Earlier this year Quentin Tarantino’s unconventional war film Inglourious Basterds played fast and loose with historical facts and raked in over $100 million US at the box office.
Now George Clooney is looking for the same kind of success with his offbeat look at modern warfare, The Men Who Stare at Goats. These films join the list of quirky genres like military sci fi, war comedies and musicals like M*A*S*H and South Pacific and even Nazi zombie films, that use war as a backdrop for the main story.
Most war movies focus on men but 1944’s musical comedy Rosie the Riveter is a lighthearted romp about the women who stayed behind, doing shift work at munitions factories.
Better known in the all-singing-all-dancing war field is South Pacific. Inspired by James Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific, the film’s love story is set amid the conflict in the Pacific islands between American and Japanese soldiers. Buoyed by the popularity of songs like Some Enchanted Evening, South Pacific ran for almost five years at the Dominion Theatre in London.
Five for Hell is a cockeyed look at American GIs during the Second World War. The story of infiltrating enemy lines to steal documents that could end the war is by-the-book, but the film certainly isn’t.
It’s probably the only war film to feature miniature trampolines as tools to storm a Nazi base, a scene, one critic wrote, that resembles “a glorious circus act.” Rent it for the trampolines; watch it for Klaus Kinski’s portrayal of the evil Nazi officer.
Speaking of evil Nazis how about Dead Snow, a Norwegian flick about Nazi zombies? Love the advertising tagline: “Ein! Zwei! Die!”
Even stranger than undead Nazis is the Nazisploitation subgenre. There are, alarmingly, lots of these films, but the most famous is Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS. Filmed on the set of Hogan’s Heroes this is one polarizing movie. Fans of 1970s exploitation fare love the lurid storyline about Commandant Ilsa’s vicious attempts to prove that women can withstand more pain than men.
Most people don’t. One writer said, “Despite a lot of competition, this is perhaps the most poisonous thing passing itself off as a movie that I’ve ever seen.”
And finally, more traditional than Ilsa or Dead Snow, but still on the fringe, is La Grande Illusion, a 1937 French film starring Erich von Stroheim, often credited as the first anti-war movie.