THE WANNSEE CONFERENCE. (1984) A CHILLING NAZI VISION REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

wannsee reinhard

THE WANNSEE CONFERENCE. (1984) BASED ON TRUE EVENTS. WRITTEN BY PAUL MOMMERTZ. DIRECTED BY HEINZ SCHIRK. STARRING DIETRICH MATTAUSCH AND GERD BÖCKMANN.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is one of the best, if the absolute grimmest, of all the Nazi films I’ve ever seen. It’s as good as DOWNFALL (DER UNTERGANG), the gripping story of Hitler’s last days in the bunker under the Reich Chancellery in Berlin, while the Russian army were less than a few miles away and their bombs and explosions shook every building in Berlin to its foundations.

It’s so realistic, THE WANNSEE CONFERENCE, that every time I watch it I feel like I’m watching a piece of found footage, that this is what actually happened, that this is exactly what happened when some of the Nazis’ top personnel got together at this luxurious villa in Wannsee in Berlin to discuss the finer details of what came to be known as ‘The Final Solution’ to the so-called ‘Jewish Question.’

Only one copy of the ‘minutes’ of the meeting survived the war, and it is from this that the dialogue is derived. The dialogue is of necessity fictionalised, but it comes from an extremely true place, as it were.

The purpose of the meeting was threefold: to thrash out the details of the Final Solution; to ensure the co-operation of the various Nazi government departments, who were represented at the meeting, in the carrying out of the Final Solution; and, finally, to decide who or what constituted a Jew, and therefore should be included in the Final Solution.

The meeting, which had been delayed a bit by America’s entry into the war after Pearl Harbour happened in December 1941, took place at the beautiful private villa in Berlin at the behest of the Reichsfuhrer-SS, otherwise known as Heinrich Himmler, one of Hitler’s ‘bestest’ men.

It was Hitler’s wish that the German Reich and all her occupied territories should be made ‘Juden-frei’ or ‘free of Jews,’ and Hitler’s wish was ‘Heini’s’ command. Hitler rarely troubled himself with the finer details of any of his policies, unless it was for the grandiose pie-in-the-sky model cities and buildings he intended to create after the war, which of course never happened. There was no ‘after the war’ for Hitler.

But the worse things became for Germany in the war, the more he immersed himself in these blueprints for mad projects that would never get done. It was obviously his chosen form of escapism, something in which he could retreat when the going got tough.

The onerous tasks pertaining to the Final Solution were left to his top men, who in turn sub-delegated the job to underlings and so on and so on until the job was done. Hitler and Himmler both envisioned a kind of ‘combing’ movement that ‘swept’ Europe ‘clean’ of Jews from left to right and vice versa, the way you’d go through a child’s hair with a fine-tooth comb during an epidemic of what we used to call ‘unwelcome visitors.’

Himmler delegated the job of making Germany and her occupied territories ‘Juden-frei’ to his pet toady, Reinhard Heydrich, tall, blonde, perfectly ‘Aryan’-looking and so cold he’d make the icy winds that blew around the glacier that proved the Titanic’s downfall feel like a gentle Caribbean breeze. The actor who portrays him here is so like I imagine the real Heydrich to be that it’s actually scary. No, scratch that. It’s terrifying.

The Nazis invited to this conference sit around a long polished table in their highly decorated uniforms, gorging themselves on delicious finger food, fine cigars and fancy cognacs while they hammer out the details of the Final Solution. As the star-struck secretaries in the reception areas outside the conference rooms put it, ‘there’s a lot of top brass here today.’

Hitler gets ‘heiled’ more times than you can shake a stick at. Facts and figures are thrown around while the various personnel report to Heydrich how ‘Juden-frei’ the areas under their personal responsibility have become or are hoped/intended to become in the near future.

Maps of occupied Europe are displayed to the room, with little coffins on them indicating the places where large numbers of Jews have already been killed. It’s shocking to the viewer, these little coffins, but the attendees don’t even bat an eyelid. The coffins are only used to represent Jews, after all, and not real people.

No-one wants to be found wanting in the presence of ‘Heini’s’ little pet, Reinhard Heydrich, regarded by many historians as one of the main architects of the Holocaust. Hitler dubbed Heydrich ‘the man with the iron heart.’ In other words, he has a swinging brick where the command central of his emotions and feelings is meant to be.

