The Long Day’s Dying was my favorite film from my March movies watching and the second, that month to feature that man David Hemmings. The other was the excellent school drama, Unman, Wittering and Zigo.
Directed by Peter Collinson, who sandwiched this film in between Up The Junction and the classic mini gold robbing caper The Italian Job.
Starring Mr Hemmings as John, one of three soldiers holed up in a European countryside in a broken down chateau during the second world war. Bombs blast around them, Germans soldiers litter the area. Do they wait for their Sergeant who has ventured out in an attempt to locate their unit, or do they move on before they are discovered?
In the spooky house in the woods with a chicken, John, Cliff (Tony Beckley) and Tom Cooper (Tom Bell) talk to each other telepathically and I assure you it’s not an episode of Sapphire and Steel. Well they don’t actually speak with their minds but you hear their inner monologue and they answer each other. It’s gives this World War Two movie a wonderful sense of the surreal. I believe it’s because they are a close unit, brothers in arms, they know what each other’s thoughts and movements are. It’s a intriguing part of this relatively unknown obscure gem, main reason for never being released on VHS or DVD. Bizarrely it’s on Amazon to rent though.
John “I have a small skewer hidden in the collar of my jumping jacket, and a razor blade in my Gaiter as well as my knife”
The three are quite different characters, John keeps going on about being a pacifist as he informs you how well he’s tooled up and gets ready to go in for the kill. Cliff has some big anger problems and takes them out on our feathered friend. And Tom Cooper is a well mannered and thoughtful soldier and a close friend of John’s. Could a German soldier called Helmet (Alan Dobie) change things for them?
Film critic Renata Adler gives the movie a right smashing back on it’s original release of 1968 for The New York Times. The Long Days Dying NY Times Review
I’m not sure if it was because of that review but I see on the promotional poster there’s a long piece saying don’t listen to the bad reviews the film has got. Written by another New York Times film critic called Penelope Gilliatt, she is English by the way. Here’s what she says, some tough words.
“A very fine piece of writing, acting and filmmaking and I believe that anyone who drags his feet because of the current rumor that the picture is too rough for the American people is making a libellous misjudgement of his country’s mood”
To be fair I can imagine at the time it might of not come off as well. For me it’s the old style that has held up well alongside the writing and those monologues, giving it an original feel which I feel sets it apart from other anti-war films. I was transfixed throughout the runtime and continue to think about it.
Based on a novel by Alan White who was a commando leader during the war so giving it a real authentic realistic feel.
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