War + Military | 1960 | Sound | B/W
A narrative film of the 1960s which leads the viewer, from a British point-of-view (?) through events which moved the world towards a second World War in the 1930s. Images of the Spanish Civil War, and of Hitler and Mussolini with their troops are often atmospheric, impressively filmed and candid.
The camera pans over a sea of predominantly middle-aged men wearing dark suits, standing in an open-air location, and raising their right arms in the Fascist / Nazi salute - rousing classical music is on the soundtrack, and an upper-class English male starts to speak the words of the commentary,
"Spain was the next place of… operations." (For full narrative, see the end of the text).
Two men stand on a street in a confrontational manner - a crowd of onlookers stand in a semi-circle around them, watching as a man in what appears to be a policeman's uniform (?) attempts to calm the verbally and physically excited civilian. Another civilian is whipped around by a policeman - wearing knee-length black boots, a brass buttoned black overcoat and flat cap, and surrounded by his colleagues - and marched forcefully offscreen by the elbow - another policeman enters the frame, displaying a rifle.
The noise and image of a freestanding, wheeled canon. A canon's turret is positioned through some bushes and a group of five, civilian-dressed men hide with it behind a small hill of vegetation in the open countryside- they go to reload the gun. Two men in army uniform, that includes hats with small feather plumage, fire a round from the machine gun that they are kneeling down besides. Two men in black berets and casual jackets and trousers, kneel on the grass and fire shots from rifles. Close-up of one of the men, looking and aiming through his view-finder, resting the rifle of a mound as he fires it. The heads and rifles of soldiers are visible behind a low, man-made wall of medium-sized rocks. The camera pans right to left, tracking a group of men clutching rifles, as they run with haste through a lightly treed forest, possibly towards open land - they are silhouetted against the bright sunlight but remain partially obscure in the shadows cast by the foliage above them.
A man cautiously nears the slowly burning wreck of a vehicle in a town, as others search the ground by some isolated buildings behind him. Close-up of the vehicle - it appears to be part of a small plane (?). A man lies dead on an uneven gravel road. A dead body, covered by a dark sheet, is carried on a stretcher by four soldiers wearing military uniforms which include the black hard helmets traditionally associated with the Nazi's - a group of soldiers stand in the background beside a war-damaged building. Men, silhouetted against the sky, crouch on the ground, looking out towards some bullet-ridden buildings - a church and its steeple dominate the skyline. A soldier stands in the small balcony of a building - he surveys the action, or most probably inaction, below him as he rests his machine gun on the wooden banister. Five members of an army, one wearing a heavy overcoat, stand hidden from their enemy behind a large military vehicle, and one fires a shot out beyond it. Two soldiers carefully manouevre past the side of a building, whilst a third crouches behind a vehicle, possibly preparing to reload his weapon. Soldiers are hidden in the shadows. The crouching soldier has been joined by two others. The changed landscape of the town - paved streets in the foreground lead to a pile of bricks and a freestanding arched wall, whilst the shell of a building stands in the background. Further images of destruction - the arched wall stands amongst bricks and wood, and a few wooden armchairs sit in the forefront of the image - some have fallen onto their sides. Another group of chairs, most remain standing.
The voice-over informs us that General Franco's fight was aided by Italian and German forces. A senior Italian (Mussolini?) military man stands on a raised platform, saluting those below him - another soldier stands slightly apart from him to his left and a two-deep row of people stand behind them, only their heads visible. A parade of proudly marching soldier pass under a banner which proclaims, "VIVA IL DUCE" - crowds line the roadside and a large hill dominates the skyline. The VIPs watch the columns of men pass below them. Soldiers - in what appear to be summer uniforms of shorts and shirtsleeves - stride past the crowds in rows, stiffly swinging their right arms with every other footstep.
The voice-over determines that the Spanish Civil War gave Italy and Germany actual combat conditions in which they could test their military tactics, weapons and troops.
Six small planes fly in the skies above the parade, in a tight V-shaped formation.
Image of the International Brigade in England - a long line of seemingly disparate men walk along the side of a lengthy wall which has buildings on the other side that look like part of a factory - police walk on either side, accompanying the group and forming a sporadic protective barrier from the crowds that have gathered on either side - two men stand on top of the wall to watch. Men and boys stand and sit on the top of a high wall to watch the recruits. The recruits continue to walk - they are dressed in civilian clothes and some smile slyly at each other and their audience. A young man walks amongst them, wearing a peaked cap and rucksack, and holding an outstretched flag in his hand - it has three horizontal stripes with a small tricolour in the central white stripe.