It is openly admitted here amongst these men, maybe for the first time, that the Jews whom they intend to send to ‘labour camps in the East’ are in fact destined for the dreaded ‘special treatment’ or ‘sonderbehandlung’ in the occupied areas of Poland known as ‘the General Government.’

No words stronger than this ‘sonderbehandlung’ will ever be put down on paper for fear that they might incriminate themselves, but here, amongst themselves, it is safe to admit such things out loud, even in the presence of the female secretary who’s taking the minutes and the waiters who serve them with their cognacs and canapés. Those cocky gits. The top brass, I mean, not the waiters.

The process of getting the Jews to the ‘labour camps in the East’ is discussed step-by-step with cold practicality. ‘Israel’ and ‘Sarah,’ their derogatory names for the male and female Jew, will obediently sign over their property to the Reich and hand the keys of their dwelling(s) over to the designated Nazi officials.

Then, carrying one suitcase and the paltry sum of no more than fifty marks- which will all be stolen from them at their destination anyway- they will board a train (most likely a cattle train) to ‘the East’ in a quiet and orderly fashion.

The destination will be one or other of the various concentration camps (Auschwitz, Treblinka, Sobibor, Mauthausen, Dachau, Bergen-Belsen, Belzec) and, at the end of the road, they’ll find the gas chambers and crematoria waiting silently for them.

Gas? Some of the men around the table, one in particular, pale a little at the mention of the gas. Either they didn’t know about it prior to today, or it just slightly offends their delicate, fastidious sensibilities to be hearing such nitty-gritty details.

Some people, the so-called ‘mental defectives’ and the disabled mostly, have already been put to death by means of travelling vans into which they would be piled and then killed by exhaust pipe, in much the same way that a person would commit suicide by sitting in their car with the exhaust running.

People grew to know in time that these vans heralded death for some. This is one way of doing it. But the downside of this method is that you can only kill a handful of people at a time. It’s slow and cumbersome, too slow and cumbersome.

Rudolf Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz whose post-war memoirs provide us with one of our most valuable documents of World War Two, gets a mention here then. He apparently ‘swears by Zyklon B,’ the pellets of insecticide that have been proven capable of murdering large numbers of people at a time.

The Jews are ushered into an ‘undressing room,’ where they are told to remember where they put their stuff for afterwards. This lulls them into a false sense of security, making them think that there will be an ‘afterwards.’

Once they are locked securely into the gas chambers, an SS man- it was always an SS man- will nip up sharpish onto the roof of the building and drop the pellets of Zyklon B in through an opening.

It could take several minutes for the gas to take full effect and the hundreds- or thousands- of people inside the room to die. There could be shouting and screaming for several minutes after the doors are locked. Victims could be observed through a peephole in the door.

Then the Sonderkommando, the concentration camp prisoners tasked with doing this horrible, horrible job that the SS themselves didn’t want, enter the room with gas-masks on to cart the bodies off to the nearby crematorium for burning.

The sights that would await them when those doors were opened were truly terrible. With blood, faeces and urine dripping from every orifice and their heads sometimes twisted on backwards with the pain and fear of what they’d undergone, the corpses were shocking to behold. Some members of the Sonderkommando might have to take pliers and remove the gold teeth from the mouths of corpses, surely the job straight from the jaws of hell itself.

Every so often, the members of the Sonderkommando would be themselves murdered and replaced by other prisoners. They were never left alive for long. The SS didn’t want people who knew so many of their grisly secrets to be walking around free, free to tell everyone they met about what they’d witnessed and experienced in the death camps.

At the conference, a lot of time is spent debating the ‘half-Jews’ and ‘quarter-Jews,’ and how exactly you determine whether someone is one or the other and how you then treat them. Previously, Jews married to Aryans or who had been married to Aryans but were now widowed had been exempt from ‘Sonderbehandlung,’ but now there’s talk of a clean sweep, of cutting all the ‘bacteria’ out of the diseased organism for good, for the good of the organism. This analogy from the plant world comes courtesy of one Adolf Hitler, by the way. Have you read MEIN KAMPF yet? Great cure for insomnia.

It’s a bit like a privileged gentleman’s club, this conference. Whenever any Nazi official proposes something particularly bloodthirsty for the Jews, most of the others rattle and bang the table with their fists and make approving, ‘hear, hear’- type noises, while swilling their pricey cognacs and smoking their fat cigars.

