Housewife, 49 (2006) British TV Production on Civilian Life During WWII

The British Mass Observation was founded in 1937. Its aim was to record the daily experiences of the British people for social research. During the war many people volunteered and provided information on their everyday life. Nella Last, called Housewife, 49 in the project, was one of them. Her diaries have been published and are still widely read as they provide so much detail on the life in Britain during WWII.

I wasn’t familiar with any of this before watching Housewife, 49. Since I liked it so much I have meanwhile bought the book and hope to get to it very soon. As is often the case, the book is said to be much richer and to contain a lot more than the TV film still, I really liked this film. One reason why I liked it is the great performance of Victoria Wood. Wood, who is better known as a comedian, excels in this serious and intimate portrayal of a sad and depressed house wife who finds new meaning in life. Victoria Woods is also the author of the TV film.

At the beginning of the war, the middle-aged housewife Nella Last finds herself in a sad marriage with a narrow-minded husband who is as sensitive and communicative as a stone. He neither appreciates nor shows any interest in his wife. When her boys join the Army, not in active service, but still they leave, she joins the Women’s Voluntary Service. The women from the WVS are a bunch of conceited snobs. As most of them are upper class they refuse to accept Nella as a member as she is just a simple housewife. Luckily there are a few good women among the steel-hearted group members. Especially one of them becomes soon aware of Nella’s many talents. Being accepted by these women will help Nella to overcome her depression and gain self-confidence.

Something that fascinated me was to see Nella and her husband spend many nights in their basement in a Morrison shelter. I hadn’t heard of them before. They looked like cages and could be used indoors while the bigger Anderson shelter was to be used in the garden. Preferably dug in. Here’s a wikipedia article on air-raid shelters showing pictures. I was wondering how useful they were.

Housewife, 49 is a movie that works well on two levels. Besides offering insight into the life of British civilians during WWII, it follows one woman’s emancipation and search for meaning in life.

Unfortunately I didn’t find a trailer but the movie can be watched on YouTube. Watching part I will give you a good impression and help you decide whether you should watch it.

Where Eagles Dare (1968) War Themed Action

I’ve never seen Where Eagles Dare before and must say I was pleasantly surprised. It’s entertaining and cinematographically stunning.

It’s a fabulously scenic film with some pictures that would even look good in a vampire movie. Plus we get to see two great actors, Clint Eastwood and  Richard Burton who, teamed up, give this movie a special something that I found very appealing.

The story is the tale of a suicide mission. A group of mountaineering soldiers, led by British Major Smith (Richard Burton) and American Lt. Schaffer (Clint Eastwood) are sent to free an American officer captured by the Germans and held in a castle in the mountain, called Eagle’s Nest.

From the moment they parachute out of the plane it’s obvious that the mission they are on is a fake one. What they really need to do, is uncover double-agents.

From the moment they land in the snow-covered woods, until they climb into the castle, the action and tension is relentless and is even intensified, when they have to escape from the castle again.

It’s quite a violent movie, with loads of explosions and a great deal of merciless killings. But it is also very suspenseful, there is plenty of action reminiscent of a modern-day movie. (It seems as if this was Quentin Tarantino’s favourite war movie and that he wanted to do a remake. I hope he will not and that the similarities one can find in Inglourious Basterds is all there will be.)

It was a pleasant surprise to find a female agent who has quite a great role, and fights and shoots just like the men.

I loved the cinematography, the steep mountains, covered in snow and the castle, nested on the top of a hill, gave the movie a Gothic feel.

The fact that I always feel uneasy in cable-cars made watching this movie quite impressive as some of the most gripping scenes take place on the top of a cable-car.

Apparently the movie has been criticized for not being anti-war. I think, that there are for sure movies with a clearer anti-war statement, which is one of the reasons why I think this is more of an action movie with a war theme than a real war movie.

In any case,  I found it very entertaining and I loved Clint Eastwood in this.

I’ve heard that Where Eagles Dare is one of a pair, the other one being The Guns of Navarone. There is a certain likeness, logically, they have both been written by Alistair MacLean. I couldn’t say which one I prefer, I think they both have a lot to offer.

Which one do you prefer?

Pathfinders: In the Company of Strangers (2011) or The Movie That Doesn’t Deserve My Attention!

Untold and lost history. A true story of the American Pathfinders, the volunteer paratroopers whose deadly mission was to land 30 minutes before the Normandy invasion, locate and mark strategic “drop zones” and set up the top-secret navigation equipment needed to guide the main airborne assault on D-Day. Written by Charlie Armstrong (from IMdB)

Pathfinders:In the Company of Strangers is one of the very rare movies I had to stop watching after 15 minutes knowing that I would not give it a second try. No way! I was at first not sure whether I had a problem with my TV or BluRay Player or both or with my eyes even. Surely no one would shoot a movie like this, would they? Like this meaning cutting half of the head off in every single take, varying only as much as occasionally the left half was missing, in other instances the top, sometimes the bottom or the right half. What the heck? At other moments the whole picture was moving so weirdly that I started to assume the camera man was not entirely sober. The acting was painfully unconvincing from the first moment on as well. Amateur does not need to equal wooden doll who speaks as if reading the text while talking…

Reading the blurb, I’m sure I’m not the only one who did/would assume it could be an interesting movie. Well, it isn’t. It’s dodgy and badly filmed.

