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It Happened Here (DVD + Blu-ray)
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It Happened Here (DVD + Blu-ray)
Directed by Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo
'The German invasion of England took place in July 1940 after the British retreat from Dunkirk. Strongly resisted at first, the German army took many months to restore order. But the resistance movement, lacking outside support, was finally crushed. Then, in 1944, the resistance movement reappeared.'
That is what happened when history was rewritten. Nazi Germany has won the Second World War and England is under occupation. Kevin Brownlow was only 18 when he and Andrew Mollo - just 16 - embarked on this ambitious neorealist-tinged drama, which took eight years to complete. The result is a chilling and timely reminder of what might have been had Nazism not been defeated.
- Presented in High Definition and Standard Definition
- Mirror on the World (1962, 10 mins): full version of fake German newsreel
- It Happened Here: Behind the Scenes (1956-66, 22 mins): previously unseen footage with new commentary by Kevin Brownlow
- Original UK and US trailers (1966)
- It Happened Here Again (1976, 7 mins): excerpt from a documentary on Winstanley
- Interview excerpt with the directors (2009, 2 mins)
- The Conquest of London (1964/2005, 4 mins): Italian TV item
- On Set With Brownlow and Mollo (2018, 12 mins): interview with Production Assistant Johanna Roeber
- Kevin Brownlow Remembers It Happened Here (2018, 65 mins)
- Image gallery
- Introduction to How It Happened Here: text of David Robinson's foreword to the book (Downloadable PDF DVD only)
- Illustrated booklet with writing by Kevon Brownlow and new essays by Dr Josephine Botting, DoP Peter Suschitzky and military historian E W W Fowler
UK | 1964 | black & white | 100 minutes | English language, with optional hard-of-hearing subtitles | original aspect ratio 1.33:1 | 1 x BD50: 1080p, 24fps, PCM mono audio (48kHz/24-bit), region B | DVD9 x 1: PAL, 25fps, Dolby Digital 1.0 mono audio (192kbps), region 2 | Cert PG
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My only complaint in relation to this film is it seems to be a film of two halves. I was hooked up until the nurse, the central character, ended up working in the country at an institution that carries out euthanasia. This development is, of course, a follow on from the scene in which British National Socialists informally discuss their views. Originally edited from the TV version, these are actually contemporary (1960s) members of the NSM and White Defence League, the bearded gentleman being the famous (or infamous) Michael Passmore, an individual who later became an avid collector of S.S. 'Allach' porcelain. The views aired in this particular sequence concerning euthanasia are truly shocking and in no way reflect original National Socialist beliefs, Passmore and associates effectively shooting themselves in the foot.
The uniforms appear to be authentic and some may indeed be so as this was only nineteen or twenty years after the war. The 'Black Prince' division was a nice touch, a formation that is represented as being made up of native Britons, very similar to formations from Belgium, France, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Denmark, Norway etc.
I enjoyed watching this film for a second time but I happen to think that a modern day remake, with today's technology and budgets, would be more effective.
This film is not only interesting for what it is, in itself, but also for how it came to be. I came to know of one half of the duo responsible, Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo, via the former's role in the restoration of Abel Gance's film Napoleon. This indomitable duo started working on the film when both of them were very young (18 and 16 respectively, if memory serves). It took years to complete, and was made on a budget that modern films would burn through in seconds. I believe Brownlow has also written a book about the making of the film. I'll be reading that as soon as I can!
The film itself doesn't, obviously, have the kind of production values of either a modern film, or even of a mainstream or major studio production of its own time. My biggest criticism is that the audio is at times lacking in punch. But the film as a whole doesn't suffer unduly because of such strictures. Indeed, in an era (our own) dominated by the triumph of medium over message, this is a welcome and refreshing role-reversal in that respect. Considering how it was made, It Happened Here is surprisingly professional and cohesive, which reflects very well on its makers on so many levels.
Others have given the plot synopsis, so I won't duplicate that info. What I will say is that this seems to me a wholly plausible and appropriately chilling depiction of what might very well have happened here, in England, had operation 'Sea Lion' actually taken place. Military buff types, of which I guess I'm one, will appreciate the attention to detail and authenticity, as evinced by the use of genuine German equipment and vehicles. Seeing a bobby cycling past a JagdPanther in the English countryside is quite something!
When I watch an unusual movie such as this, as well as enjoying it in its own right, I'm often left wondering why there aren't more such films. And I'm now very keen to see the Brownlow and Mollo film Winstanley, which looks at 'the Diggers' movement during the English Civil War. I salute the passion and perseverance, and the intelligence and creativity of two great underacknowledged British filmmakers.
One note: the PDF mentioned in the list of special features ISN'T on the disc. You have to download it from a BFI link.
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