Showing posts with label world war II. Show all posts
Showing posts with label world war II. Show all posts

May 3, 2020


It's 1948 in Nuremberg, Germany. World War II has been over for two years, and the Allied powers have organized an official tribunal against four former Nazi judges who used the judicial system to sanction the vilest atrocities ever committed against mankind. What should be the easiest slam dunk in tribunal history is anything but, and the entire world's eyes are on this modest courtroom where the German defense attorney has posited a very slippery and controversial counter-argument against the culpability of his clients: with which individual or hierarchy does guilt cease? Is Ernst Janning (Burt Lancaster) the demon boogeyman that deserves to be formally charged for crimes against humanity? Or is it himself along with the three other judges sharing space on the same dock? Or, ultimately, is it all of Germany, or the world - its smaller governments and its people - who watched the Third Reich attempt to decimate an entire nationality and who did nothing to stop it? Chief Judge Day Haywood (Spencer Tracy) has the sad honor of overseeing such a claim. He, along with two other judges, must hear the relentless defense attorney Hans Rolfe (Maximillian Schell) argue using that latter tactic - that to condemn one men, or four, is to condemn an entire nation.

So says Mrs. Bertholt (Marlene Dietrich), owner of the house in which the stationed Chief Judge Haywood is staying: "I have a mission with you Americans: to convince you we're not all monsters."

Judgment at Nuremberg is phenomenal. Those more learned and cultured than I in the history of landmark cinema have already far more properly lauded this 1961 powerhouse directed by Stanley Kramer than I ever could. From the performances to the lush production design to the absolute best component, the flawless screenplay by Abby Man, Judgment at Nuremberg rightfully maintains its status as being one of the greatest films of all time. Despite the presence of legends Spencer Tracy and Burt Lancaster, it's the performance of Schell as Defense Attorney Rolfe who provides the film's best character (and for which he won an Academy Award). Like Judgment at Nuremberg, in which a world-changing event spearheaded by the Nazi party committed to the pages of history the worst crimes man could ever commit to man, Rolfe becomes the embodiment of the spectacle in which these tribunals were viewed. Defend those monsters? Give them a voice and an audience? But instead of taking the easy way out and painting Rolfe as a typical unlikable archetype, Schell instead imbues upon his character as much sympathy as he can while remaining within the realm of realism. Watch as he shows no restraint with the prosecution's first expert witness, his fury bolstered by what he views as hypocrisy, but then watch him with the prosecution's second witness, a mentally unbalanced man who suffered forced sexual sterility under orders of the Nazi regime - watch as Rolfe straddles that line between defending his clients while still personifying his at-odds position on how he must do so. Rolfe treats the witness with kid gloves, as he knows there's a certain level of bastard he needs to obtain in order to render the witness's testimony as invalid.

The character of Rolfe and performance by Schell mirror the very idea behind the Nuremberg trials: Not everything is black and white. There are no easy answers.

There has been no film about the atrocities and subsequent condemnation of Nazi Germany more important than Stanley Kramer's Judgment at Nuremberg. Both culturally significant and cinematically brilliant, it will not only remain one of the greatest all-time films, but the greatest courtroom drama ever made, alongside Sidney Lumet's 12 Angry Men. Interestingly, there's a scene in the film where an American journalist bemoans that he couldn't "give a story away" about the Nuremberg trials to American readers, as they had already become hardened and indifferent to the events of the war. And yet, fifty years later, Judgment at Nuremberg still has the power to shock, disgust, and educate - not only about what it was like to put a way of life on trial, but to live within its shadow.

Apr 12, 2015


In Hiroshima, there are permanent shadows caused by the intensity of the blast from the bomb that was dropped. Nuclear bombs emit electromagnetic radiation, which was absorbed by the people or objects that were in front of the radiation. If they were far enough away from the blast, they wouldn’t have been incinerated, but still would have cast a shadow.

Since thermal radiation is light, and since light travels from a central point, everything in its path is burned, except when there is something blocking it, so it creates this shadow effect. The surfaces behind the matter received much less radiation bleaching, so there is a visible difference.

Apr 9, 2015


Anti-Tank Dogs

Anti-tank dogs were dogs that were taught to carry explosives to tanks, armored vehicles and other military targets. They were intensively trained and developed by Russian military forces from as early as 1930...The intended targets became just tanks and instead of releasing the bombs and running to safety, the dogs would now have fixed bombs attached to them which would detonate as a lever was pushed while crawling under the vehicle. The resulting explosion would kill the dog, effectively making them suicide bombers.

