23 June 2016



I love old war films, especially if they're about either of the two World Wars, although I've been known to watch films about other wars too. The Crimean War, the Boer War, the American Civil War and the Irish War of Independence have all been immortalised in some top-notch films, from the iconic GONE WITH THE WIND to MICHAEL COLLINS, starring Irish actor Liam Neeson.

Today's DAILY EXPRESS, coincidentally enough, has an article in it entitled WAR MOVIES THAT STILL INSPIRE US. I came across it while I was mulling over the film OVERLORD and the things I'd planned to say about it in this review. You've probably seen the article yourselves.

The list cites the following films (in no particular order, as they say on reality television shows) as examples of the best war movies of all time: THE DAM BUSTERS (1955); SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998); THE GREAT ESCAPE (1953); ZULU (1964); THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI (1957); WHERE EAGLES DARE (1968); ATONEMENT (2007); LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962); APOCALYPSE NOW (1979).

Good call on ZULU with Michael Caine and THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI starring Alec Guinness. I would also have included the two films I've seen about the ill-fated Charge Of The Light Brigade and the excellent German-language film DOWNFALL (aka DER UNTERGANG) from 2004, starring Bruno Ganz.

It's the grimly claustrophobic story of the last few days of the infamous Third Reich and the events leading up to the joint suicide of Hitler and his wife of only a few hours, Eva Braun. If you have any interest at all in this period of history, you should definitely watch it. It's superb.

Anyway, the reason for the article in the DAILY EXPRESS, and also for my mentioning it, is as follows. A major new exhibition is opening this summer at the Imperial War Museum in London. It's entitled REEL TO REEL: A CENTURY OF WAR MOVIES and according to the article it'll be celebrating 'the iconic battlefield blockbusters through a collection of props, costumes, artefacts, storyboards and scripts.' It sounds like a dream date for all fans of war movies.

The connection to OVERLORD is simply that the aforementioned Imperial War Museum gets quite a major credit in the film. This is because it kindly permitted the film's director Stuart Cooper to have access to not only millions of feet of film in their archives but also to the diaries of some of the soldiers present at the D-Day Landings (OPERATION OVERLORD), extracts from which I believe were incorporated into the screenplay.

OVERLORD tells the story of a young good-looking English chap called Thomas Beddowes who gets called up to fight for his country in World War Two. It's beautifully shot in black-and-white by the man who was Stanley Kubrick's long-time cinematographer, John Alcott. You might recognise the name. 

The interesting, even special, thing about the film is that it's part Thomas's story and part actual archival footage of British training missions and the Normandy invasion, which is fascinating. The two types of film are blended together seamlessly though, probably because the film-maker actually went to the trouble of filming his own more contemporary stuff on Ye Oldey Timey cameras from the actual time period. Now that's what I call dedication...!

We see Thomas saying goodbye to his obviously worried parents, then bicycling through some lovely English countryside to join his unit and be introduced to the rough-and-tumble of army life. Even though Thomas is by no means a namby-pamby Little Lord Fauntleroy-type, it's still a bit of a rude awakening to be wrenched away, albeit perfectly willingly, from Mummy's delicious cooking and his warm cosy bed. 

Barracks life is austere, training is rigorous and in no time at all, Thomas and the men with whom he now shares his life and a common bond are called up to active service...

I love the scenes with Thomas and The Girl. I have no doubt that similar scenes were enacted for real up and down the country a million times over during the war. It's a heartbreaking thought. Men being men, however, even back then, I can't imagine that there weren't a few naughty chappies who used the spectre of upcoming active service to get actively laid, haha. Can you imagine the unplanned pregnancies? And the conversations...?

Soldier, trying to 'get some': 'Um, I'm off to the front tomorrow and I'd really love some beautiful memories to, um, cherish and take with me into battle, so if you could just, er, take your top off for a minute...?'

Woman, obligingly removing brassiรจre: 'Well, I suppose that's understandable, lovey. Is this helping at all?'

Soldier: 'Oh yes, this is exactly the sort of thing that'll sustain me during those long nights at the front! And, um, while we're at it, I don't suppose there's any chance of a quick feel below the equator, love? This could actually be my last night on earth, you know...!'

I also love the camaraderie that develops between Thomas and his two best army buddies. My favourite scene is when one of these buddies asks if he can look at the cards which Thomas has received from home for his twenty-first birthday. Can you imagine being so lonely and homesick that even a peep at someone else's birthday cards brought you some semblance of comfort? It only lasts for a few seconds but it's just such a poignant scene.

Anyway, this marvellous war film is out on Blu-Ray this June courtesy of THE CRITERION COLLECTION and SONY PICTURES HOME ENTERTAINMENT. There's a bit of good news to brighten up your day. It comes complete with a whole host of extra features, including a rather pompous German Ministry Of Information propaganda film from 1941 set to funny music by the naughty British government of the day and altered to make Hitler and the Germans look a tad, ahem, foolish. It's great fun to watch, hee-hee-hee.

OVERLORD may not have made it into the paper today but it's still a wonderful example of an unforgettable war film. Do please watch it and enjoy it. And don't forget those extra features...!


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:


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