‘Why should our chaps die at the front while Israel and Sarah swan off to a holiday resort?’ one official says of the concentration camps. Well, Israel and Sarah will soon know the real meaning of work, the Nazis say, as the plan for any able-bodied Jews is forced labour and for them to be worked literally to death.

Another man is worried about whether he will lose his Jews- his free labour, he means- to the camps, as he needs them for his armaments factories. Why import and pay foreign workers, he says, when you can get the Jews for nothing? He’s delighted to hear that he can hold onto his slaves, at least for now.

The main player here, even more than Heydrich himself, who shamelessly chats up the pretty secretary (What’s WRONG with her, by the way? Has she no womanly feelings of compassion for the victims of genocide under discussion, or is she only interested in landing herself a man, preferably a high-ranking Nazi officer?) in front of everyone present and who expects a ripple of sycophantic laughter every time he cracks a little joke, is probably Adolf Eichmann. He’s the ‘numbers’ man and Heydrich’s so-called ‘Jew specialist’ or ‘Jew expert.’

He’s the un-extraordinary ‘petty bureacrat’ or pen-pusher about whom German-Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt made her remarks referring to ‘the banality of evil.’ This was while Eichmann was on trial for war crimes in Israel in 1961, after being snatched from Buenos Aires by the Israeli group Mossad. He’d been hiding in South America since the war, having escaped from Europe via the ‘ratlines’ used by escaping Nazis for that exact purpose.

‘I was only a tiny cog in the Nazi killing machine,’ was his catch-cry during his trial, after which he was hanged for his crimes. This was how he liked to minimise his actions but we know that he attended this milestone conference. We know that he was one of the main Nazis responsible for organising the Jews onto those cattle trains that would take them to those mythical ‘labour camps in the East.’

A monster doesn’t always have to look like a monster, and be actually caught in the act of grinding children’s bones to make his bread, to have been responsible for the atrocities with which he’s charged. Eichmann is certainly a case in point for this particular argument.

He’s the Nazi who infamously said that when he died, he’d jump into the pit of hell with glee, happy in the knowledge that he had put six million Jews down there with him. Here, he’s certainly a fussy little bureaucrat, kissing Heydrich’s butt and pulling figures out of his sleeves and demonstrating his intimate knowledge of ‘The Jewish Question.’

I just want to bring one more conference attendee to your attention. There’s a portly, jowly official called Dr. (he has a degree in law) Rudolf Lange present, a young enough Nazi who was largely responsible for Latvia’s Holocaust. He’s another one who likes to get a laugh for his actions.

He falls asleep at one point, probably rendered dozey by all the cognac he downs at the meeting, and glories in the laugh this generates amongst his colleagues. To fall asleep while the details of the deaths of millions of people are being worked out seems irreverent, to say the least.

He’s brought his beloved German shepherd dog Hasso along to the conference with him because Hasso ‘needs a vacation.’ The inference here is that the dog is treated better than the Jews under discussion at the conference. He’s a great dog also, apparently, for ‘sniffing out Jews’ from their hiding places ‘in the latrines’ or ‘up chimneys.’ The film ends with Lange throwing a ball or a stick for the dog.

The whole film is an exercise in ‘show, not tell.’ The meeting unfolds in real time and a certain amount of knowledge on the part of the viewer is assumed. No character sits down and says to his colleagues: ‘Now, folks, as we all know, this is World War Two and Germany is about to start losing the war in a big way,’ and so on.

The discussion is all highly practical, to the point and cold and calculating, and Heydrich advises the report-givers to ‘be brief’ as his time is valuable and his cool blonde Aryan presence is required elsewhere.

The pragmatic and bureaucratic way in which the subject is gone over is frightening. If Eichmann typified for Hannah Arendt ‘the banality of evil,’ then surely this conference taken as a whole is an example of the pettifogging, bureaucratic mind-numbing and also terrifying minutiae of evil. Could this type of thing ever happen again? Well, all it takes is for good men to do nothing…

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 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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TRIUMPH OF THE WILL. (1935) ‘THE BANNED MASTERPIECE OF NAZI CINEMA’ REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

hitler leni

LENI RIEFENSTAHL’S ‘TRIUMPH OF THE WILL’ OR ‘TRIUMPH DES WILLENS.’ (1935)

‘THE BANNED MASTERPIECE OF NAZI CINEMA’ REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘A devastatingly brilliant piece of film-making.’

