THE BUNKER. (1981) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE BUNKER. (1981) BASED ON THE BOOK BY JAMES P. O’DONNELL. STARRING ANTHONY HOPKINS, SUSAN BLAKELY, CLIFF GORMAN AND PIPER LAURIE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘The war is lost.’

‘We are surrounded by corpses.’

‘What might have been, Speer…’

‘The Third Reich is about to collapse.’

‘All of the children are going to die…!’

‘If the enemy wishes to destroy us, why help them?’

‘We have chosen death, to remove the threat of removal or surrender.’

‘No-one has the right to tie the fate of the German nation to his own personal destiny.’

‘The war is not lost. The war is not lost! The war will never be lost! I will defeat them all. I will defeat the entire world!’

This is a long one now, as the actress said to the Bishop, so be warned. I loved this made-for-television film adaptation of Hitler’s last weeks and days in the Bunker, the little underground kingdom in the nearly ruined gardens of the Reich Chancellery in Berlin where the doomed German dictator ended his life and reign of terror simultaneously.

Anthony Hopkins was brilliant as Hitler, as you might expect, because Anthony Hopkins doesn’t do anything by half-measures, but what really fascinated me here was the timing of the gradual emptying out of the bunker as the Russians came ever closer to taking Berlin and ending the Second World War, the worst war in the history of the world.

At first, when Hitler first descends in January 1945 to its murky depths, life in the Bunker is relatively civilised. Hitler takes tea at four every day with his secretaries, Gerda Christian and Traudl Junge, and Constance Manziarly (played here by Pam St. Clement, aka Pat Butcher from EastEnders!), his treasured cook.

He loves her because she is able to create both the bland vegetarian diet he prefers but also the home-made cakes for which he has a weakness. O-ho, so somebody likes cakes, eh…? Lol.

Constance is unswervingly loyal to the Fuhrer. ‘No matter what happens, Adolf Hitler will never die,’ she says in the film, and also: ‘The Fuhrer’s birthday in this place! How did we ever come to this? How did we ever come to this place?’

Hitler (in real life but not in this film) treats his captive female audience to the long boring monologues for which he is notorious, speeches about dogs (his dog Blondi has puppies while in the Bunker), his vegetarianism (which caused him to suffer excessive flatulence, and I’m sure the ladies would have noticed!) and the evils of smoking.

Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister for Propaganda and head toady and boot-licker, is present full-time in the bunker at this stage. So too is Martin Bormann, one of Hitler’s top men, Otto Gunsche, Hitler’s personal adjutant, Rochus Misch, the guy who works the all-important switchboard, getting messages in and out of the Bunker, and Hitler’s personal doctor, Dr. Theodor Morell. He pops in and out frequently, administering the highly unorthodox injections and (allegedly!) the cocaine eyedrops that keep the dictator going.

The situation conferences around the big table to discuss the progress of the war take place daily, and Hitler’s generals, Guderian, Keitel, Jodl & Co. are either issued with wholly impractical orders or bawled out publicly for not having carried out the last batch of wholly impractical orders.

Hitler in the last days of the war is moving armies around on his little maps that no longer exist, because they’ve been wiped out by the Russians, but he keeps up his outward insistence that the tide could still turn in Germany’s favour.

These situation conferences become more and more stressful for all concerned. Towards the end, when time has lost all meaning and no-one in the Bunker any longer keeps to a schedule, they could start at 1am and go on till morning.

Hitler frequently loses his temper with his generals, whose failure to win the war for him feels like a betrayal, and his screaming fits are legendary. You can’t have a Hitler film without the little guy with the funny moustache and the queer hairstyle throwing a good old screaming fit in it.

In the last few weeks and days of April 1945, when even Hitler knows that the war is lost, things become incredibly tense and gripping to watch. Hitler’s staff beg him to leave the Bunker and flee to the relative safety of his mountain retreat in Berchtesgaden, in Bavaria. He’s adamant that he won’t leave Berlin, however.

