Monday, May 30, 2011

Yesterday's Enemy (1959)

Director: Val Guest

Starring: Stanley Baker, Guy Rolfe, Leo McKern, Gordon Jackson, David Oxley, Richard Pasco, Russell Waters, Philip Ahn, Bryan Forbes, Burt Kwouk

More info: IMDb

Tagline: War Is Hell!

Plot: Cut off by the Japanese advance into Burma, Captain Langford (Baker)and his exhausted British troops take over an enemy-held jungle village. Despite the protests of an elderly padre (Rolfe) and of war correspondent Max Anderson (McKern), Langford orders Sergeant McKenzie (Jackson) to shoot two innocent villagers, thereby "persuading" a Japanese informer to surrender vital information. When the Japanese recapture the village, their commander uses Langford's own desperate war-born tactics in a similar effort to extract information from the British.

My rating: 9/10

Will I watch it again? As much as I can.

This was released in 1959. That's what I kept telling myself as I watched it. There's no music, just hard, raw acting. Stanley Baker's performance is especially hardcore. That Peter Sellers (for I'M ALL RIGHT JACK) beat out Baker for the BAFTA is disgusting. The story is brutal. I found myself on the verge of repulsion with some of the tactics and decisions his Capt. Langford made. But what would you do if you were in his shoes? Is he suffering from the stresses of war or is he looking out for the greater good? This is a tough picture, and it came out more than fifty years ago!

This isn't some war drama that plays by any standard conventions. YESTERDAY'S ENEMY changes the playing field to bring you the harsh realities of war. It's in your face the whole time all the while straddling a ticking time bomb. If you think you know what's going to happen, you don't. That this isn't available in North America is tragic. It had such a profound effect on my that I couldn't stop thinking about it for a week. This is a damn fine film and one of the best war dramas I've ever seen.

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