HALLIWELL’S FILM GUIDE.

‘Technically brilliant.’

TIME OUT FILM GUIDE.

‘The Party is Hitler—and Hitler is Germany just as Germany is Hitler!’ Rudolf Hess.

‘It is our will that this state and this Reich shall endure through the coming millennia.’ Adolf Hitler.

‘As soon as our own propaganda admits so much as a glimmer of right on the other side, the foundation for doubt in our own right has been laid.’ Adolf Hitler.

We want to be a united nation, and you, my youth, are to become this nation. In the future, we do not wish to see classes and castes, and you must not allow them to develop among you. One day, we want to see one nation.’ Adolf Hitler.

‘The concept of labor will no longer be a dividing one but a uniting one, and no longer will there be anybody in Germany who will regard manual labor any less highly than any other form of labor.’ Adolf Hitler.

This is a much-praised and much-lauded piece of film-making, although you’ll find that its fans are quick to point out that their praise is all for the technical aspects of the film only.

Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler’s pet movie director- Hitler was a big movie fan- has certainly made a fantastic documentary, and all without benefit of much of the modern film-making paraphernalia of today which might possibly have made her mammoth task a bit easier.

On the other hand, critics are reluctant to praise the content of the movie for fear of appearing to be a Nazi sympathiser, so as I’ve said the critiques mostly just praise the lady’s undoubtedly superior technical prowess and nothing else.

The film is Ms. Riefenstahl’s record of the Nazi Party’s 1934 Nuremberg Rally or their ‘sixth Party Congress,’ as it’s referred to by Hitler in the film. As an exercise in film-making, it seems to have no equal, being regarded as one of the most outstanding documentaries ever made.

As an exercise in Nazi Party propaganda, however, it was never surpassed, not even by Leni Riefenstahl’s own film record of the 1936 Olympic Games, which were held in Berlin and which she immortalised in her two-years-in-the-making 1938 movie ‘Olympia.’

Never mind all the hype for now, though. I’m happy to just tell you what’s in the damn film, lol, just in case other reviewers confine themselves to going into transports of ecstasy about things like montage, camera angles and light, things which I confess I find a little boring myself. As a reviewer, I’m mainly interested in the more human element of things.

She first shows us Hitler’s plane in motion above the clouds en route to Nuremberg and, I must say, I do wonder how she managed to capture such fabulous images of life-above-the-clouds.

Hitler was the first leader of a country to travel from place to place within his country by aeroplane, a fact which already imbued him slightly with godlike-status. She knew what she was doing, this dame, filming him descending from the clouds like Zeus on a thunderbolt!

We then see Hitler travelling by open-topped car through the city of Nuremberg which, after the war, became home to the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, the exact opposite of a Party propaganda rally, if you like. For now, however, the city resounds to the heavens with cheers as Germany’s ‘saviour’ stands ramrod-straight in his open-topped car to greet his people.

The undisguised joy on the faces of the cheering crowds has to be seen to be believed. Right arms extended in the Nazi Party salute, men, women children and even babies are thrilled beyond words to catch a glimpse of their idol.

They carpet his path with flowers and reach out to touch him as if he’s Elvis Presley on tour or something. Housewives and young women look like they’re getting ready to fling their flannel drawers at him, which is kind of hilarious. A less likely-looking matinee idol would be hard to find.

We see some lovely aerial views of Nuremberg, which must have been a very beautiful city back then with its gorgeous old buildings and cathedral spires. Then we’re treated to the sight of probably hundreds of thousands of young shirtless Aryan males camping out waiting for the rally to begin.

They engage in healthy open-air Aryan pursuits such as wrestling and athletic-type games while they wait. Could they be any blonder or more healthily, aggressively Aryan? I doubt it, lol. Hitler would certainly approve.

There’s a huge amount of marching in formation in the film. If there was one thing the Nazis knew how to do well, it was marching in formation. Always a useful skill when you’re setting out to establish your One Thousand Year Reich.

The SA (Sturmabteilung)- The Night Of The Long Knives had already happened by then- and the SS (Schutzstaffel) are in evidence during the marches and there are thousands upon thousands of standard bearers of Nazi emblems and flags with swastikas on them, marching, marching, interminably marching. 