His long-term mistress Eva Braun has joined him in the Bunker by this stage, and even her forced air of desperate oh-look-how-frightfully-gay-we-all-are has had the shine well and truly worn off of it. She won’t leave Berlin either, however, or her Fuhrer. Whatever fate is mapped out for her Adolf, she will share it, even unto Death.

She gives an expensive fur stole of hers to one of the secretaries. ‘Think of me when you wear it,’ she trills gaily. Hmmm. Even for the secretaries, who survive the war, there won’t be any opportunities to wear that fur stole for a while.

Albert Speer, Hitler’s pet architect and the Minister for Armaments, features heavily in the film. Knowing now that their dreams of rebuilding Germany together after the war are as dust in the wind, Hitler puts Speer in charge of his despicable ‘scorched earth’ policy: destroying what’s left of Germany so the Russians won’t get their hands on it. Not just bridges and military installations, but houses and shops and farms and factories. This is what Hitler says: ‘Believe me, when we take our leave, the earth will tremble. The planet will go up in flames.’

The German people will have nothing left to live on when this detestable policy has been carried out. That was probably partly what Hitler wanted all along, to take everything with him when he himself went out in a blaze of glory, like in Wagner’s Twilight of the Gods or the Götterdämmerung he’d always admired and wanted for himself and Germany. 

Also, the German people had let him down, hadn’t they, by not going all out to help him win the war, so maybe they didn’t deserve to live on after he did. What a mindset. I’m fucked so all you lot are fucked as well. It seems like a pretty typical Hitlerian mentality to me.

Luckily for the German people, Speer, who claims in the film, somewhat dubiously, that he’d planned to kill Hitler himself at one point in order to stop the dictator from implementing his scorched earth scheme, in the end only pretends to Hitler that he’s been carrying out this disastrous policy.

He doesn’t believe that the fate of Germany should be tied inextricably to that of one sick and twisted individual, and, in that at least, ‘the Nazi who said sorry’ is right. He confesses to Hitler what he’s done as he’s leaving the Bunker and saying goodbye to his former Fuhrer forever, but Hitler is too far gone to give a shit by then.

Speer, by the way, seems to have had a well-developed sense of self-preservation. ‘Speaking for myself,’ he says at one point, ‘I intend to outlive the Third Reich.’ And he did, by a whopping thirty-six years, even if twenty of those were spent in Spandau Prison.

Poor Hitler. His health is wrecked, his friends- look at Goering and how he’s betrayed his former friend and leader!- are deserting him right and left, his bezzy mate Himmler has actually crawled into bed with the Allies, his trademark glossy black locks are as grey as a badger’s arse now and his lovely dream of the Thousand Year Reich is in ruins.

Oh, and Eva Braun’s pregnant sister Gretl’s husband, Hermann Fegelein, has been caught trying to scarper without permission and is now paying for his crime by being left to dangle on a meathook. (Other film versions have Fegelein being shot.) What’s to live for now?

The Bunker inmates can be divided into those, like Speer, who choose to leg it while Hitler is still alive, and those who hang on till the bitter end. These include Eva Braun, Hitler’s adjutant Gunsche, his toady Joseph Goebbels and his wife Magda and their six children. These are all living in the Bunker by this stage, as is Rochus Misch the transmissions technician, Constance Manziarly the cook (who was never seen or heard from again after the war) and the secretaries.

On the night before their joint suicide, Hitler marries Eva Braun. The next day, they say goodbye formally to their remaining acolytes, and then they retire forever to bite into cyanide capsules (previously tested on Hitler’s beloved dog, Blondi), and Hitler also shoots himself in the head for good measure.

He won’t let himself be captured and hung upside-down and naked in the town square, which is what has happened to his crony Mussolini, the Italian dictator, and Mussolini’s missus. ‘They (the Russians) are not going to cage me and exhibit me in a zoo!’

Otto Gunsche carries the bodies outside, then sets them on fire as per Hitler’s wishes. Magda Goebbels poisons her six children with cyanide capsules, then allows her husband to shoot her dead outside in the garden before in turn shooting himself.

