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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

War Movies

BoB96.jpg NLIKE THE ESTIMABLE StephenEsque, I must confess to being totally the meme slut - those little answer-ten-questions-pass-it-on quizzes that appear most Friday mornings, or the "What Type of Pop Tart Are You" tests? I love them, and can't resist them even when I have other posts to write and am already burdened by real-life work. Answering pointless quizzes helps me think of other things, helps my blurriest thoughts congeal. Theraputic, if you like?

I answer them, but I don't often post them: mostly they sit in my blogbox with a shiney green "draft" label. When I do post, it usually means I am completely devoid of other ideas, or that I really need to post something quickly to move beyond some embarassment that needs to be moved off the top of the page.

Today is a bit of both, but a little bit more. Norm asks us to list our favorite war movies - which genre, more than any other, more even than "scary", infested my childhood. These are the movies I'd beg my dad so's I could stay-up late on a Saturday night to watch; these are the movies that played on lazy Sunday afternoons when the telly was otherwise filled with stupid and boring religious programs; these are the movies I spent my pocket-money on, without complaining, when they ran on the Saturday matinees I habitually attended.

Doctor Zhivago - a movie I detest to my bones to this day - Doctor Zhivago was not a war movie; yet it cost me all of my pocket money - including the sweetie portion - to watch it in the theater that day. One of only three movies I ever walked out on: Lost Horizons was another, because it was awful, and Valley of the Gwangi, because it scared my schoolboy pants off.

No: the only thing better than a ripping war movie, in my ten year-old eyes, was a new James Bond. They were holy.

What follows, then, is chiefly a list of boyhood favorites, exhibiting a schoolboy critic aesthetic rather than some dull grown-up pantywaist movie writer's. There are a couple of glaring exceptions, you will quickly spot, included here for specific scenes that, had the movies played when I were a lad, would have given our summer vacations their purpose, and infused every game of "Japs and Commandos" whether played in woods, quarry, or garages.

  1. Battle of Britain - our all-time favorite war movie - "MY EYES! I'm not s'pposed to get bullets in them!" Give me a squadron of Spitfires. Ian Mcshane, long before Deadwood. Michael Caine: "Don't frow. That blahdy messerschmidt. At me.";

  2. 633 Squadron - its theme we screamed when we played on the swings; and we flew around the schoolyard for months as Mosquitos, holding our hands palm-out from our faces, gattling our fingers as nose guns;

  3. Where Eagles Dare - treachery and broken necks. Throw the colonel oot the plane;

  4. The Guns of Navarone - machine-guns through fishing nets, Anthony Quail falling off a cliff, Anthony Quinn as a badass partisan, Stanley Baker traitor, and best of all - Rat Bombs;

  5. The Dam Busters - bouncing bombs and theater lights - "Little lower... little lower... That's it! Bomb's gone!" and a theme dear to every briton's heart;

  6. The Longest Day - I watch this movie, June 6th, every bloody year. Almost worth it alone for the invasion fleet seeping out of the fog scene, and Kenneth More the Beachmaster. Richard Todd, incidentally, who plays a british paratroop shooting from the hip while taking a bridge, he pretty-much played himself there;

  7. Bridge on the River Kwai - Alec Guiness and whistling "Colonel Bogey";

  8. The Dirty Dozen - what man among you does not, to this day, hesitate before shaving with cold water? I thought not;

  9. The Great Escape motorbikes, blind Donald Pleasance, poor-old Hudson the butler being machine-gunned like a dog, and a ton of dirt down your pants;

  10. Kelly's Heroes - in a word, Oddball;

  11. Apocalypse Now! - for helicopters coming out of the rising sun, of course. And... this;

All but one of these movies has played here on american television several times in the past couple of years. The one glaring omission, especially to brits - well, I'll let you guess which one it is. If you are at all familiar with the movie, and think about it a little, it becomes quite obvious why it will never play here. Not without a name-change, anyhow?

Oh - and little boys can't count, I know.


Anonymous stephenesque said...

Such a landlubber.What about "The Cruel Sea", "In Which We Serve", and
"Battle of River Plate" ... on the field, you also exclude Peckinpah's fine "Cross of Iron."
Not that I in any way think I know better than you about war movies.

8:02 AM  
Blogger F.C. Bearded said...

Oh well spotted - I had The Cruel Sea in my original list, which was a bit too long, together with Das Boot, Run Silent Run Deep, and Cockleshell Heroes.

I never really liked Battle of the River Plate.

I have never seen "Cross of Iron" - unless that's the movie about Stalingrad where a mannie gets his whotsit bitten off? If so, then it played on british TV on the night of my first wedding. We switched the telly off, of course, but the first thing you want to do after such a day is put your feet up and veg for a while out of exhaustion.

8:17 AM  

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