THE GEORGE FORMBY FILM COLLECTION. (1941- 1946) REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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THE GEORGE FORMBY FILM COLLECTION. (1941-1946) DIRECTED BY MARCEL VARNEL AND STARRING LANCASHIRE’S OWN GEORGE FORMBY.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Rediscover the magic of ‘The Ukelele Man’ himself- George Formby- with seven of his very finest films!

George Formby was Britain’s biggest box-office star when he moved to Columbia Studios to make these seven fabulous comedy musicals- full of hit songs and packed with daft and inspired comedy in the true Formby style!

Finally released from the film vaults and digitally remastered for optimum sound and picture quality, these seven films are now available to own for the very first time in one very special DVD boxset!’

SONY PICTURES HOME ENTERTAINMENT.

‘Eeeeeeeeh, it’s turned out nice again, ha’nt it…?’

My teenage son and I went out specifically to look for George Formby films after hearing him singing his wonderful comic song ‘I’m leaning on a lamp-post on the corner of the street in case a certain little lady passes by’ on a gorgeous CD called WARTIME MEMORIES, which I’ve been listening to since Christmas.

And why was I listening to a CD called WARTIME MEMORIES, you might ask me? Well, I watched CASABLANCA on Christmas Eve on Irish television, all by myself in the deepening gloom, and ever since then I’ve craved as much ‘Forties music as I can get my hands on. Anything ‘Forties, really. Music, films, memorabilia and whatever else is out there.

We found this seven-film boxset in one of our favourite places to buy movies and music, and set about watching ’em with the diligence and enthusiasm of a mouse who finds himself unexpectedly alone with a wheel of Brie.

It’s as good an introduction to the films of this special little funny man as ever you’re likely to find, so if you’re thinking of getting to know the movies of George Formby yourself, you could do a lot worse. Eeeeeeeeeh…!

George Formby (1904-1961) is the undisputed star of all seven films. With his gormless, pleasantly toothsome face and the trademark wide grin, he sings and jokes his way through the scripts in much the same way each time.

He’s never a rich posh toff, he’s always a working-class stiff (usually called George!) trying to make ends meet, but it doesn’t bother our George at all that he wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Whatever the weather, George is always in a good mood and as nice as a cake made of pie (Ned Flanders, THE SIMPSONS) to everyone he meets.

If he gets bullied by bigger, tougher men, he might get knocked about but he’ll always get back up. He’s got an unerring sense of justice and fair play, he loves his country dearly and would punch any traitor on the nose for daring to say a bad word against his beloved England.

As these particular films were mostly made during the Second World War, you’ll find George preparing to fight the Nazis in a few of them. There are jokes against Hitler, Goering and Goebbels in them specifically and the patriotism in them would do your heart good. Eeeeh, they would at that…!

There’s a certain kind of England conjured up in each film that’s mostly gone now, an England of cheeky little scamps shouting the news of the day on street corners as they sell their papers, sailors home on shore-leave with the words ‘loose lips sink ships’ ringing in their ears and war savings bonds on sale everywhere you look to aid the war effort.

Bobbies still had chin-straps and said ‘Now you just come alonger me’ to suspicious characters or rum-looking coves, going to the pictures cost next to nothing (you need to take out a bank loan these days for a night out at the flicks!) and it was common practice to hide behind the sofa when the landlord came calling for the rent.

And don’t forget the blackout curtains and the little evacuees and the air-raid sirens and the nights in the bunkers while Hitler’s Luftwaffe droned relentlessly overhead. Women drew stocking seams down the backs of their legs because real nylons were rare. Oh, happy days…!

There aren’t many folks alive today who remember this tumultuous era first-hand but we know that, as straitened as circumstances often were back then, people always had their lovely memories of the time. Maybe some of your Great-Grannies and Great-Grandads even went to see George Formby at the pictures and have good memories of so doing. Eeeeeeh, i’n’t life grand…!

George sings three, four or even five songs in each of the films, often accompanying himself on his beloved ukelele, and here’s something else about the films. You wouldn’t take George for a ladies’ man, would you, but in every single movie he gets the girl of his dreams with only a modicum of effort, and you know what little belters those ‘Forties dames were.

