Tuesday, November 10, 2015

All This and World War II (1975)



          This one needs a disclaimer. While the film All This and World War II is quite awful, taking a wrongheaded idea far into the realm of bad taste, the movie features a nifty soundtrack comprising covers of Beatles songs by noteworthy musicians. Therefore, it’s possible to watch the flick as a sampler platter for the songs, some of which appear via snippets and some of which are played in their entirety. The basic premise of All This and World War II is as simple as it is stupefying—using the Beatles’ songbook as the score for a greatest-hits survey of how key events during World War II affected Great Britain. The resulting juxtapositions of songs and imagery (newsreels, stock footage, and clips from fictional films released by 20th Century-Fox, the distributor of All This and World War II) are maddeningly literal. Helen Reddy sings “Fool on the Hill” over shots of Hitler during prewar days. Henry Gross performs “Help!” over scenes of Nazi tank commander Erwin Rommel pummeling UK forces in North Africa, as well as scenes of American President Franklin Roosevelt battling resistance from isolationists in order to help—get it?—the British. Sometimes, director Susan Winslow struggles so hard to match footage with tunes that madness ensues: Why the hell does Leo Sayer howl “I Am the Walrus” during combat scenes? And what’s the deal with Frankie Laine crooning “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” during a sequence celebrating American volunteerism?
          Yet the truly cringe-inducing bits involve generalizations about race and culture, such as matching the Bee Gees’ version of “Sun King” with Pearl Harbor and pairing Richard Cocciante’s weirdly overwrought take on “Michelle” with the liberation of France. To Winslow’s credit, every so often something works. Sayer’s plaintive reading of “The Long and Winding Road” works as accompaniment for harrowing images of London during the blitz, and Jeff Lynne’s faithful remake of “Nowhere Man” is a droll companion for shots of ousted Italian strongman Benito Mussolini in exile. Still, the basic flaw of this project—matching the Beatles’ peace-and-love tunes with war imagery—becomes painfully clear in the end, which is to say marrying the London Symphony Orchestra’s performance of “The End” with a shot of an A-bomb test meant to represent America’s nuclear attack on Japan. Just wrong. As for the handful of cover versions that add luster to the enterprise, including Elton John’s hit version of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” (listen for John Lennon himself singing the chorus), they are better appreciated outside the context of this misguided movie.

All This and World War II: LAME

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