Destruction in a town's streets. A plume of smoke filters out of a row of grand buildings which line a street, whilst people wander on the ground below. Civilians walk amongst the rubble on a cross street, in front of damaged buildings - two men carry an empty stretcher, whilst two others lift wooden planks from the road and throw them over towards the pavements.
The International Brigade disband and return to the United Kingdom.
A tug boat slowly steers a large ocean liner into a port which is presumably in Britain. Men gain every vantage point - some stand on the top of a covered wooden lifeboat to see the approaching land. A few men surround a taller man who has his left arm in a sling. Two men - one in soldier's uniform - converse whilst others stand behind them, looking over their shoulders. Some men walk in a single column down a wooden gangway - one playfully pushes the man in front of him, encouraging him to move faster.
Franco acknowledges his troops.
Two rows of soldiers stand to attention as a senior military man attaches a badge to one of the troops. The senior soldiers fasten the badge to the chest of the troop, and goes to shake his hand.
Benito Mussolini also acknowledged the prowess of his troops.
On a raised platform, surround by troops in black uniforms, Mussolini, wearing a grey military uniform, kisses a soldier on both cheeks and is handed a badge from a soldier below. Close-up of Mussolini as he attaches a badge to the already decorated soldier and both take a step back. The voice-over states that Mussolini's troops were more impressive on parade than in action, as exquisitely presented soldiers in their black uniforms, march in close formation and in unison down a street - they walk in a high goose-stepping action and with fierce and exacting movements, accompanied on the soundtrack by a fanfare of trumpets playing in a marching tone. The soldiers march towards the camera.
Voice-over, "Hitler too paraded the Nazi soldiers who had helped to establish yet another totalitarian regime in Europe."
Adolf Hitler stands on a raised platform wearing a grey uniform adorned with two Nazi Swastikas and salutes those below him - two military men stand at his side. Wideshot out across a magnificent outdoor scene, with thousands of onlookers lining the landscape's inclines in the background, watching huge numbers of German soldiers file past below them. Close-up of section of the troops - approximately 100 soldiers march with their heads turned to one side, out towards their Fuhrer.
Lines of soldiers stand to attention in front of a large decorative building - a war memorial - and a group of soldiers solemnly and respectfully carry a large wreath for their dead up a flight of stairs leading up to the building. Soldiers stand in rows with their swords outstretched in their right arms. The wreath is carried towards a central plinth which already has a circular wreath leaning against it. The larger wreath is leant against the stone wall and the soldiers who carried it salute it - others watch whilst a soldier quickly takes a still photograph of the official event from the forefront of the image. Close-up of the wreath which has two ribbons attached to it. Two armed soldiers guard the wreath, standing either side of it. The gathered men of the German and Italian armed forces, stand facing the wreath. Rows of soldiers stand shoulder-to-shoulder singing a German patriotic song (?) which is heard on the soundtrack - three soldiers in the middle of the frame wear white sashes . Hitler and Mussolini descend the steps away from the wreaths. They continue to walk and approach more steps - the soldiers lower their Fascist salutes after they have passed by. The magnificent scene is revealed in all of its grandeur - thousands of troops stand to attention and are dwarfed by an imposing symmetrical building with large pillars and ornate sculptures that adorn the lower levels. Hitler and Mussolini descend the stairs and the latter man points out across the troops in front of them.
Voice-over, "The access was forged and another World War was bought…nearer."
The film's narrative: The Spanish Civil War started in 1936 when General Franco led a revolution against Spain's disorderly Republican regime which had taken charge after the abdication of King Alfonzo. The war pitted Catholics and Conservatives against Communists. Those who fought Franco were a strange alliance of liberals, anarchists, trade unionists and communists supported by Russia. They had little professional military skill or experience, but fought tenaciously, fanatically and courageously. They might have won had it not been for the intervention on Franco's side of Italian and German forces - for Mussolini and Hitler the Spanish Civil War offered an opportunity to test their military might. The Civil War was therefore the curtain raiser for a larger conflict. In England, me joined the International Brigade which was raised against Franco, but, despite attempts of the intellectuals to raise support, it was abandoned and the survivors returned home. Franco, Hitler and Mussolini triumphed, establishing another totalitarian regime in Europe, and forging the path for another World War.
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