Of course, he was the star and the star always gets the girl. Or does it just go to show you that nice guys don’t, in fact, necessarily always finish last? George hasn’t a bad bone in his body, he’s a tad goofy-looking and if a woman came onto him he’d be just as likely to run off shrieking ‘Mother!,’ but the nice girlies all love our Georgie. ‘Well, I’ll go to our ‘ouse…!’

Let’s have a quick run-down of the seven films on the boxset before we finish. In SOUTH AMERICAN GEORGE (1941), George’s coincidental resemblance to an opera singer (without being able to sing a note of opera!) leads him into a situation where he can help a lovely lady out if he’ll just play the part of the absentee opera singer for a bit. That’s if he doesn’t get his head blown off by some rum coves first…!

MUCH TOO SHY (1942) is an hilarious romp and mine and my son’s favourite film in the boxset. George, a handyman and artist who designs the film posters for the local cinema, takes an art class to teach him to give the womens’ heads he draws fabulous bodies to go with their free-floating craniums. But when some scandalous nudie pictures of local ladies mysteriously turn up in the papers, bodies an’ all, guess who gets the blame…!

This one features comedian Jimmy Clitheroe as George’s wise-beyond-his-years little brother. ‘Show me a woman and I’ll show you trouble…!’ Fans of the CARRY-ON movies will be thrilled to see a ridiculously young-looking Charles Hawtrey in this one as a ‘brother brush’ of George’s, and our favourite comic song, ‘I’m Delivering The Morning Milk’ is in it too.

GET CRACKING (1943) is a full-on, all-out World War Two film that sees the hapless George joining the LDF or LOCAL DEFENCE VOLUNTEERS. While he cares for a little girl evacuee and builds his own honest-to-God tank in his spare time out of odds-and-ends, he has great fun also trying to get one over on a rival LDF platoon. The enemy is Hitler, George! Wouldn’t it be better if you rival LDF chaps joined forces? It’s just a thought…

BELL-BOTTOM GEORGE (1944) is another war film that sees George joining the Navy in a case of mistaken identity, while dating a pretty WREN and accidentally cracking a spy ring that the British government has been trying to track down themselves.

George has always wanted to be in the Navy though. Maybe his efforts in uncovering the spy ring and entertaining the troops with his little ukelele might be enough to gain him admission? We’ll see what the man whose uniform he’s wearing has got to say about that…! Charles Hawtrey is here too, plus the world’s oddest-sounding crickets.

HE SNOOPS TO CONQUER (1945) sees George working as a lowly tea-boy for the corrupt Tangleton local council. When he’s tasked with surveying the entire population of Tangleton as to their working and living conditions, George does a thorough job of it.

So thorough, in fact, that he accidentally unmasks the local councillors for the lying, pocket-lining rats they are and exposes the terrible disparity between rich and poor in post-war Tangleton. Eeeeeh, some of the films have a nice bit of social commentary in ’em an’ all, you know, lol.

George also gets entangled (in Tangleton) with a wacky toff inventor and his attractive daughter in this one, and the excellent comic song ‘If You Want To Get Your Picture In The Press, You Must Be Different, Some Kind Of Way’ is here too.

I DIDN’T DO IT (1945) sees George set off to the Big Smoke to pursue a career on the stage with his recitations and comic songs, only to find himself accused of the murder of a rich man in the same boarding-house.

The way George innocently lands himself in trouble with the police with his unfailing honesty is so funny here, and the back-story of the murder is really exciting, reminding me of old German silent movie star Emil Jannings in VARIETÉ.

GEORGE ON CIVVY STREET (1946) sees a hopeful George being debriefed and finally sent home from the war. He’s looking forward to running the old family pub again, in its charming rural location, and hooking up once more with the girl he more than likes.

But she owns a rival pub, you see, and now it’s run by scurrilous individuals who want to see George out of business. Will they succeed in their fiendish plan? This one includes a naughty, wholly unforeseen strip-a-gram that had myself and my son in stitches.

