a single shot. The Austrians welcomed Hitler and his cohorts with open arms and floral tributes. He was like a king when he rode in his car through the flower-strewn streets. It was one of his greatest moments.

Then came his acquisition of the Sudetenland region of Czechoslovakia, Neville Chamberlain and ‘Peace In Our Time,’ and then the ill-fated invasion of Poland which led to Britain and France declaring war on Germany, much to Hitler’s surprise. What do these assholes care about Poland, he was probably thinking, but care they did. It was jolly well a matter of principle, old boy. The war was very much a go…

France fell fairly quickly to the well-oiled Nazi machine. Nazi steamroller, more like. Britain, of course, held out staunchly to the end because Britons never, never, never shall be slaves, of course. Hitler unleashed the full force of the odious, fatly smiling Goering’s Luftwaffe on them but to no avail. Britain was not for turning…

Hitler spent much of the war teaching his beloved Alsatian dog Blondi to do tricks. He also enjoyed eating cake- Hitler, that is, not Blondi, although who knows, maybe the doggie did too- and so he consumed quite a lot of the stuff up in the gorgeous little Teahouse that formed part of his mountainside hideaway in the Berghof, where his long-term mistress Eva Braun resided.

Hitler should have been as fat as a fool, with all the cakes the film-makers show him putting away in this documentary. I got quite peckish for cake, actually, while watching this film, and so a packet of Jaffa cakes may or may not have been sacrificed to the common good on one of the nights…

Dr. Theodore Morell, Hitler’s doctor, gets a mention here as the doctor who put the Fuhrer on a cocktail of drugs to treat his various ailments, real or imagined. Hitler was something of a hypochondriac, but the drugs he was given probably far exceeded his need and would have almost certainly contributed to how divorced from reality he was by the end of the war.

America entered the war in 1941 after the Japanese shockingly attacked Pearl Harbour. Hitler is seen in the documentary film as not taking this news seriously enough. It was a disaster for him, however.

The Americans were mightily pissed off and would stay in the war until the bitter end, until they, in fact, were the victors along with Britain and Hitler’s most hated enemy, Russia. The threat of Bolshevism was as bad, to him, as the threat represented by the Jews.

Hitler’s invasion of Russia was an unmitigated disaster also, resulting in the deaths of millions of Russian soldiers and civilians and German soldiers. Fighting a war of that scale on two fronts was too much for one man, a man who by now wasn’t even living in the real world.

The Holocaust, the wholesale murder of the Jews of Europe in concentration camps, was in full swing by now, with Auschwitz in Poland at the ‘dead’ centre of the operation. The more catastrophic Hitler’s war became for Germany, the more the killing was speeded up, the killing he actually termed ‘humane’ because it was done by gassing rather than other, messier means.

Everyone wants to hear about the Bunker, of course, the ‘good stuff,’ lol, when Hitler moved battalions that no longer really existed around the map from one place to another during the daily situation reports that became more and more fraught. The war was lost. The jig was up. Hitler was pretty much the last person to take this admittedly unpalatable fact on board.

In his last couple of days, he marries Eva Braun, dictates his last Will and Testament to his secretary Traudl Junge and shoots himself while Eva bites down on a cyanide capsule on the couch beside him.

Nearby, Hitler’s Propaganda Minister and long-time toady Joseph Goebbels prepares to follow his Fuhrer even unto death, along with his wife Magda and their six children. Thus, with a gunshot and the hasty burning of two bodies in the Reichchancellery garden, endeth the Third Reich. There’s talk of a Fourth sequel but I don’t know, I think the franchise is pretty much played out, lol.

There’s some really fantastic footage of the players in this iconic real-life drama in HITLER: THE RISE AND FALL. I’d never seen a lot of the footage before and it was gob-smackingly clear and exciting to view.

The historians are pretty good too, my favourites being the super-enthusiastic Emma Craigie, author of HITLER’S LAST DAY: MINUTE BY MINUTE, which I’ve read and enjoyed, and also a chap by the name of Professor Richard Overy. Watch this if you’re a history fan. It’s top-notch stuff.

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