Film: 5506

War + Military | 1960 | Sound | B/W

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Synopsis:

World War Two. (Badly scratched)

Documentary compilation, wholly reliant upon news footage from across the world, upon the coming of World War Two. From the Treaty of Versailles, 1919, to the invasion of Poland September 1939. Obvious usage of films of Sergei Eisenstein and Leni Riefenstahl.

Prelude to conflict opens with actual unidentified footage of the results of a night bombing raid. This, however is more than likely to be of London during the Blitz. Two firemen in the foreground. Windswept scene with the roar of the flames and timbers crashing to the ground. Immediate change to a Far Eastern city (possibly Hiroshima or Nagasaki) after a similar attack. Fully ablaze. An overhead shot recounting the victims; a dead man being lifted onto a stretcher and an offset long shot of scores of refugees (Japanese or perhaps Manchurian). A few smiling for the camera; most bewildered, shattered and empty.

'Why? Why was this incredible destruction and human misery allowed to happen?' Sound quality of commentary is at times indistinct and aged. Aerial shots of bombed out city/ies. Most probably Germany in the last few months of the war; perhaps Dresden or Berlin. Soundtrack jumps at this point, and commentary is blurred. Question is asked of why did/ or what were the causes of World War Two? Have to go back to the victorious Allies and the conclusion of World War One.

Bombed out German cities run into a lengthy montage of First World War archival footage from the Western Front. Allied troops, funny looking figures all running too fast, engaged in trench warfare and troop manoeuvres; heavy guns firing; attacks across No Man's Land, assault charges and tanks. The Palace of Versailles in readiness for the various delegations to arrive; cavalcade arriving amidst pomp and ceremony with as yet unidentifiable dignitary figures; soundtrack of military celebration. Despite the lessons to be learnt from 1914-18, it becomes blatantly apparent that the Allies have merely gathered around the peace negotiating table with 19th Century prejudices. Apart from Woodrow Wilson, the US President, who with his fourteen points seeks justice for the vanquished and the insurance of world peace through a League of Nations.. The ideals are ultimately idealist and illusionary (although a League of Nations is established), as the remaining allied victors of Britain and France, especially, seek to punish Germany as severely as possible.

Close up of Wilson signing the peace Treaty in the Hall of Mirrors, his idealism and illusions soon to be shattered. Map of Europe shown to illustrate the dismantling of Germany and her allies (Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires). These disappear only to be replaced by individual countries of ethnic minorities, cultures and language - Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Albania. Yet, as the commentary gravely indicates, these satellite states are over the years to prove of little strength and resistance against an expanding and vengeful Germany. Close up shot of actual treaty, with unidentified signatures and sealing wax.

Exterior shot of Versailles Palace and a long shot of the Big Four, though in truth it was in fact only three; left to right, Britain's Lloyd-George, the Italian premier Orlando, France's Clemenceau and Woodrow Wilson, the American president, on a set of the palace steps after successful treaty signing. The commentary suggests the fact that they did not collectively discuss the cumulative effects of the strong aspects of punitive measures upon an already crippled and revolutionary Germany. (It is of particular interest that there are no military personnel to be seen). Yet all over Europe the catastrophe of WW1 was bringing the old order crashing down.

Upwards long shot of statue of possibly Peter the Great in St.Petersburg. Russia 1917, the prime candidate of the old order and for a collapse of empire. Czar Nicholas in cossack and military uniform addressing/inspecting officers and troops, smiling and joking for the camera. Soon forced to abdicate. Footage of a broken and destroyed Russian army returning from the front and disastrous battles against Germany on the eastern front (eg. Tannenberg). Utterly crushed and defeated by Germany, ravaged by mutiny the remnants of the Russian army return home. Overhead shot of an overcrowded troop train entering a rail yard; troops deserting en masse. But home is gripped by hunger and revolution. Civilians barricaded in behind rubble and broken carts, pelting authorities with all sorts of missiles, during food riots. Mounted troops leaving a courtyard, sabres drawn, presumably to charge and dispel the crowds. Highly likely these are scenes from the films of Eisenstein (ie. re-enactments). Night shots of revolution by torchlight, royal palace ablaze, troops storming St.Petersburg and firing weapons.