Most of the songs contain the sauciest of sexual innuendo that saw George in trouble with the BBC back in the day. I understand that crotchety old Auntie Beeb wasn’t at all impressed with ‘Me Little Stick Of Blackpool Rock,’ which unfortunately doesn’t feature on the boxset.

There’s still more innuendo here than you can shake a stick at, though, so enjoy a sly little giggle at these genius songs. George is probably looking down in approval, grinning his big toothy grin as he lovingly fingers his ukelele. Eeeeeeh, careful now, you cheeky fast cat…!

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

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THE GLENN MILLER STORY. (1954) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

glenn millerTHE GLENN MILLER STORY. (1954) DIRECTED BY ANTHONY MANN. STARRING JAMES STEWART AND JUNE ALLYSON. MUSIC BY GLENN MILLER, JOSEPH GERSHENSON AND HENRY MANCINI. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

God, I love this film. I watch it every Christmas without fail, which is perfectly appropriate as it’s ideal family viewing and the action in the film ends on Christmas Day, 1944. It’s the story of the most famous ‘big band’ leader of them all, Glenn Miller, who between 1939 and 1943 scored no fewer than twenty-three Number Ones, a feat unequalled by Elvis Presley or even The Beatles.

And that was back when being Number One actually meant something. These days, Ed Sheeran could just break wind and it’d sail straight to the top of the charts without any competition whatsoever, no offence intended to the Rich Ginger One, lol.

Glenn Miller is magnificently portrayed here by America’s third favourite leading man after Humphrey Bogart and Cary Grant, James Stewart. He looks so like Glenn Miller it’s actually uncanny, and his lanky, awkward charm is so devilishly endearing that it can’t fail to captivate the hearts of any women watching. Probably men too, I don’t know…!

The story takes us from Glenn Miller’s early attempts to establish himself as a musician and band leader to those heady, heady days when he was on top of the world, having finally established that distinctive ‘Glenn Miller Sound’ that we know so well and that he’d quite literally slaved to achieve.

Present for most of the struggle was Glenn’s lovely wife, Helen Miller née Burger. His courtship of her in the film is erratic and quirky and ultimately desperately romantic for the viewer. In real life, leaving two or three years between phone calls to his girlfriend would’ve garnered Miller the bum’s rush and a painful punch in the kisser, but the film has an almost fairytale quality to it and Glenn’s advances are welcomed by Helen with no harsher a remonstrance than the occasional humorously-toned ‘Honestly…!’ As in, Honestly, this man of mine, lol. He gets away with murder because of his eccentric and individualistic charm. Guys everywhere could learn a thing or two from him, they really could.

There are cameos in the film from such real-life musical luminaries as Louis Armstrong, Babe Russin, Gene Krupa, The Modernnaires and Frances Langford. I love when he’s leading his own big band overseas as Captain Glenn Miller in World War Two, and at an open-air concert for the troops the band keeps playing, even as the bombers are flying overhead and the earth is shaking ominously.

The band keeps playing on and receives a rapturous reception from the appreciative crowd after the danger has passed. I always get a big lump in my throat at that bit. Even mean old Hitler himself couldn’t stop Glenn Miller…!

I also love when his band start playing Glenn Miller’s own music to the troops on parade instead of the usual dreary marching music. Suddenly the troops are marching with these giant goofy grins plastered all over their mugs. It’s wonderful to see.

Of course, Captain Glenn Miller gets a big bollocking afterwards from his immediate superior for his maverick, Robin-Williams-in-GOOD-MORNING-VIETNAM-style behaviour, but he’s the winner ultimately when he’s given official permish to entertain the troops in his own inimitable Glenn Miller way.

We can’t talk about the film without talking about the marvellous music it contains. MOONLIGHT SERENADE is, of course, the big one, and the story of how it came about features prominently in the movie. You can also hear PENNSYLVANIA 6-5000, TUXEDO JUNCTION, AMERICAN PATROL, IN THE MOOD, A STRING OF PEARLS and LITTLE BROWN JUG, many of which were written as wonderful musical gifts to his wife. Lucky Helen…! Wish someone would write me a song of any description, lol.