The Wehrmacht- the German military- are in there somewhere too. It must have been a golden age of lucrative industry for the manufacturers of swastika flags and other Nazi Party memorabilia. Exit through the gift shop much…

The marchers goose-step past the watching Hitler with their arms extended and heads turned to the right to see their Fuhrer. That kind of thing, doing three or four contradictory movements at once, is hard to do. They look like machines marching in unison, especially with their legs going a mile a minute like that like something out of a cartoon.

When the speeches get underway, Hitler’s toady Rudolf Hess, who later disgraced himself by flying off to Scotland without Hitler’s permish to try to broker a peace between the Reich and Britain, introduces Hitler with lots of lavish, nonsense clichés such as ‘Germany is Hitler and Hitler is Germany.’

Very, erm, intense, Hess, you smirking jackass you. He leads the crowd in a rapturous chorus of ‘Sieg heils!’ so loud that it probably woke God himself up from his nap. I’d describe the toadying Hess as being the Wayland Smithers to Hitler’s Mr. Burns, except that that would be an insult to the characters from THE SIMPSONS that we know and love.

Hitler talks at great length about Germany’s youth and how they’re the future of Germany. That was true at any rate, I suppose. Thousands of these ‘Jugend’ obligingly cheer back at him with the terrifying light of fanaticism in their eyes.

‘We want to be a united nation, and you, my youth, are to become this nation. In the future, we do not wish to see classes and castes, and you must not allow them to develop among you. One day, we want to see one nation.’

Then he goes on to talk about how no-one belongs to the Reich who is not prepared to work their asses off for said Reich, doing jobs such as farming the land and building the Autobahns.

Cue a couple of hundred young men wielding shovels, all echoing his words back at him with adoration and ferocity. The rallies wouldn’t have done the shovel industry any harm at all, either. How fast can you deliver one million shiny new shovels, please?

Party luminaries such as the trench-coated Minister for Propaganda Joseph Goebbels and the portly Hermann Goering all get up to say a few words (or cupla focal as we say in Irish), but it’s mainly Hitler talking, banging on for hours while not seeming to say very much, if you know what I mean. He was really, really good at that.

He says generalised rubbish like ‘Germany is behind us, Germany is before us, Germany is beneath us,’ but I bet if you asked him if he had an actual plan of action for any specific problem that needed fixing or issue that needed addressing, he’d have said: ‘A plan? Oh dear me, no, who needs a plan when you have rhetoric, tons and tons of rhetoric?’

In many cases, Hitler left it to his staff to come up with the plans of action to carry out his wishes. Look, for example, at the way he left it largely to the odious little bespectacled Himmler, pictured here in the film in his long black overcoat, to work out the details of the Final Solution.

Infamous Jew-hater Julius Streicher gets his spoke in here too, by the way: ‘A people that does not protect its racial purity will perish.’ Leni Riefenstahl declared after the war that she was unaware of Hitler’s ‘genocidal’ or ‘anti-Semitic’ policies. I ain’t sayin’ nuthin.’

The rally looks spectacular at night, with the torchlight parades and processions, the fireworks lighting up the blackness of the night sky, the always rousing drumbeats and stirring music and the artificial mist-machines making the place look mystical and shrouded in mystery and glamour. The 1934 Nazi Party rally passed into mythology largely due to Riefenstahl’s superb camera-work. Amazing what you can do with a bit of smoke and mirrors.

You’d be hugely attracted to it all if you didn’t know about the worm that sat at the heart of the Third Reich’s inwardly rotten apple, devouring it from the inside. Movietone News would broadcast footage of this and other Nazi Party Rallies around the world.

The ones featuring clear evidence of Germany’s total re-armament- the tanks and the planes of the Luftwaffe- must have been terrifying for England and the other countries worried by the rise of Nazism.

There were limitations placed on Germany’s army, navy and air-force in the Versailles Treaty of post-World War One Europe, but Hitler pretty much tore that up. He was a law unto himself, that fella. I don’t know why we even bothered having a Versailles Treaty if Hitler was just going to use it to wipe his backside on.

Well anyway, we know how the story ends, don’t we? Hitler was only in power from 1933 to 1945, a mere twelve years in the scheme of things, but he and his precious Party managed to do quite a lot of damage in this short time, with their concentration camps and their plots to wipe out the Russians and wipe the Jews off the face of the earth. Certainly there were six million Jews who never lived to see the post-war Europe. That’s Hitler’s real legacy, but hey, thanks to one Leni Riefenstahl, he’s got this amazing film 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

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:

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