Sunday, September 18, 2016

History at the Movies

The defence of Rorke's Drift 1879 by Alphonse-Marie-Adolphe de Neuville (Source)
As many of you know I consider myself to be something of an amateur military historian. When movies are made of historical battles or wars I am always keen to go see them. In the past few days a blogger I have a great deal of respect for (Robert J. Avrech) published his list of what he considers the ten greatest movies of all time, head on over to Seraphic Secret to peruse his list, I'll wait here.

What did you think? I thought it was an excellent list. Of his top ten, I've only seen five, now I have a list of five movies I need to see. The five I've missed are:
  • Ride With the Devil, 1999
  • Come and See, 1985
  • The Winter War, 1989
  • Duck You Sucker, 1971 (I had the opportunity to see this but skipped it based on the title. Go figure.)
  • The Lighthorsemen, 1985
One of the films he has on his list, Zulu, is a favorite. I remember watching it on a Saturday afternoon, it was on television and wasn't badly cut up as TV tends to do these days. I don't recall the commercials being that onerous either. I do remember trying to do the Zulu chanting and banging of spears on shields in the high school cafeteria with some of my mates. (The tables substituted for shields, hands pounding in place of spears.) Yes, we did get yelled at. I recall one teacher asking me, "Do you take pills for that?" Why no, no I didn't. Poor fellow would probably get sued these days. Back then there was a bit more give and take.

At any rate, Zulu was, and remains an all time favorite of mine. On Saturday I stumbled across a YouTube channel called History Buffs, which you might guess would attract my attention. The first one of his programs I watched was, as you might have already guessed, the one on the film Zulu. Here it is...



Not only does Nick Hodges (the guy who makes these) talk about the film, but he also points out the actual history behind the events portrayed on screen and some of the historical inaccuracies contained in the film.

This was the first one of these he made and it was published in 2015. There are quite a few more. Seems I've found something else to watch in my "spare" time. Let me know what you think. I thought this one was excellent. I see he also has an episode on the movie Waterloo, yeah, I'm going to watch that one next.

See you Tuesday.



34 comments:

  1. I watched Zulu years ago with my father, (years ago could mean forty to fifty years ago) and I watched it again not very long ago. Still a great movie.
    Based on the lists of movies at the link, I have some movie watching to do.
    I also suggest watching, "The Wind and The Lion," and "Rough Riders."

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    1. I was supposed to add, "The Sand Pebbles," to my suggestions before I pushed the publish button.

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    2. The Wind and the Lion - Sean Connery, Brian Keith, what's not to like? I've seen that many times and have it on DVD now.

      I saw The Rough Riders just recently, loved it.

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    3. The Sand Pebbles, Steve McQueen, a classic. I need to watch that again.

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  2. Concur Zulu and Patton. I'd add The Cruel Sea, U Boat, Enemy Below, Pursuit of the Bismarck, Battle of the River Platte, Battle Britain and Tora, Tora, Tora. Perhaps you see a theme there?

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    1. And I would agree with your list. And yes, I am sensing a common thread there. :)

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  3. Debbie Reynolds (doorkeeper)September 18, 2016 at 7:29 AM

    excellent advice, thanks! Made a list...

    Also, perhaps you gentlemen would know? I have been looking for books on the Crimean War, and not finding much. Does anyone have suggestions? TIA.

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    1. Two excellent books on the history of the Crimean War immediately spring to mind:

      The Reason Why: The Story of the Fatal Charge of the Light Brigade – July 1, 1991 by Cecil Woodham-Smith and

      Crimea: The Great Crimean War, 1854-1856 – May 19, 2000 by Trevor Royle

      Both are excellent.

      For a good tongue in cheek story of the Crimean War, I can heartily recommend Flashman at the Charge – October 1, 1986
      by George MacDonald Fraser.

      All three are available at Amazon.

      I enjoyed all three Debbie, they're worth your time if you have an interest in that time period.

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  4. Also concur on Zulu, Patton, Rough Riders, The Sand Pebbles, and The Enemy Below. Add to that 12 O'Clock High; The Gallant Hours (Cagney as Halsey, what's not to love?); Master & Commander; They Were Expendable, and The Caine Mutiny. Whenever any of one of those is on the programming schedule, I make time to watch.

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  5. "They Were Expendable" was the first adult book I read, sometime in my eleventh or twelfth year. I still have the book. I'm not much for watching movies these days, spend my time reading. Great post, as usual.

    Paul L. Quandt

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    1. I like a good film, if it's historical, even better.

      Then again, nothing really beats a good book.

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  6. Since we're widening the list a bit, I'll throw in a vote for Band of Brothers. I understand The Pacific and Generation Kill were also good, but I haven't seen either.

    And going off on a 90º tangent, BBC has been showing Star Trek for their 50th anniversary, and "Balance of Terror" is a good episode, even if it doesn't exactly fall in with the historical settings for all the above stories.