The end comes when Glenn Miller’s plane goes missing somewhere over the English Channel on December 15th, 1944, while he’s en route to entertain American troops in France. Neither Glenn Miller nor his plane nor the pilot were ever seen again. It’s so sad to see this bit in the film.

It’s an unsolved mystery about which people have been speculating for years but the obvious answer to the puzzle of what happened is that the plane simply failed in some way and fell into the sea. It was a tragic end for the man who once denounced fascist oppression in Europe with the words: ‘America means freedom and there’s no expression of freedom quite so sincere as music.’

Even sadder is the Christmas Day radio broadcast for that year, at which Glenn Miller was supposed to be present and playing. The broadcast poignantly goes ahead without him, while his wife Helen, his best friend and fellow musician Chummy MacGregor and Glenn and Helen’s two adopted children, Stevie and Jonnie, listen at home.

The Christmas tree twinkles while the adults listen to Glenn’s music, smiling through their tears. It’s just too sad. I always break down completely at this bit. It’s just like I always suspected, folks. I’m just too soft for this job, haha. Anyway, watch the film if you haven’t done so already. Glenn Miller isn’t just for Christmas, you know…glenn millerglenn miller

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

THE WARSAW GHETTO aka THE COURAGEOUS HEART OF IRENA SENDLER. (2009) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

sendler 1-fullTHE COURAGEOUS HEART OF IRENA SENDLER aka THE WARSAW GHETTO. (2009) DIRECTED BY JOHN KENT HARRISON. BASED ON THE BOOK ‘THE MOTHER OF THE HOLOCAUST CHILDREN’ BY ANNA MIESZKOWSKA.

STARRING ANNA PAQUIN, MARCIA GAY HARDEN, GORAN VISNJIC AND STEVE SPEIRS. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a surprisingly good made-for-television movie about one of the darkest periods in human history, the Holocaust, and one of the landscapes where the Holocaust took place, the Warsaw Ghetto. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were hounded and hunted into an area of German-occupied Poland, ie, this ghetto, that was too small for their huge numbers and where disease and starvation flourished.

It was from this infamous space that thousands of Jews were shoved onto cattle trucks and trains and sent off for so-called ‘re-settlement in the East,’ which we of course know now meant death by gassing in Treblinka or the other death camps.

This film has been likened to Steven Spielberg’s SCHINDLER’S LIST but in reality, it doesn’t come close to capturing the life of chaos, terror, deprivation and random executions that the Jews lived in this hell-hole. It does try hard, however, and I found it both entertaining and enjoyable, if one could ever be said to ‘enjoy’ a film about such a grim subject.

Anna Paquin seems to have recovered by now from the trauma of starring in a film which saw a naked Harvey Keitel being the direct cause of Paquin’s screen mother Holly Hunter having one of her fingers chopped off by an enraged and hearetbroken Sam Neill.

That’s Jane Campion’s exquisite film THE PIANO I’m referring to here, of course. Anna Paquin is now known for getting her own kit off as well in the hugely successful- and sexy!- HBO vampire drama TRUE BLOOD.

 THE COURAGEOUS HEART OF IRENA SENDLER, based on a true story, sees Anna Paquin playing a real-life Polish social worker who safely smuggled 2, 500 children out of the accursed Warsaw Ghetto during World War Two.

Her invalid mother is played in a nice understated way by Marcia Gay Harden, who once portrayed a religious nut trapped in a supermarket in the excellent film adaptation of Stephen King’s novella, THE MIST.

Anyway, Irena is appalled at the sheer scale of the suffering in the Ghetto. With several families crammed into the one room, with limited food and sanitation facilities, many Jews began to take on a gaunt and bedraggled-looking physical appearance.

This suited the Germans down to the ground, of course, as it only helped to perpetuate the myth that the Jews were dirty, lice-ridden creatures ripe with disease who should be exterminated like vermin.

In fact, typhus was one of the perils Irena had to face as she went into the Ghetto time and time again and came out with small children whom she placed with Polish families for ‘safe-keeping,’ as it were. The distress of the mothers who are having to part with their precious children in order to better ensure a future for them is shown very realistically here.

