The Horrors of Stalingrad

January 16, 2016 | By

It is amazing how many films have been made on the Battle of Stalingrad, the horrible siege in which invading Nazis sent by an arrogant Hitler were caught in a noose after bombarding and brutalizing the city. Within roughly 5 months the battle was over, with more than a million soldiers and citizens dead, and the Third Reich receiving a smarting loss that signaled the end of the Third Reich.

Stalingrad2003Synapse Films recently remastered the stunning and deeply moving 2003 German documentary Stalingrad on Blu-ray, and I’ve paired that release with a 2-disc Soviet propaganda film I picked up on my last trip to Germany a few years ago.

StalingradskayaBitva_1949_posterReleased by Icestorm, The Battle of Stalingrad (aka Stalingradskaya bitva / Die Stalingrader Schlacht) was a 1949 propaganda epic – 3 hours in bloated length – that presented the battle from a more executive level, with Joseph Stalin shored up as the mastermind who saved his namesake city.

The battle scenes are often quite extraordinary, Stalin as a benevolent, soft-spoken father figure is amusing (for a while), and Hitler resembles a live-action version of a caricature from a Warner Bros. propaganda cartoon (namely the rug-chewing counterpart in “The Ducktators”).

Battle is a weird artifact that was part of a series of ‘artistic documentaries’ proposed by Stalin, which included the monstrous The Fall of Berlin / Stalingradskaya bitva (1950), another epic that similarly had to be released in 2 parts to cinemas.

Synapse also released a new HD transfer of Leni Riefenstahl’s scary propaganda classic Triumph of the Will (1935), of which a few visual echoes exist within Battle.

I’ll have a review of the Riefenstahl film soon, but coming next is a set of comparative reviews of Twilight Time’s gorgeous Blu-ray edition of Sam Fuller’s House of Bamboo (1955). Like Broken Lance (1954), Fuller’s nutty film was inspired by a noir classic – in this case William Keighley’s The Street with No Name (1948).




Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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