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The Rank Collection: The Best of British War Cinema [5 Discs] [DVD]

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Overview

Synopsis

Secret Mission
In this WW II actioner, two British Intelligence agents and a French agent follow their leader into Nazi-occupied France to see how strong the invaders really are; unfortunately, the only way to get that information is to break into the German headquarters. They do so by pretending to be champagne vendors. As soon as the Nazis figure out their scheme, they begin chasing the Allied agents who are assisted by the French Resistance to make sure the information is given to the British who use it to destroy the German supplies and munitions. During their flight, one of the agents his killed; later his sister vows to do everything she can to stop those evil Nazis. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

Unpublished Story
Bob Randall (Richard Greene) is a reporter who gets to witness first-hand the British retreat from Dunkirk in May of 1940. He returns to his job in a London now facing nightly German bombing raids, and finds himself saddled with Carol Bennett (Valerie Hobson), a neophyte reporter. Bob is eager to take on the Nazis and, in the absence of any on the ground that he can fight, he turns to the leaders of a pacifist movement, The People for Peace. But no sooner does he start to look into who they are than he finds himself being shadowed by mysterious men and stirring up a hornet's nest of activity in his wake. While Carol tries to keep up and do her bit, and Bob tries to look out for her and find out just what he's stepped into -- which soon involves kidnappings and murder -- the German bombers keep coming and the newspaper's survival is threatened. Bob and Carol are drawn together romantically in the midst of these overlapping crises, and manage to find some time for each other while helping their long-suffering editor (Brefni O'Rorke) save the newspaper and the British secret service save the country. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi

Operation Amsterdam
One of the covert operations at the beginning of World War II is enacted in this fast-paced docudrama about a government-approved diamond heist. A Major from the British army (Tony Britton) joins up with a Dutch diamond expert (Alexander Knox) and another adventurous Dutchman (Peter Finch) to steal a fortune in diamonds from a bank vault in Amsterdam before the Nazis completely close off the city. The trio are launched under the covering fire of a British battleship in the harbor and then chauffeured into Amsterdam by Anna (Eva Bartok), one of many people they encounter who could be either friend or foe. There is no time to waste in emptying the bank vault because it is estimated that the city will be overrun by the Nazi army in just fourteen hours. Meanwhile, the war is intensifying all around them, and the Nazi soldiers already on patrol are a continual threat. ~ Eleanor Mannikka, Rovi

2,000 Women
The "2000 Women" of the film's title are the female inmates in a WW II German concentration camp in France. Though many of the women don't get along, they are united in their hatred for their Nazi captors. The story takes a truly melodramatic turn when three English airmen parachute into the camp, offering a ray of hope for those inmates planning an escape. Some of the humor is "black" indeed, involving a card-playing corpse and other questionable sources of laughter, but this was the sort of material that wartime audiences wanted. Heading the cast of 2000 Women are Phyllis Calvert, Flora Robson and Patricia Roc, fine British actresses all who overcome an abundance of script deficiencies. The film was the first production of Individual Pictures, formed by the producer-director-writer team of Frank Launder and Sidney Gilliat. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Day Will Dawn
Also known as The Avengers, the British The Day Will Dawn is set in Norway at the outbreak of WW2. British foreign correspondent Lockwood (Ralph Richardson), forced out of Norway by the Nazi invasion, returns to the occupied Scandanavian country at the request of the War Office. Lockwood's assignment is to guide the RAF to a heavily camouflaged German U-boat base for sabotage purposes. With the help of patriotic Norwegian seaman Alstad (Finlay Currie), Lockwood completes his mission, only to be arrested as a spy and sentenced to be shot. The final portions of the film detail our hero's attempt to escape back to England with Alstad's daughter Kari (Deborah Kerr), with whom he has fallen in love. The intricately crafted screenplay is attributed to three of Britain's finest scriveners, Terence Rattigan, Anatole de Grunewald and Patrick Kirwen-and one suspects that there were even more talented hands involved in this thrill-packed wartime adevnture. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Wind Cannot Read
The Wind Cannot Read is a tearful British star crossed romance effort set against the backdrop of World War II. RAF officer Dirk Bogarde is assigned to learn Japanese in order to interrogate prisoners. His language instructor is the lovely Yoko Tani, daughter of an anti-Tojo businessman. Bogarde and Tani fall in love and secretly marry. Not long afterward, Borgarde is captured and tortured by the Japanese. While listening to the POW camp radio loudspeaker, he hears the voice of Tani, broadcasting anti-British propaganda. At first heartbroken, Bogarde vows to be reunited with Tani when he discovers that she is dying from brain disease. Escaping from the camp, Bogarde finally makes his way to the hospitalized Tani, where they share a tender moment before death enshrouds her. Richard Mason based his script for The Wind Cannot Read on his own novel. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Flemish Farm
The Flemish Farm is based on a true story. Clifford Evnas plays Duclos, a Belgian airman who joins the British air corps at the outbreak of WW2. Feeling the need to do something more for his country than merely dropping bombs on Nazi installations, Duclos flies back to his German-occupied homeland to symbolically retrieve a Belgian Air Force flag he'd buried just before evacuating. He hides out in the farm of the title, where he is given aid and support by the Belgian underground. Ultimately, however, his presence becomes known to the Nazis, leading to a tension-filled denouement. Jane Baxter costars as Trescha, who in true WW2-propaganda fashion gives her life for her cause. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Appointment with Venus
Don't be misled by the title, and by the presence of Glynis Johns in the cast. The "Venus" in Appointment with Venus is a prized cow. The time is World War II: special operatives David Niven and Glynis Johns are dispatched to a Nazi-held island to rescue Venus, who for some reason or other is vital for British morale. Naturally, this isn't easy and leads to all sorts of complications. Released in the US as Island Rescue, Appointment with Venus was based on a novel by Jerrard Tickell. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Beasts of Marseilles
The British Seven Thunders was released in the US as Beasts of Marseilles. Set in 1943, the film stars Stephen Boyd and Tony Wright as escaped POWs Dave and Jim. Hiding out in Marseilles, the two protagonists battle over the affections of local gamine Lise (Anna Gaylor). When they find the time, Dave and Jim plan an elaborate breakout for the other POWs sequestered in the French port city. After an engaging opening, the film relies upon serial-like thrills and hairbreadth escapes to keep the audience awake. Stealing the show from the nominal stars are those grand old British troupers James Robertson Justice and Kathleen Harrison. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Theirs Is the Glory
Theirs is the Glory earned some of the highest critical praise ever afforded a British wartime docudrama. This is the filmed record of the ill-fated battle of Arnhem in September of 1944, when the Allied forces combined to force a total German retreat from Holland. The "bridge too far" at Arnhem proved to be the Waterloo of this particular strategy, due to a series of unforseen mishaps and miscalculations. Of the 10,000 troops engaged in the offensive, 8,000 lost their lives. Without sugarcoating the disaster, the film points out the courage and sacrifice of the men involved in the mission. Brian Desmond Hurst directed Theirs is the Glory, while the large cast of "re-enactors" performed sans screen credit. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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