Stefan, Irena’s handsome dark-haired Jewish boyfriend and partner-in-crime, as it were, looks like Phil Dunphy from TV sitcom MODERN FAMILY. I’m just saying, haha. I loved Piotr, her big burly helper who shared the risks and the burden equally with Irena. I sure could use someone like him to muck in around the house.

I wonder if he survived the war, and how many of the children did as well? Have there ever been any reunions of the children saved by Irena Sendler, like we know there have been of the people now known as ‘Schindler’s Jews?’ It’d certainly be interesting to find out.

The bit where Irena is taken by the Gestapo and tortured is flippin’ terrifying, the tensest and scariest part of the whole film. The film is billed as a 12s, but I wouldn’t show those scenes to a twelve-year-old, especially if they’re in any way sensitive in nature.

This film, light on Nazis and concentrating mainly on Irena’s mission and the kiddies she saved, is an excellent tribute to the woman who smuggled so many children to safety right under the very noses of the leather-coated and jackbooted Gestapo.

The real-life Irena, who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 when she was actually still alive, appears in person for a moment at the end of the film talking about those long-ago but still relevant days, which is a lovely touch.

It might be a movie spoiler to say that our heroine went on to live a long and hopefully happy life after that terrible period in history was over, but if anyone ever deserved to, it was surely Irena Sendler. The film adds another layer, as it were, to our knowledge of what went on in German-occupied countries during the war and, for that alone if for nothing else, it’s worth watching.

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

THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI and ZULU: A DUO OF SUPERB WAR FILMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

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THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI and ZULU: A DUO OF SUPERB EPIC WAR FILMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI. (1957) BASED ON THE 1952 BOOK BY PIERRE BOULLE. DIRECTED BY DAVID LEAN. STARRING ALEC GUINNESS, JACK HAWKINS, WILLIAM HOLDEN, JAMES DONALD, GEOFFREY HORNE AND SESSUE HAYAKAWA.

ZULU. (1964) DIRECTED, CO-PRODUCED AND CO-WRITTEN BY CY ENDFIELD. STARRING STANLEY BAKER, MICHAEL CAINE, JACK HAWKINS, ULLA JACOBSSON, NIGEL GREEN, PATRICK MAGEE, JAMES BOOTH AND CHIEF BUTHELEZI. NARRATION BY RICHARD BURTON.

These are undoubtedly two of the best war films that have ever been made. I’ve loved ’em both since I first clapped eyes on them and I’m thrilled to be reviewing them together like this.

Starring some of the finest actors in cinema history, they’ve won a ton of awards between them and are always featuring on lists detailing the best films of all time. There are quite a few similarities between them as well, as it happens. Let’s take a closer look at both movies, shall we, and see what we make of ’em…

THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI tells the story (fictional, but based on some fact) of a large group of British soldiers who are taken prisoner by the Japanese during WW2. They are sent to a prisoner-of-war camp in Burma and forced to build the titular bridge which will connect Bangkok and Rangoon when it is completed.

ZULU is a dramatisation of an actual battle, the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, that took place between British soldiers and the massive Zulu army in early 1879 in Natal. It was during the Anglo-Zulu War that it happened. In the film, the same Zulus have just massacred large numbers of the British force at the Battle of Isandlwana.

Now they’re coming for the one-hundred-and-fifty of Her Majesty’s soldiers, many of them injured and in the sick bay, who currently occupy the little missionary station at Rorke’s Drift. The odds against the British soldiers are impossible. They’re dead men walking now, surely…?

Both films portray the British soldiers as courageous hard workers who keep a stiff upper lip at all times and never abandon their principles. They’re true Englishmen, after all, from a civilised country where people drink a nice cup of tea and read the morning paper unhurriedly regardless of the situation. It’s a good way to be, eh what, chaps?

Alec Guinness’s stiff upper lip as Lieutenant Colonel Nicholson in THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI nearly gets him killed. He clashes with Colonel Saito, the man in charge of the Japanese prison camp, over a rather piddling matter of principle for which he’s (Nicholson) clearly prepared to die.

It’s almost a huge relief when eventually the equally stubborn pair put aside their differences and decide, for their mutual benefit, to build the best damn bridge they’re capable of creating between them.

