Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

A brace of '60s war movies

SINK THE BISMARCK! A very satisfying English war movie from 1960 showing how the Admiralty chased and sank the German battleship “Bismarck” in the battle of the North Atlantic. Directed by Lewis Gilbert it features just about every British character actor from those war films. Kenneth More stars as the strict captain of operations, ably assisted by Dana Wynter (who died this year) who looks terrific in those navy outfits. Also on board are Michael Hordern, Laurence Naismith, Geoffrey Keen, Maurice Denham, Michael Goodliffe and John Stride as More’s son who is missing in action. On the Bismarck “good German” Carl Mohner is over-ruled by the increasingly unhinged captain Karl Stepanek. Clever use is made of stock footage and models in the studio tank but we are mainly at Admiralty headquarters and the growing relationship between More and Wynter is nicely under-stated. Based on true events it all seems very real and keeps the interest.

OPERATION CROSSBOW. Another war movie, perhaps the last of the genre (until those big hitters like WHERE EAGLES DARE and THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN), ably put together by producer Carlo Ponti and helmed by Michael Anderson, well used to handling large international casts. This is an expensive MGM production from 1965 and was a popular movie at the time - I remember being 19 and new to London and travelling on the underground to the big ABC cinema at Bishops Bridge Road near Paddington to see it on a Bank Holiday Monday - and it still gets screened a lot.
The first half shows how the Germans (led by Paul Henreid and German air ace Hanna Reisch) built their flying bombs and V2 rockets to rain destruction on London, as again, all the English war movie actors sit and deliberate: Trevor Howard, John Mills, Richard Johnson, Richard Todd, Sylvia Syms, John Fraser, Richard Wattis etc. as agents are recruited to parachute into occupied Holland and pose as engineers for what would seem to be suicide missions to penetrate the underground bomb-making factories where the Germans are mass-producing bombs. We then get the central segment where the producer’s wife Sophia Loren walks in demonstrating 60s star quality (with no concession to 40s hair or clothes styles) as the estranged wife of one of the engineers, who is now being impersonated by George Peppard. Hotelier and agent Lilli Palmer is very determined the mission should not be put in jeopardy as Loren is kept prisoner at the hotel, as other agent Tom Courtenay is arrested for murder. Anthony Quayle is the double agent who knows Courtenay is an agent impersonating a dead man as he tries in vain to crack Courtenay and gain the truth. The very determined Lilli makes sure Loren does not spoil the mission as the story moves to the underground bomb factory and boys-own heroics take over, as Peppard and Jeremy Kemp sabotage the factory as the bombers approach to blitz it. Stirring stuff then, ably put together (the Germans all speak German) and a war movie perennial. An enjoyable (!) brace of '60s war movies then! My mother was in London during the blitz and we used to enjoy hearing all those stories of life during wartime.....


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