Here’s another “enthusiastic” take

The War Movie Buff

War Movies Set in Ancient Greece: A List

While I was compiling this list I realized that I have seen more war movies set in Roman times than movies set in Ancient Greece. Maybe it isn’t surprising as there has not been a proper “Ancient Greece Wave” yet. Most of the movies I found depict the story of Helen of Troy. Surprising. The most famous one is certainly Troy, closely followed by 300. I don’t mind them but they are not among my favourites either. In any case I prefer 300, I must say it is quite special and I included it on my List of 15 Most Original War Movies. My problem with Troy is the fact that I don’t like some of the actors (Who? Guess!).

  • Helen of Troy (US 1956) directed by Robert Wise, starring  Rossana Podesta, Jacques Sernas, Cedric Hardwicke
  • Esther and the King  (IT/US 1960) directed by Raoul Walsh, starring Joan Collins, Richard Egan, Denis O’Dea
  • The 300 Spartans (US 1960) directed by Rudolph Maté, starring Richard Egan, Ralph Richardson. Persian wars.
  • The Trojan Horse aka La guerra di Troia (IT/FR1961) directed by Giorgio Ferroni, starring Steve Reeves, Juliette Mayniel, Edy Vessel, Lidia Alfonsi, John Drew Barrymore
  • The Trojan Women (GB/ US/GRC 1971) directed by Mihalis Kakogiannis, starring Katharine Hepburn, Vanessa Redgrave
  • Helen of Troy (US 2003, TV series ) directed by John Kent Harrison, starring  Sienna Guillory, Matthew Marsden, Rufus Sewell, John Rhys-Davies
  • Troy (US/MLT/GB 2004) directed by Wolfgang Petersen, starring Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom, Diane Kruger
  • 300  (US 2007) directed by Zack Snyder, starring Gerard Butler, Lena Headey. Persian wars. (see my review)

Have you seen any of these movies? Which ones do you like? And which are others that need to be included?

Is The Fallen (2004) The Final Sacrifice or Letters from the Dead?

It does happen quite often that I like movies less than most people but not in this case. People either like or hate The Fallen but there seem to be much more who do not like it. I don’t really understand why but I’m not sure I have seen The Fallen. I have watched The Final Sacrifce which can’t even be found on IMDb. An amazon reviewer states that The Final Sacrifice is a remake of The Fallen by the same director with the same actors??? I seem to remember having seen the beginning of the movie a few years back but something stopped me and when I started watching the other day it took quite a while until I got that I was watching The Fallen. Meanwhile I found out that Ari Traub directed and earlier version called Letters from the Dead (2003). Very confusing. Be it as it may, I hope one of my readers knows more. In any case, the movie I have seen, called The Final Sacrifice, was not a bad movie at all. On the very contrary.

It is almost the end of WWII. We are in Northern Italy, in the Alps, in some outpost guarded by Italian and German troops who do not get along well. The movie is trilingual (which might have been a reason for the lack of appreciation) and for once the actors are of the “correct nationality”. No silly American flavored Italian.

The Germans try to defend their line against the attacking Americans. The Italians who should help, are, apart from an aristocratic officer, not that keen on assisting. The people and villages around them are their people, their families. More and more they think it is unjustified that they have been dragged into this war by their government. Many of the farmers around are selling goods on the black market, others join the Resistance.

When the Italian army and Italian Resistance meet, it’s a sad affair. Usually no one shoots and a few soldiers desert but as soon as the Germans turn up, there will be severe punishment for every one.

The Americans seem to be enjoying their stay in Italy. It isn’t as rough as Africa, nor as bloody as France or Belgium. At least not at this point in time. And they know they are winning which helps as well.

The Final Sacrifice of the title is a last desperate attempt of a German officer, who was a real moron all through the movie, to fight off the enemy almost on his own. The orders are to guard the post no matter what. Knowing the order makes no sense and the end is coming, he tries to save at least his men.

Admittedly the American parts were not that perfect, the German point of view was on the sentimental side but, and that’s why this movie gets 3.5 from me, the Italian point of view is extremely well told. It shows how delicate, complicated, desperate their situation was. The movie is also in a clichéd way funny, the difference between the Germans and the Italians leads to one slapstick-like clash after the other.

As I said, I liked it, it isn’t fantastic and will not make a Top 100 but it is a worthy attempt at showing a part of history that hasn’t been explored enough, namely the role of Italy in WWII.

I suggest you watch it and come back and tell me how you liked it.