Michael Caine is superb in ZULU as the posh privileged army officer with the fancy toff’s name of Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead. He comes from a family of army royalty and initially looks down on Stanley Baker’s Lieutenant Chard.

Chard is an engineer who, incidentally, is busily- and sweatily!- engaged in building a bridge when Bromhead swans up on his horse, as cool as the proverbial cucumber. What is it with army men and their little bridges…? The two men quickly learn to work together, however, when those pesky Zulus start swarming over the horizon…

Although my favourite characters from THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI are those of Nicholson and Colonel Saito, William Holden is top-notch too as the American prisoner-of-war, Commander Shears. He daringly escapes from the impossible-to-escape-from prison camp and then is horrified when he’s asked to go back there by Jack Hawkins as the English Major Warden, who has orders to blow up the bridge that his fellow Englishman Nicholson has so lovingly created. Blow up the bridge? Jolly good show, chaps. Jolly good show…!

Actor Jack Hawkins is another feature that both films have in common. He also stars in ZULU as the rather naïve Swedish missionary Otto Witt, father to the beautiful Ulla Jacobsson’s Margareta and a man who’s partial to a bit of a tipple.

I love when that fine South African-born British character actor Nigel Green (COUNTESS DRACULA with Ingrid Pitt) as the exceptionally stiff-upper-lipped Colour Sergeant Bourne tells the drunken Otto Witt to ‘quiet down now sir, there’s a good gentleman, you’re scaring the lads…!’

Nigel Green gets another great line when a green and terrified young soldier says to him as they quietly wait to be overrun by Zulus: ‘Why us, Sarge?’ Not turning a hair, the splendidly-moustached Colour Sergeant Bourne replies: ‘Because we’re here, lad. Because we’re here…’

In a nice touch of authenticity, the real-life Chief Buthelezi plays his own great-grandfather, the Zulu King Cetshwayo, in the film. Also, a lot of singing talent is on show here as the Zulus take on the Welsh soldiers in the regiment in a sort of THE VOICE OF WALES X FACTOR MEETS ZULU’S GOT TALENT type of thing so be sure and buy the soundtrack…!

There are lots of terrific actors in minor roles in both films too, such as James Donald as the infinitely civilised and reasonable but also pragmatic Major Clipton in THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI and another James, this time James Booth, from ZULU. He plays the malingerer Private Henry Hook, the guy with the bad attitude who rather surprisingly ends up winning an award for bravery along with no small number of his colleagues.

These are two cracking war films that’ll make great viewing if you were to watch ’em back-to-back some lazy Saturday afternoon, like I’ve just done myself. Don’t forget to maintain that stiff upper lip throughout, though, and keep a tight rein on any tears that might threaten to fall during your viewing of this truly smashing and emotional double-feature.

It’s just not the done thing to sob and sniffle like hysterical women in front of the ranks, you know. As to what exactly constitutes the done thing, well, you know what, old boy? In the words of a certain Colonel Nicholson: ‘I haven’t the foggiest…!’

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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

THE DEVIL’S ARITHMETIC. (1999) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

devilsarithmetic-1920x1080THE DEVIL’S ARITHMETIC. (1999) BASED ON THE HOLOCAUST NOVELLA BY JANE YOLEN. DIRECTED BY DONNA DEITCH. EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: DUSTIN HOFFMAN AND MIMI ROGERS. MUSIC BY FRÉDÉRIC TALGORN.

STARRING KIRSTEN DUNST, BRITTANY MURPHY, PAUL FREEMAN, LOUISE FLETCHER, MIMI ROGERS AND DANIEL BROCKLEBANK.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This TV movie received mostly positive reviews. I have mixed feelings about it myself. The subject matter is not to blame. The Holocaust has been fascinating movie producers and the viewing public alike for over seventy years now.

I myself could never tire of watching Holocaust movies made from different perspectives and viewpoints. Like I said, it’s an endless fascinating topic. It’s undoubtedly grim and terribly sad, but it’s enthralling too.

There’s something a little off about this particular film, though. There’s nothing wrong per se with the notion of someone (a Jewish person) going back in time to the Second World War, finding themselves right-slap-bang in the middle of the greatest wave of anti-Semitism the world has ever known. That even sounds like it might be thrilling to watch, doesn’t it?

