Great War Movies


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Great War Movies

Great War Movies

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“The Man Who Never Was” (1956) starring Clifton Webb, Josephine Griffin, Gloria Grahame, and Robert Flemyng

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“Cockelshell Heroes,” 1955, Trevor Howard and Jose Ferrer.

The Cockleshell Heroes 1955 | Britmovie | Home of British Films

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“The Way To The Stars” (1945), Rosamund John and Michael Redgrave.

Classic British War Movies

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Eva Marie Saint & Paul Newman on the set of ‘Exodus’, 1960.

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Ambush, 1999, is a Finnish war movie that takes place during the Continuation War, in which Finland reluctantly allied itself with Germany in order to resist Russian invasion. It should be noted that Finnish Jews fought with conspicuous bravery in this war and Marshall Mannerheim, the great Finnish leader refused to hand over Finnish Jews to the Nazis. Anyway, our film follows the exploits of Lt. Eero Perkola, Peter Franzen, and Irina Björklund as Kaarina Vainikainen, Lt. Perkola’s love. Sent

Three Notable War Movies from Britain, Russia, & Finland

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1612, is a Russian movie that was, apparently, commissioned by the Kremlin in advance of the 2007, parliamentary elections. The film was released on November 1, 2007, to coincide with the celebrations of National Unity Day, marking the expulsion of Polish troops from Moscow. One must ask: Is this Soviet propaganda? In a sense, I suppose it is. Yet it’s still a rousing historical drama that takes place during the time of The Troubles in 17th century Russia. After the brutal slaughter of Tsar Bori

Three Notable War Movies from Britain, Russia, & Finland

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“Ice Cold In Alex” (1958) is a desert war film, a British production based on the novel of the same name. It’s 1942, the British have retreated from Tobruk. John Mills plays Anson, a British ambulance officer, suffering battle fatigue and alcoholism, who tries to get his passengers back safely to Alexandria where he dreams of downing an ice cold glass of beer. His passengers include the great character actor Harry Andrews, who nearly steals the show, two nurses, and a mysterious South African of

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“Brest Fortress,” AKA Fortress of War, (2010). In June 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union, making a mockery of the Nazi-Soviet Non Agression pact. Stalin was so stunned by the invasion that he retreated to his dacha where he fully expected to be arrested and shot. The Brest Fortress was one of the first fronts of the blitzkrieg. The Soviet garrison, filled with wives and children, was criminally unprepared for the German onslaught....

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“Cuckoo” (2002). In 1944, days before the Finns pull out of the Continuation War, a Finnish soldier, in punishment for being a pacifist, is chained to a rock and left with a sniper rifle and a few day’s provisions. Snipers were called Cuckoos. At the same time, a loyal Soviet soldier is arrested for anti-Soviet activity and is on his way to a court-martial that will land him a firing squad. Not far away in Lappland is the rough home of a young Sami woman, a reindeer farmer.

Notable War Movies, Russian and Finnish

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Rudolph Valentino and Alice Terry in “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” 1921.

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“Johnny Mad Dog,” 2008, French-Liberian co-production. A group of almost feral child soldiers rape, murder and pillage in the 2003 second Liberian civil war. Jacked up on cocaine and blood lust the soldiers, ages 10 to 15, worry that Chuck Norris or the Israelis might be poised to attack. Forced to murder their parents, dressed in outlandish costumes, these children have been turned into nihilistic killing machines whose motto is: “Don’t want to die, don’t be born.”

Three More Notable War Movies

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“Bravo Two Zero,” 1999, Based on Andy McNab’s best seller this is an excellent two hour BBC miniseries. In January 1991 during the Gulf War, an eight man SAS force was inserted behind Iraqi lines. The mission was to locate and destroy Scud missile sites. Sergeant Andy McNab, played by the resident tough Brit, Sean Bean, was the commander. As often happens with these types of missions, getting into enemy territory was the easy part. Getting out was another matter entirely. “Bravo Two Zero’s” narrative structure is classic, first skillfully sketching in each member of the team, preparations for the op, and then the mission. There is a firefight in the desert where the SAS team takes on hundreds of Iraqi troops which recalls the final battle in “Zulu”—one of Seraphic Secret’s favorite war movies—where disciplined fire turns the tide of battle though the numbers are completely lopsided. The SAS team was the most highly decorated British patrol since the days of the Boer War. Only five of the eight soldiers lived to receive their decorations.

