Anachronisms and organisation

Someone on Channel 5’s “Great British Model Railway Challenge” first episode commented that in the recent film “Dunkirk”, the characters boarded a 1960s train.

Sorry, but that film began to lose me within the first two minutes when our hero walked past an obviously late 20th century building. I think the producers or directors may have been too caught up in the actual location to seek a realistic location.

And today, while clearing up and meticulously filing (yes – I am getting organised) models from my most recent wargame I have “The Cockleshell Heroes” on the TV in the background. A gratuitous and unnecessary* side shot of a German warship clearly bearing a British frigate reference number. Showing the crew wearing German hats a few moments later does not rectify the glaring error.

But while organising my 1:285 and 1:300 scale models I see that I have far too many 1940 Germans representing 1944 types – exactly like most film costume designers.
And I have created Arnhem with British church ruins and Normandy shops. Who am I to criticise?

Incidentally, during a TV advertisement break in the film I was informed that Colgate toothpaste is created by professionals. Well, that’s another worry resolved!

*Gratuitous and unnecessary. Is that tautology? I stand open to correction from fellow pedants.

A bit of TV nostalgia

Today I was relaxing and watching the 1970s BBC TV series “Wings”, which is based on the experiences of the Royal Flying Corps in 1915.

One of the BE2 crews was played by Michael Cochraine (pilot) and David Troughton (observer), clearly a well-established partnership and good friends.

The next time I saw these two together on TV was some 20 years later in the ITV “Sharpe” series, set in the Peninsular War, playing Sir Henry Simmerson and the Duke of Wellington, clearly the worst of enemies.


They also both have rôles in the long-running BBC radio series: “The Archers”, where David’s real son Will plays his son Tom Archer in the drama.

I spent a long time trying to remember where I had previously seen Tim Woodward (Sgt. Alan Farmer), until I spotted him in the next war as Squadron Leader Rex in Channel 4’s 1980s series “Piece of Cake” about the RAF in 1939-40. This series was based on one of Derek Robinson’s eminently readable books about the fictional “Hornet Squadron”.

(Incidentally, reverting to WW1, I can recommend “War Story” by Derek Robinson. He has an excellent command of black humour).

Spotting and cross-relating great British actors is not new to me. I remember years ago spotting Nigel Green as Colour-Sergeant Bourne in “Zulu” receiving rapid promotion to become General Wolsey in “Khartoum”.

A poor documentary

If anyone wants to watch a highly oversimplified Germano-centric and, from my other reading, somewhat inaccurate documentary of the first part of the Second World War, I can grudgingly recommend the Lamancha Productions “Visions of War” series, Galaxy Film 1983 presentation of “Blitzkrieg” by Karl Ullman, directed by Wolfgang Richter.

On the other hand if you want to view some excellent archive footage of the same period I can heartily recommend the same film without the soundtrack.

In its defence I would say that it is good to see anything from the other side of the hill.

 

Reviewing films from a new perspective.

During the last few days I have been rewatching some of my old DVDs with the commentaries frequently provided.

Yesterday I watched “Black Hawk Down”, first as the movie, then with the director/producer commentary and finally with the commentary of three guys who were actually involved in the operation in 1993.

It was very interesting to hear the views of those three people.  They focussed mainly on the accuracy of the film, with many references to the innacuracies from their own viewpoint.  But my main take from their commmentary was that they considered this a victory for brave American troops.  While not disputing the bravery of the individuals, my own viewpoint from watching the film and reading the book it is based on is that this was a typical American operational failure, where the organisers believed that overwhelming superiority of firepower would always win easily, and then discovering that the enemy has other ideas to the contrary.

While applauding the ideal that “nobody gets left behind”, this was probably the main reason for the domino effect that led to the ignominious result of this “snatch” raid.  Let’s not forget that despite the massively disproportionate casualty rate, the original objective of capturing the enemy leader failed within the first 15 minutes.  The rest of the operation was devoted purely to casualty recovery, and led to far too many deaths on both sides.

I also watched “Tora Tora Tora” with the director’s viewpoint.  This was mainly focussed on the difficulties of making the film.  I love the story about rehearsing a US navy sailor in firing a MG against  fabricated “Japanese zeros” and then saying a single line.  In the rehearsal the director shouted “Boom” when the explosion was to detonate.  In the live shot the sailor fired the gun “for real”, got soaked by the underwater detonation, then stared at the director.  When asked afterwards why he did not say his line, he replied: “You didn’t say ‘Boom'”

Today I am rewatching from a new viewpoint “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas” while doing the ironing.