The Bolsheviks, with the aid of riotous deserting troops, win. Communist dictatorship of Lenin established. Apparent news footage of 'Lenin', in wild throes of speaking, impassioned and gesticulating. An international Communist Revolution is called for to sweep away the rotten world of capitalism. Long shot of a corporate factory/company being ransacked and gutted; stigmatic sign name being torn down.

The film moves south west to Italy. She too begins to crumble after WW1. The fascists, under the leadership of a young Mussolini, coming to power. Recorded marches through countryside and villages. Much flag and banner waving, smiling, peaceful and non-violent crowds. Several close ups as young men jostle to be caught on film. Mussolini in formal dress with top hat, but no shaven head. Italy is another totalitarian state in the making. Full figure shot of Mussolini, displaying his trademark hand movements, especially right hand. Excellent footage of his style.

Not surprisingly Germany is the third European warring nation to be unstable and riotous and thus ideal for extremist action. Mass inflation, widespread hunger, huge war reparations to be paid. Two soldiers in front of a large crowd in a central square, perhaps Berlin. The crowd is being restrained. To the left of the shot a loaded machine gun on a tripod is trained across the face of the crowd at a diagonal. Troopers, bored and indifferent, pose for the camera. Atmosphere is palpable. Certainly not staged and is authentic news footage. Further shots of bread queues and lines of troops mingling with civilians, left to right across the screen. Shots of armoured troop carriers driving through crowded streets and squares scattering the public and handing out literature. Overhead image of a small group of National Socialists, with instruments marching past a tram. Close up of a fluttering Swastika flag; indications of delusions of grandeur. Aerial shot of people scattering across a square, fleeing in all directions. Chaos, panic and fear. Further leaflets being thrown out from troop trucks.

All this convoluted fervour was to be found embodied in the figure of an 'emotionally unstable ex-corporal' - Adolf Hitler; (hereafter AH). Long shot moving to close up of AH, looking right to left into camera, brown shirt, iron cross and swastika armband, no cap. Rudolph Hess to his front right, smiling, admiring AH as he jokes/japes in front of the camera. Having stared into the camera for several seconds, AH withdraws and exits backwards right.

Close up of AH at Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP, Nazi) rally, as Fuhrer of NSDAP, roughly 1923. Performs his infamous salute just for the camera, as other brown shirt Nazis turn in admiration. Dr. Joseph Goebbels, AH's eloquent propagandist, captured in a long shot, on a speaking platform. Dark black leather coat surrounded by uniformed crowd of brown and black shirts. Behind is a tapestry of swastika flags, NSDAP group banners against a backdrop of autumnal trees. Goebbels is speaking vehemently. Mass crowds on the move though a further unidentifiable main square, but most probably again Berlin. Swastika armbands, flags and National Socialist Revolutionary banners. Unmistakable German rigidity and discipline displayed by two men as they are caught by the camera. Dressed in thick winter clothing, their breath condensing on the cold air, they reveal a palpably visible sense of hope and determination.

Move to a march past AH by brown shirts and what appears to be a Hitler Youth squad, both embodying the ethics of AH's new stronger Third Reich. All are saluting and as AH responds likewise, image of a mass crowd from all German society united in shouting 'Sieg Heil!!'; a mass of right hands raised aloft, again most probably in Berlin. AH stepping into his saloon escort as commentary notes,

'All over Europe, democracy was being challenged by the demagogues.'

Across the Atlantic America had entered a period of self-imposed isolationism. Shots of busy street scenes, perhaps New York, and of the growing boom decade, in a day time scene. Big cars, big streets, big buildings. Deliberate exclusion from Europe, in favour of prosperity and affluence and a distinct forgetting of the troubles of world warfare. Frontal shot of Wilson in car raising his top hat to the camera, smiling yet somehow burdened. Returning from Versailles, sitting next to unidentified member of Lloyd George's cabinet . British police sergeant on horseback in background, so Wilson is leaving via London. Wilson in deep conversation with American dignitaries/politicians at society event. Heavy criticism for his fourteen point plan and League of Nations.

