1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Excellent and unique film, but spoiled by slipshod supporting material,
This review is from: Forgotten Men [DVD] (DVD)
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This is an extraordinary film.
Made in 1933 or 1934, it is a potent plea for peace at a time when the first stirrings of trouble in Europe were beginning to reach a Britain that was still in the middle of the Great Depression. The title refers to the men who fought and died in the Great War. This may seem strange to us now, 80 years after the film was made. The Great War grew in historical significance as the 20th century progressed and the lasting after-effects of the conflict became ever clearer. We have certainly not forgotten the men and women who fought and died.
After an introduction by a splendid old soldier, the film takes the form of a kind of classroom lecture, run by a schoolmaster figure and addressed to a group of around ten veteran soldiers, sailors and airmen including - daringly for the time - two Germans (although they are isolated from the rest.) The lecturer, Sir John Hammerton, gives a potted history of the war, illustrated by extensive filmed footage. Every so often he talks to one of the veterans, who respond with what are obviously learnt-by-rote answers. People in those days were much less used to talking to camera than we are now and it's interesting to compare the stiffness of these men with the far more comfortable centenarian survivors who gave interviews in the late 20th and early 21st century.
The filmed inserts are the main point of this film to a present-day viewer. They are still very immediate, and very graphic. We are used to seeing the same clips over and over again in Great War documentaries, but there is material here that is hardly ever seen, including film shot by German cameramen. There are some scenes of individual and mass death that are very shocking. In one incredible sequence we see the last footage shot by a cameraman who died when a shell landed right next to him (the film, by some miracle, survived.) Admittedly, some of the footage looks fake or staged.
So far, so good. But raw history is only a start, and this DVD shoots itself in the foot with its poor supporting material. All we get is a very amateurishly shot ten minutes by the historian Max Arthur who gives a quick run-through of the material in the film.
And that's all.
And it's not enough. Where is the information about the making of the film? The life-stories of the participants? Where was it shown? How was it received? Who supported it? Who opposed it? Who paid for it? Frankly, Forgotten Men needs a book or a one-hour supporting documentary to do it full justice, not ten minutes of camcorder footage. So five stars for the film, but minus one for the lazy, short-changing presentation by Studio Canal.