I’m going to be a bit of a bitch now (be warned!) but I think it’s the two lead actresses who bring down the film. I’ve always hated Kirsten Dunst, so I guess I just don’t find her very believable in the role of Hannah. Hannah is a young Jewish girl living in modern times- well, the late ‘Nineties- who travels back in time during a family Passover to the time of concentration camps and Adolf Hitler and his Nazi cohorts.

This happens solely so that the young and thoughtless Hannah can learn about just how traumatic the experience of being in a concentration camp was for her older relatives and her Aunty Eva in particular. ‘Forties Hannah and her cousin Rivkah, played by Brittany Murphy, are told by the Nazis that they’re going to be ‘resettled in the East.’

They don’t even need to pack anything because they’ll be ‘well looked after’ by the Germans when they get to this mythical destination. As we already know, ‘resettlement in the East’ merely meant transportation to a concentration camp and all that that entailed.

Unsurprisingly, Hannah and Rivkah are duly packed off to a camp that the film-makers modelled on Auschwitz or Oswiecim, one of the most infamous of the concentration camps. It was here that camp commandant Rudolf Hoess (not to be confused with Hitler’s chum Rudolf Hess, though I imagine that that happens a lot) perfected the method of mass-killing with the aid of a poisonous gas known as Zyklon B.

I must say, the specially constructed camp looks every bit as grim, bleak and mucky as I’ve read that Auschwitz actually was in real life. The Nazi guards and officers are a bit hammy and stereotypical with their ‘Ve haf vays of making you tock…!’ accents but I find them watchable nonetheless. The camp dormitories are realistic too, realistically horrible and miserable, that is.

I have a real problem with Brittany Murphy, though I’ve no wish to speak ill of the… Well, you know. Her acting is wooden and when she pronounces ‘the Nazis’ as ‘the Nozzies’ in her fairly dodgy Polish accent, I was just completely turned off. Her saintly smiles whenever she’s praising Hannah for keeping everyone’s spirits up with her ‘stories’ just made me want to slap her in the kisser with a wet kipper, haha.

These ‘stories’ of Hannah’s, by the way, are along the lines of: ‘I’ve come from the future, a wonderful place where we eat a marvellous food called pizza, which is basically a thin breaded base covered in tomato sauce and melted cheese…!’

That pizza story annoyed me no end. I just found it to be completely out of place, inappropriate to the subject matter and even downright silly. Telling the starving, terrified inmates of Auschwitz that you’ve come from the so-called future and want to regale them with tales of the great grub you can get there, well, it just seems wrong and silly, even if you are just trying to keep up their morale. It totally grated (Grated? Cheese? See what I did there?) on my expectations of what story-telling elements a good Holocaust movie should contain.

There are some effective and unbearably sad scenes in the film too, however. Namely, the fate of the would-be escapees, Hannah’s final scenes in the camp and what happens when the camp commandant discovers that one of the dormitories has a new little occupant. So the film’s not all bad.

The title, incidentally, refers to the obligations incumbent upon the camp commandant to ‘keep the pace with the numbers.’ That is to say, the numbers of people he was supposed to kill in any given period. It doesn’t really bear thinking about, does it…?

Anyway, don’t let my lack of fondness for the two lead actresses put you off. The film is mostly still watchable, but it can be a little silly at times. Silliness and levity have no place in a Holocaust film. Or am I just a humourless git? Who knows…? That could be it exactly, haha.

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

TORA! TORA! TORA! (1970) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

tora01TORA! TORA! TORA! (1970) BASED ON THE BOOK ‘TORA! TORA! TORA!’ BY GORDON W. PRANGE AND ‘THE BROKEN SEAL’ BY LADISLAS FARAGO. DIRECTED BY RICHARD FLEISCHER, TOSHIO MASUDA AND KINJI FUKASAKU. MUSIC BY JERRY GOLDSMITH.

