After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, East European sources began putting World War II stories on film. And, some movies that had been made since the 1970s were being released in the West. As a result, most people in the West for the first time saw the contributions Russia had made to help win the war. These films tell stories about the war on the Eastern Front, and the ravages of war on those countries and their people. But there were some movies made much earlier in Hollywood about Russia's fighting Germany. Americans living during World War II would have seen those films. They were produced to show Americans the heroic efforts of the Russians as allies in WW II, and to win public support for the U.S. programs to supply arms and weaponry to Russia.
But, unlike other movies produced during the war years, the films on Russia's conflicts with the Germans were not shown as reruns in theaters or on TV beginning in the 1950s. No sooner had the war ended, when Joe Stalin began his power grab to control and enslave many eastern European countries and to oppress and murder his own people. Thus, the former ally in war was now an enemy in peace and a threat to western democracy. So, reruns of wartime propaganda films about the freedom-fighting Russians would conflict with the news of the day and the horrors reported on the Soviet oppression. The Cold War was on.
But now the Cold War is more than two decades behind us. With modern technology we can transfer movies from film to DVDs. And, so older films too are now available. One of the best of those is "Counter-Attack," starring Paul Muni. The movie came out in 1945 and is based on a play that ran on Broadway in 1943. A very strong point of the film is that it doesn't portray German soldiers or Russians as buffoons or as ignorant. Indeed, the dialog of the Russians in the early scenes, and of Muni throughout the film, is of intelligent, discerning individuals. While the Germans are the enemy here, none of those individuals portrayed is seen as uneducated. They do come across as menacing and clever.
The plot is excellent, and the directing and cinematography are exceptional. Muni plays his role perfectly, and several of the Germans are very good. This is a good propaganda film that put a WW II ally in good standing with Americans. If all Russians were like Muni and the rest of his special unit, we knew we had a competent, tough and capable ally. One worth fighting for and with. This movie is a welcome addition to my WW II film library.
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