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An Encyclopedia of World War II Films

An Encyclopedia of World War II Films

When renting movies from the video store became popular, I did what I always do: I got a book that helped me choose.It was simply a list of every film ever made to date —or, at least as good a job as the editors could do— with the Director, Producer, Distributor, Cast, Date, and a quick synopsis.

This contribution by Douglas Brode to the world of film is that, plus a few important extras.

Of course, first and foremost, he’s chosen a particular subject. I can’t say genre, because the films included are everything from heartbreak to hilarity. And I can’t say encyclopedia (though that’s how he’s titled it) as it also adds a rating and the author’s sometimes enthusiastic, sometimes less-than-enthusiastic descriptions of the film listed.

And he’s arranged the films according to a general timeline of the events of the war, from the lead-up to the aftermath, rather than chronologically as they were made. The choice is a good one, as there is a bewildering number of films, made from every conceivable viewpoint, historically as well as ideologically. By moving us through the story of the war —with added selected topics like The Homefront, and Arms and the Women— we get a sense of the time, place, people, and events that some filmmaker, from the early days of the build up through the present, felt important enough to be the subject of a movie.

Because it’s an encyclopedia and not a novel or a history —or even an examination of a science or art as such— it isn’t the type of book you’re likely to pick up and read in one or two sittings, and in fact there are two volumes and more than enough material for a sample type reading. But I did find myself wanting to at least complete one section of the book each time I started in. While the subject matter doesn’t lead from point A to point B along a plot line, there is a roundness to each chapter, or more aptly put, each subject, and the selection of subjects alone tells us a great deal about how a particular aspect of the War has been dealt with over time and across filmmakers.

Each film is listed by title, then the credits are listed (director, screenwriter, the novel or source if appropriate, producer, cinematographer, music, editor, and any other credit that would be important —such as costumer or art director), the cast, Brode’s rating, and a synopsis and evaluation of the film. Many film descriptions include publicity shots, posters, or stills— which I personally love to pore over.

The first chapter, for example, deals with the lead up to the war, and covers films made in the mid to late 30s, all the way to the 2000s, and includes films one would hardly think of (at first) as a war film, like Lost Horizon, to the humor and daring-do of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Never one to be shy with his opinions, and clearly having deep knowledge of his subject, if Brode hasn’t actually seen all of these films, then he has at the very least investigated each them thoroughly (I’d put money on the former). I found myself somewhat in awe of the sheer number and range of movies made about the period, amazed that anyone could not just have found them all but have an opinion about them, and most of all, wanting to stop reading, go find a particular film, and watch it for myself.

Perhaps this is the best gift Brode has given us with this effort: to inspire us to rediscover films about a subject that should never be forgotten, and one that deserves to be remembered from the many viewpoints and styles that have described it to us.

Now, excuse me. I have some movies to watch!

An Encyclopedia of World War II Films

by Douglas Brode

Published in the United States of America by:

BearManor Media

P. O. Box 71426

Albany, GA 31708

Nancy Roberts
Writer, voice over artist, information achitect, very curious person.