Monday, February 13, 2012


This is a quickly-made WWII propaganda piece from Alexander Korda; it is technically a fictional narrative film, but most of its 76 minutes are taken up with narrated newsreel and stock footage (including quick shots from earlier Korda films, including Flora Robson as Queen Elizabeth from FIRE OVER ENGLAND) about noble England and how the Royal Air Force is carrying on the grand tradition of defending the Empire. Of course, that the was the whole point of the film, made in one month, September 1939, the month when England and Germany went to war, and I'm sure the film was effective enough in its day and with its audience. But it hasn't worn well over the years, certainly not as well as the Frank Capra "Why We Fight" propaganda films which were straightforward documentaries that didn’t have to fuss with a plot and characters. There is almost a half-hour of narrated glorification of the RAF (and, rather defensively, the masculinity of British men who were not, in case you thought so, a bunch of unathletic sissies) before we get into a storyline involving a wing commander (Ralph Richardson), his wife (Merle Oberon), their Canadian relative (an RAF pilot) and his girlfriend. Nothing really happens to these people except they are happy, outraged, confident, and brave as the circumstances dictate. There are negative depictions of the Germans and some interesting air footage, but this was a real chore to sit through. I'd only recommend it to folks studying wartime propaganda. [TCM]

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