    Bruce Jones

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    1. Band of Brothers is awesome. I also enjoyed The Pacific and Generation Kill. From what I understand that episode of Star Trek was based on the film The Enemy Below.

      So it's not that much of a tangent.

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  7. I liked "midway", A bridge too far, and The siege of fireplace gloria among the list.

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    1. Had a friend who worked as an extra on A Bridge Too Far, great movie.

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  8. Seen Patton and Seven Samurai (the basis for the Magnificent Seven). Gettysburg is on my to see list, but I'm curious as to why All Quiet on the Western Front (the original) didn't make the list? A Bridge Too Far, the Longest Day and The Big Red One would be on my list.

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    1. To be fair, I couldn't make a list of just ten, probably have to go with fifty, or higher.

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  9. Boot camp, San Diego, zero dark. Recruit Shaun standing guard with his trusty demilled '03 Springfield. Just across the grinder, in the yellow glow of sodium lamps, is the bridge leading from Worm Island to mainside NTC. In my mind I am Jake Holman, my '03 is a BAR, the bay and inlets are the Yangtze, and the bridge to mainside is about to swarm with heathern chinee. I survived many a long watch with that movie running in my head. Remember it like it was yesterday, though for the life of me, I can't begin to remember my general orders. I think there were 12?

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    1. To my certain knowledge, the Chinese didn't seize San Diego during your stint in boot camp.

      Well done Shaun!

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  10. Good movies, all of them. You left of Leather Blondes in Bondage, a great movie in it's own way. ( As far as I know, there is no such movie. A friend and I were trying to think up a name for the worst movie ever made. )

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    1. LBiB would only count if it was a war movie.

      Yes, my head exploded when I got to that movie title.

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    2. Leather Blondes in Bondage. I like it.

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  11. Not a movie, but "Band of Brothers" was excellent: mostly realistic and honest (some of the stories weren't true). Real good job.

    "Bridge on the River Kwai" was great: William Holden as his cynical self, as in "Bridges of Toko Ri." What was with him and bridges, anyway? I also liked "Tora Tora Tora" although I'm informed by a number of movie critics that it's boring. I liked "Full Metal Jacket" quite a bit as well, but it made me glad I wasn't in 'Nam.

    Some others: "Cross of Iron" (did you forget that one, Sarge?), "The Last of the Mohicans" with Daniel Day Lewis super as Hawkeye, "From Here to Eternity" (Burt Lancaster at his best as the tough first shirt), "The Thin Red Line" (although they had way too many Japanese POWs on Guadalcanal for me to believe, plus it was nothing like the book), and "M*A*S*H" (hate the TV show, loved the movie).

    Some I did NOT like: "Platoon" (I just didn't buy it), "The Guns of Navarone" (OK for the 60's, I guess, but SO unrealistic), "Das Boot" (maybe on the big screen it would have been OK, but on TV it was underwhelming), and "Saving Private Ryan" (great start, but after the first half it was all downhill: formulaic and artificial).

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    1. Not a bad list Bruce.

      Me? Forget Cross of Iron? I took The Missus Herself to see that before we got married. And she still married me!

      Loved the scene where the T-34s make their first appearance. An entertaining flick, but history? James Coburn as Steiner? (I read the book, which was a lot better, as books usually are.)

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    2. History? Oh, yeah. I guess I missed that. I guess I like fictional war movies better than the historical ones (unlike my reading preferences). Then again, the historicity of movies like "Patton" is a bit squishy. Even "Band of Brothers" had some very unhistorical elements. The entire "Carentan" episode revolves around PFC Albert Blythe, ending with a note saying that he died from his wounds after the war: he actually survived to become a "lifer" and served in the Korean War.

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    3. The T-34s really made the movie, I have to agree. The general trying to shake hands with the soldier with two stumps was also a big scene for me. My biggest gripe with Cross of Iron was that they used Corsairs rather than another type a BIT less recognizable. A P-63 would have been a lot better, and probably not that expensive.

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    4. I had forgotten the Corsairs.

      A P-63 would have fit right in. There are four flyable examples in the US as of now. Not sure how many were airworthy when the movie was made. But that would have been awesome.

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    5. Oops, missed the "squishy" history comment. Yes, PFC Blythe was ill-represented in the Carentan episode.

      Sigh. I suppose Hollywood considers real history not interesting enough. Requires homework to get it right.

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  12. Another one: "Sailor of the King" (with Jeffery Hunter) was a movie I saw as a kid. My father scoffed at it, saying it was ridiculous (he was probably right), but I was entranced with the thought of a single sailor creating enough havoc to delay a German battleship long enough for a British naval squadron to catch up to it and sink it.

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    1. History doesn't always provide entertainment, that's where the screenwriters jump in.

      Hey, if it's a good story, why not?

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