Bat Bombs

At the time, most dwellings in Japan were still made out of wood, bamboo, and paper in the traditional style, and were therefore highly combustible. In 1942, a dental surgeon by the name of Lytle S. Adams considered this potential weakness and contacted the White House with the idea of strapping small explosive devices to bats and dropping them over a wide area. According to the plan, the idea was for millions of bats, specifically the plentiful and easily obtainable Mexican Free-tailed Bat, to parachute toward earth in an egg shaped container carrying small incendiary devices strapped to them. At the designated time, the container would open and the flying mammals would disperse to find their way deep into the attics of barns, homes, and factories, where they would rest until the charges they were carrying exploded.

Pigeon-Guided Missiles

During World War II, the U.S. began developing a missile guidance system under the code name Project Pigeon, which later became known as Project Orcon, for “Organic Control.”... In the plan, the pigeon would ride in a compartment aboard an unpowered, gliding missile as a screen was displayed in front of the bird showing the target. The pigeon would be trained to peck at the target on the touch sensitive screen and the missiles flight control systems would adjust according to where on the screen the pigeon pecked. This was a one way trip for the pigeons but they were seen as cheap, plentiful and fairly easy to train. 

Rat Bombs

The British Special Operation Executive developed a method of delivering explosives that involved the use of dead rats. The rat carcasses were to be filled with plastic explosives and left in targeted locations, namely factories, where it was speculated that stokers tending boilers would dispose of their revolting find in the furnace, thereby detonating the bomb and destroying the factory. 

Read the entire fascinating article.

Sep 23, 2013



I'm just gonna come out and say it: Frankenstein's Army doesn't really have that much of a plot. And since it wants to involve the mythos of the Frankenstein legacy (which, by now, has become almost a genre unto itself), then you could argue it has even less of a plot.

I think the filmmakers kinda know what, which is why they went the extra mile in creating some absolutely jaw-dropping creatures to fill those damned bunker tunnels and maze-like corridors.

But fine, okay: the "plot."

A group of Russian soldiers, in the midst of World War II, traverse the German wilderness to root out and extinguish the Nazi threat. While doing so, they stumble across a decrepit village that no longer seems inhabited. However, below one of the many buildings in this village awaits a threat more monstrous than the world has ever known before. 

And because the soldiers are filming this journey for some reason, you get to experience it all first-hand. 

That's primarily it for your plot, but like I said: the plot is inconsequential. It is the equivalent of, "I've got this camera. Oh, what's that?" (Monsters.)

Every once in a while, that's simply okay. Sometimes we would rather just have a fun, spookhouse environment where things literally leap into corridors and thrill us with their imaginative and completely wild appearance. And that's what Frankenstein's Army is, really. It's a filmified version of any haunted hayride or Halloween walk-through you've ever visited. You walk around, you see creepy things, the things get progressively creepier, and you get hammy acting all over your sweater.

Speaking of the acting, it's good enough to not make you say, "The acting in this fucking sucks." And the use of the camera is certainly serviceable, though I am curious about the choice to go with the found footage aesthetic, considering the film is a period piece. Though they make an attempt at first to add "camera whirring" sound effects and some light old-timey grain, after a while both of those ideas are dropped, and we're left with some pretty impressive crystal-clear footage...ya know, for the mid-1940s. And even from an artistic standpoint, the found footage angle doesn't add all that much, anyway. It's still more than possible to achieve that kind of "you're really there" feeling without succumbing to the newest Hollywood gimmick. (See Alfonso Cuarón's Children of Men as proof.)

But why we're really here is for what's promised by the title: we want to be surrounded by a group of walking, drooling, shrieking experiments. And that we are!

The production design and special effects/make-up teams should be universally applauded for their wicked and wild creations. They are something straight out of a nightmare, dripping with steampunk inspirations with a twist of Nazi madness. I wouldn't go so far as to say they are the only reason to watch Frankenstein's Army, but if they were not made the front and center of the action, my argument to convince you to watch otherwise would not be nearly as exuberant. I fully admit that Karel Roden (quickly becoming one of my favorite character actors) turns out an incredibly fun and insane performance as Viktor Frankenstein, grandson of the original grave-digging and monster making mad scientist, but for real y'all, here are your reasons to watch:

So do it. If enough of you do, maybe they'll make House of Frankenstein's Army.

I'd be all over that.