With the bigwigs gone, it’s every man for himself. It’s the moment when the musicians playing ‘Nearer My God To Thee’ on the Titanic pack up their instruments, wish each other well in a gentlemanly fashion and then scramble desperately for a place on a lifeboat.

The Bunker descends into chaos as Gunsche, the secretaries, Martin Bormann and assorted others pack up and try to make it through the Russian lines to the British armies, who don’t seem to be as terrifying to the Germans as their Russian counterparts.

The secretaries paint lipstick spots on their faces to give themselves the appearance of smallpox. ‘Do you want to be raped (by the Russians)?’ one says to the other. Her terrified friend promptly yanks the lippy out of her hands…!

When even the loyal and dutiful Rochus Misch eventually leaves his post and the final transmissions squawk their contents to the empty air, there’s a definite feeling in the Bunker that the fat lady has well and truly warbled her last note. Johannes Hentschel, the mechanic, is the last man in the film to leave the underground tomb.

The Bunker is empty, the Fuhrer is dead, Berlin is in ruins, the war is lost and the Russians are knocking- none too politely- on the doors of the Reich Chancellery. Years and even decades in Russian prison camps await some of those fleeing from the Bunker.

What ghosts would haunt the eerily silent corridors of the Bunker today, if it still existed, which of course it does not? Hitler is supposed to have told an underling, a young man, that his spirit would remain on duty within its walls for all eternity, keeping an eye out for those pesky Russians.  

A pretty pathetic story, probably not true, but I still wouldn’t have ever wanted to be down there alone in those days after the war ended when the Bunker was dark, waterlogged and filled with the flotsam and jetsam of all those disappeared lives.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s 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

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

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

 

THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME. (1923) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.©

hunchback esmeralda

THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME. (1923) BASED ON THE NOVEL BY VICTOR HUGO. DIRECTED BY WALLACE WORSLEY. PRODUCED BY CARL LAEMMLE.

STARRING LON CHANEY, PATSY RUTH MILLER AND NORMAN KERRY.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Swift run the sands of life, except in the hour of pain.’

Lon Chaney’s performance in this film is positively staggeringly good. He throws himself into it to the extent that he doesn’t mind at all that his creation is repugnant to lay eyes on. That’s a good thing, as far as he’s concerned, and it’s damned realistic too.

He doesn’t mind his character looking hideous and he doesn’t mind enduring a bit of physical suffering to achieve the right look. I think he thought that the suffering was a good thing too, lol. If you suffered for your art, you were obviously getting it right. And he got it so right with his Hunchback.

The Hunchback is a tragic figure, certainly unappealing to look upon but never comic, even if he does start the movie being crowned the King of the Fools during the festival of the same name. We’re in Paris, France ‘ten years before Christopher Columbus discovered America,’ so I make that 1472 by my watch.

The Middle Ages were so unsanitary with their rats, their plagues and their open sewers with filthy sewerage flowing down the streets that it’s a wonder anyone ever lived through them at all. Downright disgusting, they were.

Louis the Eleventh was the King of France during this era and you can bet your bottom dollar that he didn’t have to walk through sewerage on his way to buy a carton of milk and a packet of fags. One law for the rich and another for the poor, that’s how it was back then.

There were dire mutterings behind the scene amongst the lower classes though, and talk of uprisings and of overthrowing the King and distributing the wealth a little more evenly. I’m a little sketchy on my French history so I don’t know what happened in France between 1472 and the French Revolution of 1789 (‘Off with their heads!’ and suchlike) but the peasants were frequently revolting anyway, and you couldn’t really blame them as conditions for the poor were so appalling.

Rickets, ticks in the straw, the plague every five bloody minutes, boils and sores, infestations of this or that, no proper toilet or washing facilities, absolutely no Internet access, etc., etc. I couldn’t be doing with any of that type of thing. Give me modern times any day.

