For our final podcast in the War Films series, we turn to David Lean's WWII prisoner of war drama set in Burma in 1943. Starring Alec Guinness, William Holden, Jack Hawkins and Sessue Hayakawa, the film was based on the novel by French author Pierre Boulle and was produced by Sam Spiegel. It won seven Oscars, four British Academy Film Awards, and three Golden Globes. Click the image below to listen to the podcast (32.7 MB, 1 hour 17 mins).
Recorded Sunday 14 February 2021, edited by Murray Ewing.
In the Japanese Sengoku period, a diminishing number of daimyos battle to see who will unite the country and become Shogun. The Takeda clan is headed by the immoveable Shingen, fighting the combined forces of Nobunaga and Tokugawa. When Shingen is mortally wounded, his generals bring in a double - a kagemusha - to keep the clan from collapsing and their enemies on their toes. A magnificent return to form for the emperor of film, Akira Kurosawa, with Tatsuya Nakadai taking on the roles of the feared Takeda daimyo and his low-caste double. Click the image below to listen to the podcast (27.4MB, 1 hour 15 mins).
Recorded Monday 16 July 2018, edited by Garen Ewing.
Purchase the film from Amazon UK: Downfall | Blu Ray | DVD | (1980).
In the final days of the Third Reich, Hitler rants and raves in the confines of his bunker while his Generals get ever more desperate and the Soviet army closes in. Partially based on the memoirs of one of Hitler's secretaries, Traudl Junge, Bruno Ganz turns in a weighty performance as one of the last century's most devastating figures in this bleak look at the fall of Nazism, and of Berlin, from German director Oliver Hirschbiegel. Click the image below to listen to the podcast (29.9MB, 1 hour 12 mins).
Recorded Sunday 8 April 2018, edited by Murray Ewing.
Notes and Errata: The Battle of Berlin saw the Russians enter the city with about 6,250 tanks, though they had around 20,000 in the vicinity; the Germans ended up with just 40 battle-ready tanks to use in the suburbs. An information board was put up at the site of the bunker in the lead-up to the 2006 World Cup, hosted by Germany. The scene where General Krebs tries to make a deal with the Russians was with General Chuikov, not Marshal Zhukov. Downfall didn’t win an Oscar but was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film in 2005 (won by The Sea Inside). The other actor I was trying to remember in, um, Remember (2015) was Martin Landau.
Purchase the film from Amazon UK: Downfall | Blu Ray | DVD | (2004).
A sleepy English village is thrown into the centre of the action when a crack troop of Germans arrives, in disguise, to carry out a kidnap plot against Winston Churchill. This fictional 'secret war' encounter, written by Jack Higgins, stars Michael Caine, Donald Sutherland, Robert Duvall, Jenny Agutter, Jean Marsh and others and features a captivating mix of behind-the-scenes intrigue and in-yer-face action. Click the image below to listen to the podcast (28.4MB, 1 hour 6 mins).
Recorded Monday 30 May 2016, edited by Murray Ewing.
Notes and Errata: The Geneva Convention came into force in 1931, so was in effect during WWII. 'I Was Monty's Double' was a real-life account written by M. E. Clifton James and published in 1954; it was adapted into a film in 1958 and included a scene at the end where the Germans attempt to kidnap the false Monty.
Detailing one of the outstanding small actions of the Nineteenth Century, Zulu tells the story of the small band of British soldiers who defended the mission outpost of Rorke's Drift against up to 4000 Zulu warriors. Starring Stanley Baker, Michael Caine and Jack Hawkins, it's a timeless favourite - "with some guts behind it". Click the image below to listen to the podcast (27.5MB, 1 hour 16 mins).
Recorded Saturday 2 Apr 2016, edited by Garen Ewing.
Made by two teenagers in late 50s/early 60s Britain over 8 years on a minuscule budget, It Happened Here is both a remarkable achievement and a stark commentary on the nature of war and occupation with a relevance to both historical and modern times. Created and directed by Kevin Brownlow, and starring Pauline Jobson, Sebastian Shaw, and a fascinating cast of volunteers, extras, and members of the public (26.1MB, 1 hour 12 mins).
Recorded Saturday 16 January 2016, edited by Garen Ewing.
Richard Attenborough directs an all-star cast - including Robert Redford, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Dirk Bogarde and James Caan - in this factual and highly dramatic retelling of 1944's ill-fated Operation Market Garden, based on the 1974 book A Bridge Too Far by Cornelius Ryan. Click the image below to listen to the podcast (32.9MB, 1 hour 30 mins).
