Inaccurate, but under the circumstances, understandable
Steven Hellerstedt | 02/21/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This film is nothing more than propoganda. I can get over this fact because the propoganda was beneficial to the "good guys" but it still doesn't help the fact that many of the film's claims are totally inaccurate. The narrator's assertion that the Germans had "45,000 armored vehicles" for the invasion of Poland in 1939 is absolutely laughable, and the claim that the Luftwaffe outnumbered the RAF "10 to 1" is obscene in its ludicrousness. The film also glosses over the fact that the Germans were not alone in their desire for territory (one look at a 1939 map of colonial possession will surely place Britain in the top spot for land-stealing) and tries to use ridiculous fear tactics in claiming the Axis planned to invade the United States. The narrator comes off like some smart-mouth primadonna who's brighter than everyone else. He says in his glib voice "You'll notice that here in Paris there are no cheering crowds to welcome Hitler." Well of course not mister, because every schoolboy with an ounce of education knows that the film of Hitler driving through Paris was taken at 4am, so he could visit the museums without crowds bothering his view of the exhibits and architecture. This film is basically valuable as a historical piece of propoganda, and it is understandable, given the period in which it was made, that they would use fear tactics to draw a line between good and evil. But, as a source of educational material (which the box implies it is), this film is utterly useless because it cannot provide objective information."
Divide and Conquer/The Battle of Britain
Steven Hellerstedt | 07/21/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"DIVIDE AND CONQUER and THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN are films 3 and 4 in the Office of War Information sponsored and Frank Capra directed `Why We Fight' series. More propaganda than documentary, the films were commissioned by United States Army Chief of Staff George Marshall to explain to the draftees why they were fighting and what principles they were fighting for. Although they began as Army induction material, the movies in the `Why We Fight' series were released almost simultaneously to the general public in 1943.
DIVIDE AND CONQUER (57 minutes)
As an opening title card explains, `This film will deal with the period when the Nazi blitzkrieg reached its highest point and Nazi treachery reached its lowest point.' The film begins in the spring of 1940 with scenes of German propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and Adolf Hitler giving speeches stating their friendly attitude toward the neutral countries of Denmark and Norway shortly before invading, overrunning, and occupying both nations. After comparing Hitler to the `gangster Dillinger,' DIVIDE AND CONQUER turns it attention to the German plan to attack Holland, Belgium, and France. The French, secure behind the Maginot Line (a series of impregnable fortifications protecting France's border with Germany), and embracing a policy of defense, are caught unprepared when the Germans attack in force through the supposedly impassable Ardennes Forest. Germany's attack was launched on May 10, 1940, and to the surprise and amazement of the world France was overrun within weeks, signing an armistice with Germany on June 22. Meanwhile, the English army narrowly averted complete annihilation as its troops (along with a number of French and Belgium troops) are hastily and heroically evacuated from the French port of Dunkirk. Using a great deal of army and captured enemy film, animated maps and an unidentified US army officer explaining in detail the cause of France's defeat, DIVIDE AND CONQUER portrays the Germans as practically invincible.
THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN (54 minutes)
The time frame for this one is June through December 1940. We see Germans entering what can only be described as a stunned Paris, while a Darth Vader-like Adolf Hitler strides through the northern port city of Calais, looking hungrily through a pair of binoculars at what, we assume, is the southern coast of England. As the title indicates, THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN is devoted to Germany's prolonged air assault of Britain following her swift defeat of France. TBOB begins by sketching was the filmmakers believed was the phased plan for the conquest of Britain - defeat the Royal Air Force, then destroy coastal defenses and land paratrooper shock troops, finally ferry land troops and tanks over the by then secure English Channel. TBOB, rightly, is an admiring examination of the triumph of the RAF against daunting odds and a celebration of the indomitable spirit of the English people. The fourth of the seven `Why We Fight' movies is also the first to end without an Allied defeat or an Axis victory. TBOB, like all the `Why We Fight' movies, will likely look familiar even to those who've never seen them. The exact same footage of London in flames and scrambling RAF pilots has been used in countless subsequent documentaries of England's finest hour. Capra's technique - a rapid paced montage of newsreel footage punctuated by a dramatic voice-over narration - became the preferred way to present the subject.
I'm reviewing the Good Times Video release. This value-priced disk doesn't contain any extras, and the transfer print is just okay. Some frames are missing, the images at times look muddy and at other times look bleached out, but overall it's acceptable and not so bad it's distracting.