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  1. #1
    Senior Member Country: United States TimR's Avatar
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    I found this as part of my searching for books and films having to do with the anti-Nazi resistance in the 1930s. I do not know whether it is well known in Britain. It is a favorite of mine, although I am well aware of its faults.



    It is supposed to based loosely on the story of Martin Niem�ller who defied the Nazis from the pulpit and was sent to Dachau. It seems to me to have even more in common with Paul Schneider, pastor of Dickenschied, who was tortured to death in Dachau in 1937.



    In any case, Pastor Hall is a composite of those who spoke up and paid a terrible price. For an outsider like myself, the film seems very, very English. The voices and the manner and the nuance and the interactions all seem far more English than German. Yet this never interferes with the film as a whole. It works extremely well.



    For me, as an American, I am aware that this film was not allowed to be shown at first, and then only in an edited version. This was part of the stupid and short-sighted isolationism of the time, and of great interest to me.



    The opening sequences of the film seem like standard family drama, circa 1940, but they have their own power, as the shock of Nazi sadism and the horrors of Dachau have considerable force compared to the civility and decency portrayed in the early scenes.



    It is true, of course, that full evil of Dachau could not be conveyed, but there are several powerful scenes. The single most moving takes place outside of the camp, at the beginning, when an old village woman is sent the ashes of her son with a brutal note ridiculing his �treasonous� behavior. He was one of R�hm's troops and was killed during the Night of the Long Knives � but what does this old woman know about this, in 1934? She is shown holding the urn and rocking back and forth. It is a moving scene.



    Wilfrid Lawson gives a quiet and dignified performance as Hall, and conveys sanctity without sentimentality. Marius Goring plays the Nazi (one of several � it seems) and Nova Pilbeam is Hall's daughter. I always enjoy watching her for her intensity and sweetness. Also, Seymour Hicks plays Hall's brother � a German general � perhaps not perfect casting, but it's a pleasure to watch him.



    If you share my interest, the book Dying We Live, the Final Messages and Records of the Resistance (Gollwitzer, Kuhn, Schneider) is a rich and thorough compilation of the true accounts of men and women similar to Hall.

  2. #2
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TimR
    For me, as an American, I am aware that this film was not allowed to be shown at first, and then only in an edited version. This was part of the stupid and short-sighted isolationism of the time, and of great interest to me.
    The initial American release had an introduction by Eleanor Roosevelt to try to convince audiences that it was based fairly closely on reality.



    The concentration camps were initially mainly hard labour and "re-education" camps. People did die and there was some torture, but they didn't develop the death camps or the "final solution" until some time later.



    Pastor Hall: Oh you're a stormtrooper now, are you?

    Heinrich Degan (Bernard Miles): Well, it's a job, Herr Pastor. I've been out of work so long.



    Steve

  3. #3
    Senior Member Country: United States TimR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Crook



    The concentration camps were initially mainly hard labour and "re-education" camps. People did die and there was some torture, but they didn't develop the death camps or the "final solution" until some time later.



    Steve
    I'm well aware of the history of Dachau. The deaths were often horrifying. In the case of Pastor Schneider, torture was followed by poison.



    The film is quite powerful in its portrayal of the suffering. I am surprised it is not better known. But perhaps it is in Britain?

  4. #4
    Senior Member Country: UK
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    I thought this was exceptional stuff, I really can forgive the stiff upper lip acting because it is done with so much conviction.



    The camera work is very schematic at times but I think that works really well with the subject at hand; after all it is a propaganda film or was it a warning. Pretty amazing actually when you put everything into place with history etc - I rarely get blown away by a film now but this one hit me for six, thanks to the recommendation off Steve and another members kind offer.



    Simon

  5. #5
    Senior Member Country: United States TimR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Third Man
    I thought this was exceptional stuff, I really can forgive the stiff upper lip acting because it is done with so much conviction.



    The camera work is very schematic at times but I think that works really well with the subject at hand; after all it is a propaganda film or was it a warning. Pretty amazing actually when you put everything into place with history etc - I rarely get blown away by a film now but this one hit me for six, thanks to the recommendation off Steve and another members kind offer.



    Simon
    I agree - it has a cumulative power. I have thought about scenes from it since I saw it. It has stayed with me.



    It's nice to see responses from you and Steve on this. It's difficult to know whether some of the films I post here are generally known or obscure or somewhere in between. After seeing this, I really wanted to discuss it, but I didn't know if anyone else had seen it.

  6. #6
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    The British censors prevented this film being made until after war had been declared

  7. #7
    Senior Member Country: United States TimR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by orpheum
    The British censors prevented this film being made until after war had been declared
    I knew about the US censorship, but not about that. That's surprising - Dachau was hardly a secret and the evils of Nazism were well known for years before this. I had thought the appeasers in Britain had lost their significant influence by about 1938.