'Dare we break this treaty and break the heart of the world?', he asks.

Fade to merge with close up of Wilson at work reading papers at his desk. Appears angry and terse whilst reprimanding his secretary, standing to his right, off screen. Long shot of House of Senators, its Palladian architecture well captured. Wilson giving a filmed interview - relaxed with bookcase to behind right, plants to forward left, most likely in the Oval Office of the White House. The League of Nations fails to be ratified by the House of Senators - '…No more European entanglements.' Inside Library of Congress as disillusioned Americans retreat further into isolation.

New York Stock Exchange and an overhead shot of business as usual on a busy day's trading. This is an unspecified year, but boom of world economy begins, even in Germany. Long shot of a German policeman escorting a small girl across a street, acknowledging passers by, with a large covered market hall behind. A toy seller and his street stall, demonstrating clockwork goods to a group of animated boys…' and AH was almost forgotten.' Head on shot of horse and carriage with driver at rest, horse feeding from a nosebag; a taxi driver eating and a main square covered with birds; freshly butchered pigs carcasses going into the market. This montage sequence of prosperity once again in Germany, notes that the vast reparation debts can be paid more than once by the huge sums of financial aid from America, '...such are these times of economic absurdity'. Overhead tracking shot of a, fat and contented German man riding in a taxi, lighting a big cigar.

Close up of Broadway and Wall Street sign post. 29th October 1929 - The Great Wall Street Crash. Montage of various American street scenes gripped in financial panic, ruin and despair. Mounted police keeping order and of course the inevitable depressing images of dole and bread queues. Tracking shot of the Islington Communist Party parading through London as part of a National Communist party rally, during winter. Although the despair began in the United States, this was practically an overnight economic blizzard that descends across the world. Japan, France and Britain - soup kitchens, the unemployed and impoverished. Close up of old and wizened, bearded man drinking from a child's boot; grinding poverty and despair. Pause to black.

Bad soundtrack and frame jumping. Beginning of long sequence of collated footage of NSDAP rallies and show of strength. The following two to three minutes are undoubtedly taken from Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will. Well compiled documentation of AH as Fuhrer in the early thirties and illustration of the powerful and hypnotic attributes of the Fuhrerprinzip. Chilling shots of mass hysteria invoked by AH and the Nazi regime. Everything from the stony faced young brown shirts to the march past of early storm troopers; festivals celebrating the rise of the party; AH's jingoistic ranting; night rallies and the importance of the flame at night, in conjunction with the power of symbolism through flags and banners. The theory of AH is recited,

'In the evening, the people's will power will more easily succumb to the dominating force of the stronger will.'

News footage of the appointment ceremony of AH as Chancellor. AH rigid set and determined; to his left Hindenburg tired, resigned and apprehensive; can he perhaps foretell an imminent disaster at the hands of this man? Footage of the night of the Burning Books, hurried, frenzied figures of Nazis lit up in the night by huge flames, faces silhouetted and marked with determined concentration, as if stirring some vast cauldron. Further montage sequence of Nazi celebrations of their seizure of power.

Images of anti Jewish propaganda and active campaigning. Slogans and posters on walls, one particularly of a black skull and cross bones. Frontal close up of a truck full of young brown shirts chanting anti Jewish slogans, a crowd amassed next to them cheering them on. Disturbing and chilling. Black shirted/uniformed troops (SS) marching completely focused, at slight angle to camera. Unarmed! Close up profile of Goering, surveying troops marching past. Horizontal long shot of Goering himself marching past AH. Short, fat and ungainly; a figure of ridicule better suited to cartoons and caricatures; unnerving. The Nazis strength is unequivocal, undeniable and yet menacingly unarmed as yet for the cameras; and a possible wider audience. Pause to black.

