Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Lesser-Known WWII Films #2

1) Decision Before Dawn (1951) is based on true events that happened near the end of WWII.  Allied forces, needing information on German troops, trained POWs to go back into Germany to get it.  The Americans needed the help of the spies, but at the same time despised them for being traitors. Oskar Werner plays “Happy,” a German P.O.W., who agrees to spy for the Americans when he sees his country crumbling to pieces.    Richard Basehart (Lt. Dick Rennick) plays the American who trains him and who learns to respect him. It was not my kind of movie because of the non-stop tension, but the acting was very good and Oskar Werner was convincing as the conflicted corporal.

The movie (nominated for two academy awards: Best Picture and Best Film Editing) was filmed in post-war Germany, which enhances its authentic feel.   Although replete with German "bad guys" it was one of the first post-war films to also show Germans in a sympathetic way.    

2) A Guy Named Joe (1943) I admit it, I'm a sucker for Van Johnson movies. Because I actually believe in heaven and an afterlife, I thought this movie was hokey in places, but it had an intriguing storyline and the acting was pretty good for the most part.  Spencer Tracy and Irene Dunne are a couple in the first part of the movie, but he dies in battle and comes back as an angel.  Apparently he has to earn his heavenly wings by helping new pilots get their earthly ones.

Tracy is assigned to give guidance to Johnson who is on the make for Tracy’s old girlfriend.  Will she be faithful to his memory or get on with her life?  Will Tracy help or hinder?  Above average fluff.

3) The Proud And Profane (1956) is less of a war movie and more of a straight romance.  (I don’t mind romance in a war movie as long as it’s not the only focus.)  It was hard to watch William Holden being a first class jerk, but I like Deborah Kerr and decided to give the story a chance.

Holden is a tough, scrupleless  marine who sets out to compromise newly widowed Red Cross nurse Kerr.  He ends up making a huge mess of things and the “meat” of the movie comes in the last 20 minutes when various people must make decisions about whether or not to forgive those who have wronged them.  I liked the movie more because of those final minutes. If you are in the mood for a good war picture, this may disappoint you.  But if you want an interesting story with the war as a backdrop, you’ll enjoy watching these Hollywood pros in action.

4) A Walk in the Sun (1945), unlike many Hollywood pictures of the time, is not an action-packed war film.  It reminded me more of a book by Ernie Pyle, detailing the thoughts and actions of a handful of everyday soldiers.  Their platoon arrives on an Italian beach in the middle of the night and they work their way inland to capture a fortified farmhouse. This low-key drama is about the battles that go on in men’s minds and hearts as they prepare to go to war. It’s slow moving, reflective and well worth the two hour investment.

1 comment:

Annie Kate said...

These look interesting, especially the last one. I'm not much of one for tension either.

And for your top 100 book list, have you read One Thousand Gifts? It's one of the best books I've read in years. Another one is Evidence Not Seen, a true WW2 story.

I've reviewed both; just type them into the search bar on my blog if you want to check out my reviews.