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War Films

I'm coming to the conclusion that war films made either during the Second World War or just after it may be better than many made in the decades that followed. I've just finished watching "The Way Ahead", with its strong cast, and an American film "Go for Broke" about ethnic Japanese men who served in Europe with the American Army. Both very good films. And Battleground about the US 101st Airborne Division at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge is also a surprisingly strong film. Of course there's an element of propaganda in all of them. But I think the makers realised that a lot of men who had seen frontline service were going to see the films and they didn't want the cinemas filled with sounds of disbelief or mockery. So, a lot of the nonsense was toned down.  However, as time went on the war films became perhaps sillier. The British were nearly always brave, honourable, clever and the Germans, or sometimes Japanese, were brutal and stupid. The Colditz Story, about prisoners of war, mainly British, is one I find very hard to stomach these days. The British are so brave and clever, the Germans are so stupid. It is only in recent years that war films have improved again. The scripts of all too many films from the late 1960s and 1970s were written by people with an agenda but no first hand experience of war. Mind you, by then there wasn't really much of a British film industry left by then. Lead rolls went to US actors who either pretended to be Canadian for the purposes of the story or were Americans awkwardly thrust into battle alongside British troops. Though generally a terrible war film, Saving Private Ryan, which may well have been pitched in a Hollywood lift as "Gang of Americans defeats German panzers with sweaty old socks", however showed there was still money to be made from war films and we've had some half-decent ones in recent years. It's just a shame that in the case of the Second World War the time when the writers could have benefited from talking to the men who were there are almost gone.  

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