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Who in their right minds would mount a commando raid to rescue a cow ?Only the Brits. Venus was in fact a Gurnsey Cow. A champion milk producer.And the envy of Hitler, who wanted to breed her capabilities into the Teutonic herds that he had proclaimed to be the world's best.Thus for reasons of morale the Brits mounted a commando operation to snatch Venus right from under the noses of the German occupiers of her island home. A wonderful movie Starring David Niven and Glynis Johns,recreated this exciting story of the successful operation. I was lucky enough to have seen the movie in a theatre when it first came out,at the tender age of ten .I loved it then and I loved it on late night TV 35 years later. I wish it would play again. I'd make a point of staying up to tape it. A splendid paean of praise for the indomitable Human Spirit. If it comes your way take time to enjoy.
"Appointment with Venus" author Jerrard Tickell, who also wrote "Odette", wrote that the germ of the idea for his novel, and delightful movie, came ten years or more in the past when he had a conversation with a Colonel "Duke" Wright in the British War Office. In 1940, Wright was O.C. at Guernsey and, with the fall of France, had the dangerous task of evacuating the garrison from the Channel Islands. After a nightmare journey, the exhausted, unshaven but triumphant Wright reported to the War Office at three in the morning that not a man had been lost. The junior officer who greeted him remarked what a pity it was that the Colonel had failed to bring any pedigreed cows with him. And added, "I suppose you couldn't go back and collect some." Tickell wrote that Colonel Wright's reply was as pungent as it was unprintable.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is quite a nice film but it could have been a lot better. The plot is mucked about too often for no apparent reason and Glynis Johns just isn't right as the Nicola. David Niven is believable as Major Valentine but it's not his best performance by a long way and Noel Purcell must have been cast just for his beard. He's supposed to be from the island but he plays the part very Dublin Irish. Patric Doonan is absolutely spot on as Forbes though giving one of his best performances and Martin Boddey is a wonderfully brutal Vogel. Kenneth More is good as the pacifist Lionel but (Spoiler) at the end of the film he gets on the boat and sails to England with the others which is totally out of character and, for me, ruins the end of the movie. In the book he specifically says that he can't go to England because the Germans will want to take retribution and he stays behind to take the blame so the island will be spared and then Captain Weiss, who is quite a sympathetic character, shoots him to save him falling into the hands of the torturers from the Gestapo.
The British garrison has been evacuated from the Channel Islands and soon after the Germans occupy the islands. The British send a very small expedition force to attempt to transport back to Britain a prize Guernsey cow named Venus. The Nazi commandant of the island recognizes the breeding value of this cow makes plans to have her shipped to Germany. The key members of the rescue team are Glynis Johns and David Niven - two actors who never disappoint. The commandant is a sympathetic character who treats the islanders with great respect. It's all rather bucolic and pleasant with just one nasty Nazi soldier who provides the tension to the story. It's a charming and engaging movie set in a fascinating locale and a reminder of a perhaps little remembered fact of this German occupation. The print I saw of this was great and I'll be watching this movie again.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Nazi's have taken over the Channel Islands, and they are after the native's prized cow, Venus. The islanders, determined to prevent this, gather together to foil them, and utilize every means necessary to stop them. What this is really telling us is that what may seem silly to us on the surface is really much more important than it seems. Venus, expected to give birth any day, and the islanders utilize British intelligence (lead by David Niven) to get Venus out of the country before she is given into the Nazi's hands. Glynis Johns ("Mary Poppins") plays a native of the Channel Islands, the sister of a controversial artist, who returns to her home not only to rescue Venus but get her brother out of there as well. This light-hearted drama reminds us that what is sometimes taken for granted or seems inconsequential can really make the difference when an innocent land is pummeled into war and taken over by a nasty force such as Nazi Germany. There is a revealing scene about the German Officer who disciplines one of his soldiers for cruelty, slapping him then telling him that he is one of the reasons why the world hates the Germans. They don't sugarcoat this officer; he is still determined to do his job, yet he shows a softness that is sometimes missing from portrayals of a people who were not all stereotypically hard-nosed or evil.
This strange British Film-Makers production, has as its weird premise a
story based almost unbelievably on fact. Writer Jerrard Tickell based
his book on a story told to him by an officer involved in such an
actual event. While the Island of this film is fictitious, it is
thought the real events took place on the Isl of Sark (Channel Islands)
during the German occupation of '40 - '45. Unfortunately for this film,
the screen play by Nicholas Phipps (who also has a small acting part)
tends to waver between comedy and propaganda. This is a pity, as there
are many suspenseful moments throughout this terrific looking film. I
suppose with a situation as crazy as this, it could be difficult to
fully know just how to treat it, and do it full justice.
Both the Director: Ralph Thomas, (Conspiracy of Hearts '60 ~ Clouded Yellow '51 ~ Wild and the Willing '62) and his Director of Photography: Ernest Steward (The Assassin '52, aka: The Venetian Bird) were versatile artists indeed. Both were comfortable working with either solid drama or comedy. And while they are mostly remembered for their various British comedies, these men were certainly well capable of injecting a little more drama into this film, had it been a better script.