  8. #8
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    The reason is that they did not want to upset Hitler!Remember also that Chamberlain remainedPM till May 1940 and remained in the Cabinet till June and only had to retire due to the fact that he was suffering from stomach cancer which killed him in November.Also Lord Halifax was made Foreign Secretary and remained at that post till Churchill was able to ship him off to the States as Ambassador.Given the state of war till the blitzkreig it can been seen that the appeasers were still very much in control.So anyway it was not polite to be nasty about the Nazis till war was declared.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Country: United States TimR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by orpheum
    The reason is that they did not want to upset Hitler!Remember also that Chamberlain remainedPM till May 1940 and remained in the Cabinet till June and only had to retire due to the fact that he was suffering from stomach cancer which killed him in November.Also Lord Halifax was made Foreign Secretary and remained at that post till Churchill was able to ship him off to the States as Ambassador.Given the state of war till the blitzkreig it can been seen that the appeasers were still very much in control.So anyway it was not polite to be nasty about the Nazis till war was declared.
    Interesting. It is true that a film like Pastor Hall is an obvious and open attack on the Nazis, and would have caused quite a stir prior to September 1, 1939.



    There is an American film called The Mortal Storm that was released in 1940 with James Stewart and my favorite actress Margaret Sullavan. It is a much more subdued and cautious attack on the Nazis and anti-semitism, and also takes place in Germany - but is filled with code words and careful references. For example, the word Jew is never used and "non-Aryan" is substituted. That was in 1940!

  10. #10
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TimR
    It's nice to see responses from you and Steve on this. It's difficult to know whether some of the films I post here are generally known or obscure or somewhere in between. After seeing this, I really wanted to discuss it, but I didn't know if anyone else had seen it.
    This is certainly the place to come to talk about obscure films that you thought nobody else had ever seen



    Especially if they can be referred to as British films in any way, even by some obscure connection



    Steve

  11. #11
    Senior Member Country: United States TimR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Crook
    This is certainly the place to come to talk about obscure films that you thought nobody else had ever seen



    Especially if they can be referred to as British films in any way, even by some obscure connection



    Steve
    Yes, indeed. There are very, very few people that I know who have even heard of Pastor Hall, let alone seen it. A one-of-a-kind forum!

  12. #12
    Super Moderator Country: England
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    It's a once-in-a-lifetime performance from Wilfrid Lawson too....immense dignity and power, from someone now unfortunately better remembered for his alcohol intake.

    There were anti-Nazi films made here before the outbreak of war....but they tended to be heavily coded; either referring back to WW1, such as The Spy In Black, or I Was A Spy; or involving "Unnamed Foreign Powers in Europe", as in The Lady Vanishes; with the outbreak of war, the gloves were off. For the film to have been released in September 1940, I reckon the go-ahead was probably given within a month or two of the outbreak of war, and almost certainly during the period known as The Phoney War.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Country: United States TimR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by penfold
    It's a once-in-a-lifetime performance from Wilfrid Lawson too....immense dignity and power, from someone now unfortunately better remembered for his alcohol intake.
    Yes, indeed - both dignity and power. It's difficult to convey heroism through quiet resistance. He disappears into the role.





    There were anti-Nazi films made here before the outbreak of war....but they tended to be heavily coded; either referring back to WW1, such as The Spy In Black, or I Was A Spy; or involving "Unnamed Foreign Powers in Europe", as in The Lady Vanishes; with the outbreak of war, the gloves were off. For the film to have been released in September 1940, I reckon the go-ahead was probably given within a month or two of the outbreak of war, and almost certainly during the period known as The Phoney War.
    It is an interesting phenomenon. The code worked well in The Lady Vanishes because it was a mystery anyway. Another example that I have seen mentioned is Lady Hamilton, where the analogy was between Napoleon and Hitler. Perhaps that's stretching it a bit, but I did read that Churchill liked the film very much and watched it during the Blitz.



    That was a suprisingly enjoyable film.

  14. #14
    Administrator Country: Wales Steve Crook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TimR
    It is an interesting phenomenon. The code worked well in The Lady Vanishes because it was a mystery anyway. Another example that I have seen mentioned is Lady Hamilton, where the analogy was between Napoleon and Hitler. Perhaps that's stretching it a bit, but I did read that Churchill liked the film very much and watched it during the Blitz.



    That was a suprisingly enjoyable film.
    Not stretching it very far. It was about the plucky Brits standing up to a dictator who wanted to take over most of Europe - and it showed the Brits winning



    People needed to be reminded of things like that



    Steve

  15. #15
    Senior Member Country: United States TimR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Crook
    Not stretching it very far. It was about the plucky Brits standing up to a dictator who wanted to take over most of Europe - and it showed the Brits winning



    People needed to be reminded of things like that



    Steve
    That film was a genuine surprise. I expected it to be a typical woman's film: the story of Nelson and Trafalgar as a backdrop for a soap. But I was mostly wrong. That is part of it, but it's also an effective and stirring story - and the "England expects every man to do his duty" scene, with the camera moving from one man to another, left me with a lump in my throat (against logic). So I can imagine how powerful it might have been when another dictator was threatening another invasion.

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