Category Archives: War film

‘Broadsword calling Danny Boy’: In praise of Where Eagles Dare

Like a quick and dirty mission behind enemy lines, last weekend I polished off Geoff Dyer’s love letter to the 1968 war thriller, Where Eagles Dare, ‘Broadsword Calling Danny Boy’.

It is a strange little essay. Not really a monograph, because it tells you very little about the making and impact of the film, the things a monograph usually does, and more an extended meditation on why it is such a great action film and the culture milieu into which it was born. A milieu that Dyer grew up in and which was pretty similar for a boy in Australia in the 1970s when I was growing up.

One of my favourite things about Dywer’s essay was the various cultural associations and memories it aroused. The war had only been over for a quarter of a century and, looking back then, it still felt strangely present, like it was not quite ‘history’ in the way it is now; war films were big business and our parents unselfconsciously took us, often at a very young age, to see them; newsagents were full of those graphic Sven Hassel paperbacks; we lived on British comics that were full of German soldiers barking basic English; and, the must have toy was a GI Joe, who amongst his many uniforms, could be dressed as a German soldier.Read more

Hornet’s Nest

If you’re a regular reader of this site, you’ll know that I have a lot of work coming out in the next few months. That means a lot of shilling from yours truly about my wares, on this site and my various social media feeds. It is unavoidable.

But amidst all the sales talk and my other commitments, I don’t want to forget why I originally started this site, reviewing books and films that take my fancy. Seriously, I miss bullshitting about this stuff with you all. Then it occurred me, the answer is shorter, sharper reviews, less formal, more stream of consciousness, fun to write and (hopefully), read. Obvious, I know, don’t know why it took me so long to realise it.

So, first up in the new regime of reviewing, Phil Karlson’s terrific 1970 revisionist World War II noir film, Hornet’s Nest. I first watched Hornet’s Nest with my folks, when it showed on a Sunday night on TV way back in the late 1970s. I can’t remember what I made of it then, but I sure as hell liked it when I re-watched it recently.

A detachment of US paratroops is dropped behind German lines in Italy to blow up a major dam and, thus, disrupt German troop movements ahead of a major allied offensive.… Read more

Lee Marvin: 10 essential films

Prime CutThe iconic American actor, Lee Marvin was born today, February 19, 1924. To celebrate the occasion, my latest piece for the British Film Institute looks at his 10 essential movies.

You can check out the piece in full here at the British Film Institute site.

The 50th anniversary of Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers

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The most disturbing aspect of viewing Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers half a century after its release is how familiar the images of the civil conflict involving Western soldiers in an Arab country now feel.

The strange sense of familiarity kicks in from the very beginning, a small, dingy cell where white men in military uniform stand over an Arab male. The traumatised look on his face tells us the Arab has been tortured. That he has given his captors information against his will only adds to the pain and shame etched on his bruised features. His captors dress him in one of their uniforms and take him as they raid an apartment block, no doubt based on the information he has revealed. The soldiers identify a hidden section in one of the apartments where two men, a woman and a child hide. The soldiers wire it with explosives and threaten to detonate unless those hiding surrender.

A decade and a half of reportage on the West’s military involvement in the Arab world, particularly post the mass circulation of images from Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, and their pop culture reflection in countless movies and television series give Pontecorvo’s chilling iconography of civil strife and military repression an almost everyday feel.… Read more

The 10 essential films of Stanley Baker

Stanley Baker in Val Guest's 1960 thriller Hell Is a City.Welsh born actor Stanley Baker didn’t live to see his 50th birthday, but he left an impressive body of work. Like his friend Richard Burton, he escaped life as a coalminer for acting after a chance sighting in a school play by the casting director of Ealing Studios led to Baker’s first role in the 1943 war drama, Undercover. His rugged physique and hard grace meant he was most often cast as the tough guy in crime movies and spearheaded the evolution of the British film criminal from the gentlemen thief to more ruthless figures, often working-class, in films such Hell Drivers (1957), Joseph Losey’s The Criminal and Peter Yate’s 1967 heist film, Robbery.

Last weekend he would have been 88, were he still alive. To mark his career, I have a piece on the British Film Institute site looking at his 10 essential films. You can read it in full here.