The cast is varied and interesting; the wonderful and very talented Glynis Johns gives a thoughtful performance, and with her big doe eyes and smooth husky voice, is fully believable as the Island girl being brought back to her homeland on a military mission. David Niven is warm (maybe a tad too warm) as the Major. Barry Jones is suitably serious as the Provost of the Isl. Kenneth More in a rare dramatic role (pity they didn't give him more) fully convinces as the pacifist artist who has turned his back on the war. It's his character that is let down badly by the screen treatment - maybe a slight spoiler here but vital info: In the film, More's character ends up joining the cause and flees to England, but in the book he remains to defend his Island colleagues from serious German retaliation --being a direct result of the part he played in the military operation-- If this film was made during the War years you would say it's home spun propaganda, but this is six years on, in 1951. What were they thinking...?
George Coulouris' German officer is treated rather humanely, given he disciplines his men for any mistreatment of the Island inhabitants. Some of the incidents portrayed too lightly, involve the 'cow' of the title, these tend to be given over to stretched situations. The end is simply tacked on as a British moral booster. Could have been very good, as is, it's good to look at, entertaining, and should please as a rainy day time passer that looks back at some resent history. The Masterpiece Collection DVD I looked at, is basic, but offers good quality image and sound for it's modest price.
With little way of defending it and few valuable resources to protect,
the UK allows the German army to invade Channel Islands while the
residents decide on a peaceful acceptance including non-violence
resistance. However the Ministry of Agriculture is quick to point out
that this means the Germans will have possession of one of Britain's
finest cows, Venus, who also happens to pregnant with a calf. With the
issue raised, the War Office dispatches Major Valentine Moreland to
liberate the cow and return her to the safety and honest green grass of
Despite the fairly ordinary sounding title, this film has a premise that makes it sound like it can only be a funny little comedy that has plenty of light British wit. However the film is nothing of the sort and, while being a bit of a flop, it is also a rather strange beast that can't seem to settle into any one thing comfortably. After a bit of a comic tone that seems to be putting the tongue in the cheek we then suddenly get serious with more of a dramatic approach. The drama is never thrilling and it is all a bit silly and thus prevented me really getting into it daring do in war movies is all well and good but much more important things really happened than this fictional case. Now I'm not sure about the true history regarding the Channel Islands but it might be a touchy issue over how little resistance was given up hence we have the film making very deliberate points about how dignified and upright the residents are. Strangely the film also takes care to avoid painting all Germans as evil and the commander is quite a decent farmer maybe not that surprising considering it was made in the 50's but still strange to see in an old war movie.
Niven is not that well known for this film and it is easy to see why as he does appear to be freewheeling in it. His presence is always appreciated but it is hard to watch this and not think of many stronger war films where he worked much better. Likewise Kenneth Moore is a strange find and he has very little to do. Johns is dull, Coulouris is far too careful and upright and the rest of the support cast just kind of do the basics without any feeling Purcell being the only one to really add colour in an easy role.
Overall this is a mixed film that doesn't really do anything well as it isn't funny, dramatic, involving, interesting or exciting. The story will mean it sticks in my mind but other than that there is nothing special or memorable here.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A 1951 trifle about a team stealing a prize cow from under the noses of
the Germans who have occupied one of the Channel Islands.
There's no other animal in the world like it, we're told. And, further, it was recently impregnated by a prize bull, now demised. It's a symbol of national pride as much as anything else, the ultimate ungulate.
So a team is organized to abduct the cow, named Venus, from its island and bring it back to the green fields of England. It's a diverse group, as these teams always are. Led by Major David Niven, they include wide-eyed Glynis Johns, rescued from a kitchen in Wales because she is a native of Amorel Island, and Noel Purcell, an Irish fisherman who is suddenly taken drunk from time to time, but who is able to navigate among the rocks, channels, and kills of the moral Amorel.
There are moments of slight comedy, and some tension builds towards the end when the torpedo boat carrying the team and its prize are pursued by a Nazi E boat, but it's all pretty schematic. Kenneth More is an islander who now pays no attention to politics and glumly devotes himself to his painting. He opposes war and violence, but he's won over.
There's nothing much to applaud in the film. We see a lot of rugged islanders talking. We see a civilized German commanding officer who doesn't want to see anyone get hurt. We see the team disguised as simple farmers or fishermen dashing about, sometimes tugging a cow behind them. We see Venus give birth and everyone's face glows with a sort of pleasure that strikes me as a little perverse. What's so hot about a new-born calf? In Samoa, nobody would even be allowed to WATCH the calving because it's considered dirty.
At any rate, there's never any real doubt that Venus will be rescued from the Huns. It's not especially funny and it's not very dramatic. What's all the fuss?
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