Thursday, June 7, 2007

John has a long mustache.

OK so I missed posting this on June 6th, but in order to make up for it, my first installment of action/war movie reviews will be The Longest Day. When one uses the term “epic,” The Longest Day is what should be envisioned. Daryl F. Zanuck’s 1962 film about the invasion of Normandy in 1944 weighs in at around three hours and is jam-packed with plot, historical accuracy and most of all, stars. I’ll attempt to list the ones I know here:

Eddie Albert (Green Acres)

Paul Anka (singer)

Richard Burton

Red Buttons (Poseidon Adventure)

Sean Connery

Henry Fonda

Peter Lawford (Mrs. Miniver, member of the Rat Pack)

Roddy Mc Dowell (Cornelius from Planet of the Apes)

Sal Mineo (Rebel Without a Cause)

Robert Mitchum

Robert Ryan (60’s version of “That Guy”)

Rod Steiger (In the Heat of the Night, On the Waterfront, Dr Zhivago)

Robert Wagner

John Wayne

Thousands of real-life men were used to recreate the invasion. Shooting took place on location in Normandy, at many of the actual sites. The cinematography is especially good, considering when it was shot. However, it must be realized that this was filmed during the height of Hollywood’s “victory lap” of World War Two. Many of Hollywood’s stars and directors, including Zanuck, joined the armed forces during World War Two. Many directors and producers were put into the Army’s Signal Corps…including Zanuck. Zanuck was charged with making the official documentary of the Normandy landings. As a result, after the war, he was obsessed with producing the ultimate recreation of the Normandy landings. He got the scale right, but not really the sheer terror aspect of a seaborne invasion into the teeth of Nazi guns. This glossing over/glamorizing the real horror of war is a key aspect of the Hollywood “victory lap” era of the 50s and 60s, and honestly, more modern war films shouldn’t be viewed without this context.

Good things about this movie: Scale. D-Day was THE most epic invasion in history, and this film provides that through its endless parade of stars and its length. It is also the quintessential “victory lap” war film, glorifying sacrifice (otherwise known as death) for the Allied cause and, while providing a human face to the German opponents, wholeheartedly condemning Hitler from both the German and Allied perspectives. The movie, while not accurately depicting combat, is accurate at depicting many of the key events of the invasion. It can, and is, seen as a historically accurate depiction of the D-Day landings.

Bad things: Length. It’s about three hours long. While I find “victory lap” films entertaining, I also think that at a certain level, they’re cynical ploys to attract movie goers by not showing the true nature of war. And like I said above, this is the quintessential victory lap film.

Verdict: It should be seen because it is a classic and has so many stars, but should be viewed in the correct context. It should also be viewed in order to correctly recognize what movies like Full Metal Jacket, Platoon, Apocalypse Now, Hamburger Hill or Saving Private Ryan were in response to. Personally, I do enjoy it.

Interesting facts: The movie has four principal directors, one for each nationality: French, German, British and American. According to Wikipedia (which should be trusted above all else), it stars not only Sean Connery, but two Bond villans, Karl Stromberg from The Spy Who Loved Me, and my favorite Bond villain, Auric “No Mr Bond, I expect you to die!” Goldfinger.

Also, Daryl Zanuck was brought back in by Fox to oversee the completion of this movie and the completion of another legendary epic, Cleopatra. Let me say that again: The Longest Day and Cleopatra were being produced at the same time by Fox. In 1961.


Newspaper Hack said...

Jesus – his first name was Auric? That's a little too silly for even the Bond movies. Right up there with Pussy Galore.

Robert said...

Heh, yeah. I enjoy your site Hack, and thanks for swinging by.