Race to Victory: History ‘s Honorable Series

 DATELINE: Original Big Three

  Winnie.

In an age of re-enactors playing historical figures and onerous narrators, History Channel has gone against its own monster: we have World War II: Race to Victory,  a three-part examination of the Big Three of the greatest war in history.

World War II: Race to Victoryis a throwback to the grand documentaries of CBS back in the 1950s and 1960s. It is purely informative and uses rare footage to enhance the lessons.

With a plethora of newsreels, photos, and historical documents, it seems that History is drawing on this goldmine of records, news films, and interviews. And, they are not colorizing the brilliant black and white footage.

The series starts with an examination of Winston Churchill and his nemesis Neville Chamberlain. On the same side, they were bitter opponents, but had to live with the other in their cabinets.

Churchill’s rhetoric still makes him transcend all others in the 20thcentury. His persuasive powers were made for an age when behind-the-scenes patricians ran the British government. And make no mistake, the Brits did not have a democracy in the American sense.

While Churchill uses his techniques to great advantage, he falls short with his counterparts: Franklin Roosevelt will not be drawn into the war before he was ready, and Josef Stalin didn’t believe anything Churchill told him.

If there is a revelation in the first episode, it is that Chamberlain’s appeasement was a misnomer. He was buying time for a country not ready for war; to Churchill, that meant nothing.

Race to Victory  plays on the rivalries and mistrust among the original Big Three, and we hope future episodes are of the same high quality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rogue Male: Peter O’Toole Wasted

DATELINE: More or Less Dangerous Games!

rogue assassin Roguish Assassin?

In 1976 Peter O’toole was still looking like a major star. When he did Rogue Male, he seems to be going down the rabbit hole to disappear. It’s The Most Dangerous Game, redux and doubled-down.

The film postulates in 1939 that Neville Chamberlain was worse than a Nazi sympathizer and appeaser. As Sir Robert Hunter (no joke), he goes to assassinate Hitler, is foiled, and uses his British pluck to go after the Fuherer. This Fredric Raphael script is based on a Household novel.

The film is a string of incidents that reveal some smart, intriguing supporting characters along the way, from a German who aids escape, to O’Toole’s Jewish lawyer, his tailor, and on and on. Alas, the film does not rely on this network of adventuresome people.

They are ultimately all for naught.

The picaresque adventure of Hunter features many veddy veddy English creatures, but there are enough enemies to undercut the social amusement. He finds escape to England after torture simply means he trades in one set of vicious Nazis for the collaborators (Jon Standing) in Chamberlain’s government.

We know Winston Churchill is around the corner to save the day. And O’Toole is too busy embarrassing his uncle (Alastair Sim) who is a high-ranking cabinet member. Most film fans recall Sim as the best Ebenezer Scrooge on film 25 years earlier.

The film features one of the final performances of Sim as O’Toole’s breezy Earl of an uncle. He is all too infrequently seen. He is delightful with his nephew whom he calls “Bobbity.”

Les Miserable approach to having O’Toole parallel hunted by a clever government agent is heavy-handed. The agent reads a book by the would=be assassin on hunting and uses its contents to track him down.

Worse yet, O’Toole is literally trapped in an underground rabbit hole for the finale, but we are left puzzled as to motivations and logic between these dark characters.