Lon Chaney’s character is Quasimodo the Hunchback, an orphaned, disfigured pauper brought up by the Church within the confines of the magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral, the other star of the film. Whaddya mean you don’t remember Quasimodo? Surely his face at least rings a bell? Ba-dum-tish, lol. Bad joke. Forgive me.

He’s the bell-ringer at the Cathedral, which job has rendered him half-deaf if not wholly deaf after years of enduring the tremendous noise at close range. He loves the bells though, and at one point we see him expressing his ‘wild joy’ at something that’s happened by ringing the bejeesus out of those bells till the whole city is quivering from the reverberations.

Quasimodo is ordered by the Archdeacon’s lecherous and distinctly unholy brother Jehan to kidnap Esmeralda, the beautiful Gypsy girl who can be seen dancing and twirling like a sexy dervish in the streets during the festival. The kidnapping goes awry and Quasimodo is sentenced to a terrible public lashing, ‘not by any means the first time a servant was punished in place of its master.’

The poor Hunchback falls hopelessly in love with Esmeralda when she is the only person to take pity on him after this whipping and bring him a drink to quench his awful thirst. But Esmeralda is head-over-heels in love with Phoebus de Chateaupers, a ringleted and twirly-moustachioed popinjay who goes by the title of the Captain of the Guards.

The wicked Jehan stabs Phoebus while he- Phoebus- is engaged in embracing the lovesick Esmeralda, then he legs it and lets Esmeralda take the blame. Poor Esmeralda is ‘put to the question’ by the men of the Court, by which of course I mean she was tortured by these master torturers until she ‘confessed’ to the crime she didn’t commit, that of stabbing her lover Phoebus. These were the times of the Inquisition and witch-burnings and people being accused of sorcery if they were found to be able to add two plus two together and get four. That’s right, those were the bad old days.

On foot of her forced ‘confession,’ Esmeralda is sentenced to be hanged. On her way to the gallows, she is seen by Quasimodo, who is horrified by the implications of what he’s observed. His beautiful kind-hearted angel Esmeralda, sentenced to death? He kidnaps her away from the Guards and hops it with her into the Church. Methinks it’s time for a little Sanctuary, lol.

Can a gypsy girl really receive justice when she’s only a poor lowborn female while her accusers are all male and more powerful than she? And on whom will she bestow her love, the dashing nincompoop Phoebus or her rescuer Quasimodo who, alas, is no more pleasing to look on than last night’s curry leftovers after the dog’s been at ’em…? Whatever she does, someone’s bound to get hurt.

There’s also the intriguing mystery of Esmeralda’s parentage. Who is the girl’s mother, and is there a chance of a reunion between mother and daughter before one of them dies? Esmeralda has never been more alone in the world than she is now. She could use some good news.

The Court of Miracles, so-called because ‘here the blind can see and the lame walk,’ is a very interesting place too. Here lives Esmeralda’s ‘adopted’ father, Clopin, the King of Thieves, with the other downtrodden peasants of Paris, and here it is also that a word from Esmeralda saves Gringoire the poet, a minor character, from being hanged for wandering into the wrong part of town. Will Clopin rally his own troops when he hears of Esmeralda’s intended fate? He jolly well ought to, anyway.

The siege of the Cathedral is the most exciting bit. Look at the way Quasimodo leaps in glee and triumph when he thinks he’s gotten one over on those who are trying to force an entrance! He’s positively alive with mischief and impish malice, like the bad fairy at the party or something.

Lon Chaney, who also stars in the superb film adaptation of Gaston Leroux’s THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA in 1925, puts his heart and soul into the performance and into the mannerisms of the poor Hunchback.

There have been other Hunchbacks since his- the brilliant Charles Laughton, for example, and even Anthony Hopkins had a go at it- but his to me will always be the most poignant and the most moving. Lon Chaney, the Man With A Million Faces, has done it again, has pulled off another master-stroke with his bag of tricks. Hats off to you, Mr. Chaney. Hats off to you.

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