Three More Notable War Movies

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“The Red and the White,” 1967, a Soviet-Hungarian co-production. This film violates almost every rule of drama by which yours truly lives, breathes and works. Set in 1919 in Central Russia the film shows the anti-Bolshevik Whites fighting the Soviet Reds. Both sides are intent on exterminating the other. There is no main character, no heroes, there is no love story, no narrative arc, no satisfying resolution. There are only long tracking shots that create a wide screen panorama where each side take turns committing atrocities, presented as highly ritualized murders. Once I understood director Miklós Jancsó’s stylized method, this viewer was hypnotized by the Cinemascope images where exquisitely polite officers casually exterminate the enemy. Not to be forgotten is a scene in the woods where the Whites order a group of Red nurses to dance a waltz, a reminder of more civilized times. Will the Whites slaughter the frightened nurses at the end of the dance? The suspense is nearly unbearable.

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“City of Life and Death,” 2009. You know the moral landscape has shifted beneath your feet when a Nazi diplomat is a character you look to as a compass of decency. Indeed, the 1937 rape of Nanking, the subject of this intense movie, presents the Japanese—quite correctly—as savage racists who slaughter Chinese men, women and children with all the cold glee that Nazis reserved for Jews. I usually try to watch movies in one sitting, but this remarkable Chinese film was filled with so many horrific scenes, all drawn from documented incidents, that I had to take several breaks in order to recover. Shot in black and white, “City of Life and Death” follows several characters, Chinese and Japanese, men, women, and children, who end up as completely realized characters. In the end, I felt a deep kinship with the people of Nanking.

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“Come and See,” 1985. The Nazi occupation of Byeloruss was particularly savage. In this Soviet film, Florian, a naive teenager anxious to join the partisans, and Glasha, a village beauty, end up together, wandering a landscape that resembles hell on earth. Every frame of this film thunders with powerful, unforgettable images. The almost medieval world of the peasants is in stark contrast to the mechanized death brought by the Nazis. There are moments of lyricism that are just overwhelming. In a rain drenched forest, Glasha stands on a log and dances the Charleston. The title comes from The Apocalypse of John: And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.

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“Wings,” 1927, starring Buddy Rogers, Clara Bow and Richard Arlen. Directed by William Wellman. Even today, this silent World War I movie stuns with its power. Gary Cooper has a small role that made him an instant star.

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The Big Parade, 1925, starring John Gilbert and Renee Adore, directed by King Vidor. One of the greatest war movies ever made.

The Big Parade - Film (Movie) Plot and Review - Publications

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“The 9th Company,” (2005) Soviet grunts locked in a dance of death in Afghanistan. Edge of the seat combat sequences interlaced with fine character studies.

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The Winter War (1989). Spectacular Finnish film that tells of the bloody 100 day war between Finland and Russia in 1939. Highly recommended.

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“Ride with the Devil,” (1999). A brilliant Civil War movie about the merciless bushwacker warfare on the Kansas Missouri border. A near perfect screen adaptation by James Shamus based on a novel by Daniel Woodrell. Vivid and touching performances by Tobey Maguire, Jeffrey Wright, Skeet Ulrich, Jonathan Brandis and Jewel. A major box office flop, “Ride” will eventually be recognized as a masterpiece.

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“Zulu,” (1964) a vivid telling of the Battle of Rorke's Drift where 98 British soldiers stood against several hundred Zulu warriors. The final battle sequence is heart-stopping. One of Michael Caine's first starring roles.

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“The Four Feathers,” 1939, starring John Clements, Ralph Richardon, and June Duprez. Far and away the best version of A.E.W. Mason's classic 1902 adventure novel.

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“What Price Glory” (1926) starring Victor McLaglen, Dolores Del Rio, and Edmund Lowe.

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