Reverse tracking shot of Japanese troops on the march, towards camera. Curiously still relatively unmechanised and reminiscent of WW1. Horse drawn guns and limbers, even troop carried. The Japanese answer to world economic crisis - war. 1931 - Invasion of Manchuria, with China by 1936/7. Shot of a simplified map of the area; Japan, Manchuria, Mongolia, China and Pacific Ocean. Japan wanted living space and resources. Long shot of gun emplacements firing; buildings ablaze; jungle and grassland fighting; rapid machine-gun fire and sniping from upper windows. Bullets smashing into walls. Squad of troops advancing over bombed out buildings and rubble. Empty calls of moral obligations by the League of Nations and President Hoover are defiantly ignored by the Japanese.

Group of Japanese military policemen and/or firemen oversee the advance into a town. Troops running by side of wooden village huts. Civilian targets caught on film; a formation of three bombing planes profiled against a darkening sky is followed with actual footage of an air raid and panic stricken civilians fleeing for shelter. An AA gun firing but not properly embedded, its operator almost horizontal as he fires the weapon. Massive explosions on central town houses and factories. The Japanese onslaught of Manchuria and China was to last thirteen years, with no international action. Film compilation moves to the ever endemic characteristic of modern warfare - refugees. Pitiful movement of displaced peoples soon to be such a common facet. Two children, perhaps brother and sister, most definitely orphaned, stand bloodied and dazed yet strangely calm in front of camera for a close up. A young wife and mother sits distraught by the dead body of her husband, her young son, equally distraught and crying in anguish, trying to pull her up and move her along with dozens of other refugees. A two to three year old sits, bloodied and burned, cross-legged and bawling by the side of rail tracks, the platform and bridge ripped and torn. He has probably also been recently orphaned. Harrowing viewing. Pause to black.

Mussolini, entrenched in power, speaking to a large crowd from a stone balcony, wearing a hat plumed with black cockerel feathers. Far less ornate than the Nazis parades and occasions, but just as powerful. Successive shot shows M speaking bare-chested, of foreign conquest, invasion and territory to also escape economic crisis. He dreams of a new Roman Empire. 3rd October 1935. Close up facial shot of M proud, arrogant fat; pompous. In military uniform surveying troops. Presented with a ceremonial sword by an Ethiopian, raising it in salute(staged). Unidentified troop of horsemen, Abyssinian perhaps, armed only with sabres, galloping from left to right. Map of region showing Ethiopia between Italian colonies of Eritrea and Somaliland. Poor and backwards, but rich in raw materials. Next shot reveals Haile Selassie arriving in Geneva and the League of Nations. Steps out of his escort car and looks sternly into the camera. His pleas are ignored, as he warns that the demise and invasion of his country by an aggressive Italy will be the failing of Europe. The League of Nations proffers unenforceable economic sanctions upon M. Shot to Italian commanders watching the first bombardments of Ethiopian territory, as they attack simultaneously from North and South. Old fashioned cavalry of Ethiopia no match against the 'civilizing' weapons of the Italians; tanks, flame throwers, heavy guns and mustard gas. War and conquest lasts six months; the Italians stay two and half years. Pause to black.

AH is now inspired to his attention to foreign affairs and 'world domination or ruin.' Tracking shot following AH and cavalcade through mass crowds. More sequences from Triumph of the Will. Spectacles of mass attendance and indoctrination, particularly with the infamous Nuremberg rally and AH's rhetoric whipping the masses into a frenzy. Montage of a series of head shots of AH interspersed with absolute concentration of the crowds and troops. AH raving and shouting, and in accordance mass saluting and shouts of 'Seig Heil'. Tracking shot left to right of troops only carrying shovels, yet these soon become rifles. Germany is re-arming and in full view of the rest of Europe. Quick shots of steel factories, furnaces, massive hammers and the moulding of huge gun barrels; hundreds of bullets falling through a sequential bucket. Further sequences of mass parades, these to celebrate AH birthday celebrations. Difficulty of continuity here in overall film compilation. Very likely celebrations are for 50th birthday of 20th April 1939, by the mere fact of their grandeur of display and the selection of war hardware on show; yet this is still only 1935/6.

