Burt Lancaster Goes to War!

January 22, 2015 | By

Keeping this one short and brief due to deadlines. Just uploaded are a pair of WWII era films starring Burt Lancaster, recently released on Blu-ray via twilight Time.

Why John Frankenheimer hasn’t been elevated to the Parthenon of director gods is a mystery.

Well, actually it isn’t. He did make variable films in the seventies and eighties, although I love 52 Pick-Up for its maximum sleaze, glossy look, great cast, wonderful Gary Chang score, and spiky-haired John Glover. There were several career duds – the mutant killer bear film Prophecy (1979) might be his nadir – but if you look at his work from the sixties, you see an adventurous technician also having fun with camera lenses, long takes, montage, complex narratives, and playing with big toys for the big screen.


The Train (1964) keeps aging into a firmer masterpiece, and there’s no fakery: real stunts with real actors and real trains, and rather than be an exclusive caper film about stolen French art being sneaked to Berlin, it becomes a battle of wits between two clever men.

Lancaster also appeared in Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), where he also adopted a measured (read: non-grin) if not a more emotionally detached performance style to play a high-ranking judge in the former Third Reich charged with crimes against humanity alongside three more despicable colleagues.

JudgmentAtNurnberg_BRJulie Kirgo’s praise for director Stanley Kramer here is wholly justified, as is the praise for Abby Mann’s Oscar-winning script, but I admit I’m still picky about where Kramer was great, on target, and where he was ill-suited.

Not unlike Alan J. Pakula (The Parallax View, All the President’s Men), Kramer started out as a producer before moving into directing, but his tastes tended to hover about films regarding social taboos and horrible social behaviour.

He was an unabashed humanist, and I remember the last time I heard his name in the media was his announcement to make a film about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. I suspect the end project would’ve been a cautionary tale, but it would’ve been interesting to see what standards he may have applied towards a drama that didn’t contain illicit love, racism, and war crimes.

Coming next: two films starring Anthony Quinn from 1969 in which the actor indulged in characters kind of based on his Zorba alter-ego – Daniel Mann’s A Dream of Kings (Warner Archives), and Stanley Kramer’s The Secret of Santa Vittoria (Twilight Time).

Coming very soon: Sam Raimi tries to act in 1985’s Thou Shalt Not Kill… Except (Synapse), Clark Terry in the 2014 documentary Keep On Keepin’ On (Anchor Bay), and Bernhard Wicki’s anti-war masterpiece The Bridge / Die Brücke, nominated for Best Foreign Film Oscar of 1959, and completely forgotten today, if not unknown in North America. Which is just so wrong.





Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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