Thursday, April 04, 2019

Other People's War Movies

There are, of course, Japanese war movies.  I say 'of course', but a lot of people seem to assume, not entirely unreasonably, that those who have catastrophically lost a conflict like World War Two wouldn't to relive it all in celluloid.  War movies are for the victors, we think, existing to commemorate the brave exploits of 'our boys' in securing victory against the reviled enemy.  But the war movie became a popular genre globally in the fifties and sixties, so it was inevitable that even the vanquished would start turning out their own versions of these crowd pleasers.  While German made war films of this era are relatively rare and, through necessity (Germany was partitioned and occupied at the time making anything that seemed to glorify their war effort highly inadvisable), low key, Italian film makers felt no such need for constraint, churning out cheaply made action-orientated war pictures by the dozen. 

Of course, Italy had the advantage of having ended up on the winning side in World War Two by virtue of Mussolini's overthrow, thereby neutralising some of the angst, bitterness and guilt of the defeated.  Italian producers also got around the problem of the country having conducted most of the war as a fascist state in alliance with Nazi Germany simply by making all of the protagonists either British or American and always portraying the Germans, (Italian soldiers rarely appeared) as complete bastards.  They also tended to set their war films in North Africa (often shooting them in Egypt), a theatre noted for its lack of atrocities.  To be fair, there were some Italian war movies featuring Italians playing Italians and depicting their actual war effort, most notably The Battle of El Alamein, which firmly portrays us Brits as the bad guys, (there was actually a far better and less fictionalised Italian film on the same subject made many years later).

One might reasonably expect that Japanese war films would follow the discreet approach of Germany rather than the Italian's more flamboyant approach.  Japanese war movies, however, were far from angst-ridden small scale reflections upon the futility of war.  On the contrary, they tended to recreate the large scale naval operations of the Pacific theatre - the ones from early in the war, when they were winning, obviously.  To achieve this, extensive use of miniatures was employed. Indeed, the same special effects teams who made all those Godzilla and other monster movies found themselves creating fleets of elaborately detailed large scale warships and squadrons of warplanes.  The end results were often surprisingly convincing.  Certainly a lot better than the sort of miniatures work to be found in contemporary British, US or Italian war films.  Especially the Italian ones. 

Still, the question which I'm always left pondering is whether German TV ever made a version of Hogan's Heroes?   Set in a PoW camp somewhere in the UK, it could have followed the exploits of a group of plucky shot down Luftwaffe pilots (and probably a token 'whacky' Italian flier, or maybe even a Vichy French pilot) as they continually outwitted the buffoonish British commandant and sabotaged the Allied war effort. The British camp commandant could even have had a monocle like Colonel Klink and would undoubtedly have been an upper class twit who spoke like Bertie Wooster.  Oh, and there would have been a big fat incompetent guard, like Schultz, but with a northern accent:  "I never saw nuffink!"  Ah, one could just imagine the hilarious culture clashes as our heroes tried to pose as Brits, all the jolly japes at the local pub as they tried to drink British beer.  If only, eh?



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home