Recorded Sunday 8 Feb 2015, edited by Garen Ewing (with apologies for the delay!)
Stanley Kubrick's third full-length film saw him team up with Kirk Douglas in a stark but stylish screen adaptation of Humphrey Cobb's 1935 WWI novel, Paths of Glory. The film also starred Adolphe Menjou, George Macready, Richard Anderson and Ralph Meeker, and included a memorable and moving cameo by Kubrick's soon-to-be wife, Christiane Harlan. Click the image below to listen to the podcast (25.4MB, 1 hour 24 mins).
Recorded Monday 1 Dec 2014, edited by Garen Ewing. Purchase the DVD from Amazon UK: Paths of Glory (1957)
In 1986 Oliver Stone was at last able to turn his Vietnam experiences into a film - Platoon. The first in what would become his 'Vietnam trilogy', it starred Charlie Sheen, Willem Defoe and Tom Berenger, and went on to be nominated for eight Oscars, winning four. Click the image below to listen to the podcast (21.1MB, 1 hour 10 mins).
Recorded Sunday 19 Oct 2014, edited by Garen Ewing. Warning: mild language in one of the clip extracts.
After an introduction to the War Films Podcast idea, we discuss Carl Foreman's WWII adventure tour-de-force, The Guns of Navarone, based on the Alistair MacLean novel and starring Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn and Anthony Quayle. Click the image below to listen to the podcast (32.6MB, 1 hour 30 mins).
Recorded Friday 19 September 2014, edited by Garen Ewing.
Notes and Errata: Kurosawa's Seven Samurai was indeed 1954. Where Eagles Dare has a body count of 100 according to MovieBodyCounts.com, which places it at no. 62 in the Top 100, though well in the top 20 for its war film category. The ruins at the start of Navarone are indeed the Parthenon, while those used later in the film seem to be the temple ruins at Lindos on Rhodes.
Back in 2011 my brother Murray and I spent several months discussing ten favourite adventure films (you can still listen to them from this blog). Recently we decided to tackle another category, considering several and eventually settling on war films.
Here are the ten we'll be discussing ...
The Guns of Navarone (1961) : Platoon (1986)
Paths of Glory (1957) : A Bridge Too Far (1977)
It Happened Here (1964) : Zulu (1964)
The Eagle Has Landed (1976) : Downfall (2004)
Kagemusha (1980) : The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957)
Because I (Garen) chose the ten adventure films, I gave Murray preference over the category this time. I really thought he'd go for horror, SF or fantasy; I also suggested martial arts and war, and he surprised me by opting for war, partially because it's not something either of us have looked into that much - which is sort of why we're doing it.
Most of the films have come from my collection as I am something of war film fan. It was difficult to choose ten and leave out some other favourites (The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, Ill Met By Moonlight, Saving Private Ryan, The Four Feathers, The Great Escape, Tora Tora Tora!, Where Eagles Dare ...). We were quite strict with our definition of the genre, initially also considering films such as Casablanca and Starship Troopers but deciding a narrower definition would limit our already-numerous options.
As before there'll be no regular schedule for these - watch me on Twitter for announcements - but the first one should appear within two or three weeks, and then whenever we're able from then on. I hope you'll tune in!
Our quest to examine ten classic adventure films reaches its conclusion with The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974), Ray Harryhausen's fantasy epic starring John Phillip Law, Tom Baker, Caroline Munro, and the six-armed goddess of death and destruction, Kali. Click the image below to listen to the podcast (25.6 MB, 1 hour 10 mins).
Recorded Monday 12 December 2011, edited by Murray Ewing.
Notes & Errata: Tom Baker's merchant seaman card is reproduced on page 341 of Tracing Your Ancestors in the Public Record Office (2002) by Amanda Bevan; he was discharged from service in 1958. Hammer's Rasputin film was Rasputin the Mad Monk (1966), starring Christopher Lee as Rasputin. The 'Sinbad vs. Dinosaurs' film Harryausen worked up the concept for was titled King of the Geniis (1970). The 1970s Thief of Baghdad was a made-for-TV production from 1978 (though we definitely saw it at the cinema!), it starred Roddy McDowall and also featured Terence Stamp, Ian Holm and Peter Ustinov. In his Film Fantasy Scrapbook (1989) Harryhausen describes the Kali statue as an eight-foot bronze statue (just thought I'd mention it :-))