DVD: Turned Towards the Sun (2012)

March 29, 2016 | By

TurnedTowardsTheSunFilm: Very Good

Transfer: Very Good

Extras: Good

Label: Secret Weapon Films / MVD Visual

Region: 0 (NTSC)

Released: December 15, 2015

Genre:  Documentary / WWII

Synopsis: Intimate chronicle of Micky Burn, a WWII commando who participated in Operation Chariot, the daring 1942 raid on a dry port in Naraire, France, and his 3 year incarceration at Colditz Castle.

Special Features: 5 deleted scenes: “Airplane Poem” (1:55) + “Mickey Outtakes” (6:05) + Saint Nazaire Tour” (8:12) + “Sunset Poem” (1:50) + “Tour of Mickey’s House” (8:28).




Made after he co-directed the critically lauded Lemmy (2010) with Wes Orshsoki, Greg Oliver’s Turned Towards the Sun is an intimate chronicle of Micky Burn, a WWII veteran who participated in the daring and deadly Operation Chariot, in which a team of British commandos rammed a TNT-packed ship into a dock in St. Nazaire, France, to prevent the Nazis from maintaining their battleship Tirpitz in what was then Europe’s largest dry dock.

Burn was ultimately arrested and locked up in Colditz Castle for three years, after which he returned to postwar civilian life building a mussels business in his hometown in Wales.

Although he passed away at the age of 97 in 2010, Oliver managed to interview Burn in 2008 and 2009, and followed him when the vet returned to St. Nazaire for a rare reunion with two other survivors, and his first trip back to Colditz – two sequences that make up the doc’s main historic highlights – but as Burn admits, he’s a man who happened to be in the right places at the right times, meeting and affecting a sometimes unreal group of people.

Born into a semi-privileged family – his father worked for the royal family – Burn began as a journalist, became a heroic commando, war prisoner, and through an act of generosity saved the life of a future film star.

He also shifted politically from a pre-war admirer of Adolf Hitler to a Marxist. Burn met Hitler twice – the first at the 1935 Nuremburg party rally, the annual fascistic lovefest documented by Leni Riefenstalh in Victory of Faith (1933) and Triumph of the Will (1935). Burn reluctantly explains the reasons why many upper-class Brits looked upon Hitler’s regime with wonder: after the defeat and massive depressions following WWI, Germany managed to rebuild itself from the ashes of war, and regain its national pride, re-establishing itself on the world stage with bits of economic miracles.

Burn also discusses being gay in 1940s Britain, his relationship with notorious Cambridge Spy member Guy Burgess, and his committed marriage to Mary Booker, who was also his muse, inspiring his numerous published poems.

Oliver filmed Burn at a period when the war vet had already engaged a historian to gather the massive personal archive of correspondences, photos, documents, and home movies, so that after his passing an organized archive would chronicle the historic events and his personal challenges. Burn’s wit and health remained solid due to what he describes as always being in love, and loving a treasured activity, and although his WWII heroics are a main anchor within the film’s narrative, it’s really about capturing the nuances of the man in candid private moments when he’s alone, with friends, and reflecting on old companions.

That informal approach – augmented by an extremely sparse score – does affect the films’ pacing, but Oliver’s film is like a filmic archive, assembling past and present day snapshots and vignettes for a man few may have heard of. There’s a few excerpts from an early seventies BBC doc narrated by Burn as he visited St. Nazaire for the first time, and Oliver’s film takes its title from Burn’s 2003 autobiography.

MVD’s DVD includes some bonus footage, mostly outtakes of Burn reciting poetry in flight to Nazaire, at a sunset, and during a tour of his rustic home, but the most interesting is a lengthy tour given by his colleagues who describe their landing, fighting off German soldiers, blowing up the wheelhouse, and being discovered by German officers after finding refuge for their wounded comrades.

The St. Nazaire Raid was dramatized in two ‘fictionalized’ films Gift Horse (1952) and the low-budget quickie Attack on the Iron Coast (1968). Burn also appeared in Jeremy Clarkson’s 2007 BBC doc The Greatest Raid of All Time.



© 2016 Mark R. Hasan



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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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