Occupation of the Rhineland - 7th March 1936. Footage of troops entering the Rhineland, only days after a Franco-Soviet Pact signed at the end of February. Jubilant crowds welcoming the German troops offering gifts and flowers. Coverage of troops heavily fortifying the newly re-possessed Rhineland in accordance with AH declaring that this was the only piece of Europe he desired. More birthday parade footage, as commentary highlights that AH had gambled and won, but questions the inertia of the main democratic powers. Yet they were overtly war weary and in greater fear of Stalin, the thinking being that if AH's defences were weakened then the whole of Europe would be threatened as well.

Shots of AH and M together, as they sign the Rome-Berlin Axis of 11th July 1936. This directly co-incided with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, and footage of the two dictators together with Franco. Shots of Italian and German troops and equipment being inspected by F and arriving and operating in Spain. Spain was to be the training ground for both forces as they became battle hardened for the future. Two and a half murderous years of bloody civil war. Republican soldiers and guerrillas advancing across barren rocky territory, left to right across screen. Eventually Spain loses to both Communism and Fascism; the winners are AH and M.

1938 - Annexation of Austria. Aerial shot of German troops crossing an iron bridge and entering Vienna; workers saluting the glorious occasion. Pictures revealing the popularity of Anschluss; well over half of Austrians saw it as the right step. Mass celebration and welcoming, with AH in Vienna hailing the crowds as he is saluted for returning as the conquering hero after twenty-five years. (AH left for Germany in 1913) Map of Europe shows extent of AH aggressive territorial policies and the burgeoning Sudetenland crisis of September 1938. Move to more shots from Triumph of the Will and AH's unabated popularity. Pause to black.

Neville Chamberlain arrives at the Berchtesgarden on 15th September merely to appease AH. NC and AH on the steps of the castle; wholly mismatched as bargaining politicians - as if it were a worm against a raven.

'This is the last territorial demand I have to make in Europe.'

Shots of inside peace negotiation rooms; NC, AH and M and delegates; the signing of the Munich Peace Settlement, actual footage. Following shot of AH, M and chiefs of staff already planning next move to carve up Europe. Whole group is laughing and joking, notably AH and Goering. News covering NC return to London and declaration of '…peace in our time.' Following shot of NC deep in thought sitting at his desk, worried. Long shot of Winston and Mrs. Churchill stepping out of a car, waving to news cameras. 'We have sustained a total and unmitigated defeat.' German attack troops entering the Sudetenland and crossing bridge, 1st October 1938. Successive welcoming crowds. AH at table in field, eating with chiefs of staff. Storm trooper hands him a soup bowl and an officer starts to ladle the soup. AH childishly pushes both away and sits back nibbling something, grinning to nobody in particular. Nonchalant, amusedly, definitely arrogantly. Troops behind all paraded on a hillside as if 'waiting in the wings'. Pause to black.

15th March 1939 Hitler grasps at the rest of Czechoslovakia, and the rest of Europe just stand by and watch. This is wholly different; coverage of takeover shows ruthless storm troopers without celebration, and Czech public are forced to watch and accept. Czech women crying hopelessly and helplessly.

Map of Europe showing the full extent of the Third Reich on the eve of WW2. AH's strategic positioning to take over where and when he likes; arrows move out to Norway, Britain, France, Greece and Russia. August 1938, and shots of Russian delegate arriving to sign the cynical Nazi-Soviet Pact, which will give Russia eastern Poland whilst AH grabs western Poland.

1st September 1939 - Blitzkrieg in full action. Long range guns, stuka dive bombers, mobilised storm troopers, modern warfare under the Nazi system. Britain and France are forced to stand by Poland and declare war, 3rd September.

Repeat shot of AH saluting, side on, left hand profile and aerial overhead shot of shadows of marching storm troopers, saluting, shadowed by the sun on a massive courtyard, bright sunny weather. No commentary. End.


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