STARRING MARTIN BALSAM, JOSEPH COTTEN, JASON ROBARDS, TATSUYA MIHASHI AND TAKAHIRO TAMURA.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is an absolutely spectacular blockbuster of a movie, though its critics have termed it boring and overlong, with characters the viewers can’t sympathise with. I must say that I mostly disagree with these pronouncements. I think that this is a shocking story well told.

I love this film, which I had the pleasure of seeing on the big screen recently as part of a history festival being held in my local area. Films like this are almost certainly better seen on a big screen. You really get the benefit of all the special effects, for which this movie incidentally won an Oscar. In your face, critics! Clearly just a bunch of begrudgers, haha.

It’s certainly a long film, but you could hardly tell the story of the Japanese air attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941 in an hour or less. A film depicting such a momentous historical event was always going to be a big sprawling epic of a production. If you like old movies about World War Two and you’ve got a hundred and forty odd minutes to spare, you’ll absolutely love this powerhouse of a flick.

The action moves back and forth between America and Japan, but it’s easy enough to follow said action as every location is clearly captioned, as is the name and rank of every officer we see. There’s not much point, I feel, in naming individual Admirals and Privates as there are so many of them and it all gets a bit confusing, so let’s just say that the American officials are frantically busy trying to decode every Japanese communication they can get their hands on.

There are strong feelings on the side of the American military that the Japanese are going to launch an attack on them. The problem is trying to figure out just where and when such an attack might take place. That’s what all the frantic decoding is about.

We, the viewers, have the advantage of seeing things from both sides. We actually get to watch the Japanese aircraft pilots as they make their solemn preparations to launch the offensive that brought America into the Second World War at last.

The film seems to portray the Japanese as people who really believe in what they’re doing. They’re serious and single-minded and they’re dead-set on destroying as much of America’s air and sea defences as they possibly can. You definitely get the feeling that they’d be happy to die for their mission if that was what was required of them. That kind of intense single-mindedness always scares me a bit. Do you know what I mean?

History, of course, has shown that the Japanese mostly succeeded in their mission, though not without incurring casualties and, later on, a terrible retribution from the Americans. The scenes depicting the attack are so well done that they look real. You actually feel like you’re watching real old movie footage, that’s how good it is.

The film seems pretty accurate in its representation of the devastation wrought on the American fleet. It’d be damn near impossible to watch it without feeling some of the shock felt by the Americans, whose slow reaction to some of the Japanese coded messages meant that they were, in fact, taken almost completely by surprise.

That’s where the phrase Tora! Tora! Tora! comes into the picture. The words were the code-words used by the Japanese fighter pilots to indicate to their waiting colleagues that the desired ‘complete surprise’ had been achieved. I loved that the Japanese actors actually spoke their native language and subtitles were used to let us know what they were saying. The film, which incidentally I prefer to the more modern Ben Affleck version, feels more authentic that way.

My favourite character was Martin Balsam as the unfortunately named Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, the Commander-in-Chief of the US Pacific Fleet. While I watched him staring in horror at the sight of Pearl Harbour in flames on that terrible December morning in 1941, I couldn’t help being reminded of the time that he cautiously climbed the stairs in the Bates Motel as Milton Arbogast, private investigator, some ten years earlier. That’ll always be my favourite performance of his, but I’ve generally always liked him in everything I’ve seen him in, this film included.

Joseph Cotten as Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson is a handsome silver-haired fox in the film. A really young-looking Jason Robards is in here too, for once not playing a crooked, all-powerful billionaire businessman, which seems to be the only role I’ve ever seen him in, haha.

I love the scene where the woman (a woman pilot, if you please!) giving a flying lesson to a young American airman finds herself suddenly caught up in the air attack. Without warning, they find themselves surrounded by Japanese planes. They’re literally bang-slap in the middle of one of the most important episodes in history ever and they don’t even know it. Watch the movie to see what they do about it.

This excellent war film, which despite what the critics say manages to be both informative and entertaining, ends on a quote from the Japanese Admiral Yamamoto in his flagship after the attack. It pretty much sums up the only real ‘achievement’ of the attack on Pearl Harbour. It’s bleak, it’s portentous and it’s chilling, and it’s pithy enough that I’m going to end on it:

‘I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and to fill him with a terrible resolve.’

You said it, mate…

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