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The reason why I say this is because I wrote the screenplay and knew very little about it being made until I was asked to see the film. I wrote it for some producers who sold it on without telling me. Because Alan Dobie was a friend of mine, I got to hear about it. I had only written a first draft so I was understandably worried when I heard that it was on the floor. I asked Peter Collinson, through my agent, whether he might like me to do another draft. I also asked if I could I see my original script because I had lost it. I was told, too late. So I did the only thing I could do under the circumstances and took my name off. I had no idea what they might have done to my screenplay. Then I was invited to see the finished film. I was so impressed that I very quickly asked to have my name put back on. It's a beautifully made piece, from a hurriedly written first draft, I expected to be asked to do much more work on it; perhaps if I had it wouldn't be so good. I would love to see my original script again if anybody knows where it is? I would also love to see the film again, I only saw it once in a little viewing theatre in Soho.
In his third film, director Peter Collinson gives us this very unusual
antiwar offering. A lost film that is very rarely screened nowadays,
and completely unavailable on video or DVD, The Long Day's Dying is one
of those movies that divides the majority of viewers into two camps -
there are those who hail it as a cult classic and a film of tremendous
power, and there are those who find it irritating and unappealing in
the extreme. One of the most experimental things Collinson has done in
this film is to use very little spoken dialogue; instead most of the
talk is provided by voice-overs telling us what is going through a
character's mind at a given moment. So, for example, when David
Hemmings is creeping up behind a German soldier but cannot bring
himself to cold-bloodedly shoot the man in the back, his thoughts are
heard in voice-over as he thinks: "You're dead and you don't even know
it. Now turn around. TURN AROUND!"
Three British paratroopers find themselves stranded in a deserted building somewhere in the European countryside during WWII. We learn that they were instructed to hide in the building and keep watch for advancing Germans, with a promise from their sergeant that he would return for them later to take them back to the rest of their unit. The trio consists of pacifist John (David Hemmings), violent Cliff (Tony Beckley) and the quiet but clear-thinking Tom (Tom Bell). However, several hours have gone by since the sergeant was supposed to relieve them, and the three are now beginning to grow anxious. Their plight worsens when a three-man German patrol happens by. The British paratroopers kill two of the Germans but the third - Helmut (Alan Dobie) - is only injured and becomes their prisoner. Now that their location is compromised the trio decide that their safest bet is to find their unit by themselves, so they set off with their prisoner on a trek through the countryside in search of their allies....
The Long Day's Dying is full of quiet understatement, with many moments where the camera lingers long on the faces of the protagonists. Even a small grin, a frown, or a hard swallow is very deliberate and is meant to be significant. The actors do a good job at getting across these subtle, almost imperceptible emotions. The story itself is rather dull, with little taking place over the 95 minute running time. One assumes that the film is some kind of allegory, with the handful of characters used as a microcosm - a small-scale representation, if you like - of the wider picture that was the Second World War. The violence is infrequent, but when they come the scenes of death and injury are very gory and show with grim realism the terrible things that weapons and booby traps can do to the human body. I found The Long Day's Dying a bit disappointing, as I couldn't get past the allegorical pretensions and the relentlessly unorthodox approach. But I certainly wouldn't pan it in the way that most professional critics have (Variety, Halliwell, Maltin, et al all hated this film). It's an unusual and very different sort of war film that some viewers - (admittedly, I'm not one of them) - will find interesting, powerful and thought-provoking.
This is an unusual war film, about three british Paratroopers behind german lines in WW2. It is a long time since I have seen it, but it remains quite vivid as it wavered between an ultra realistic portrayal of the action and a strange telepathic connection between the characters. It has never been released on video, which is a pity, as it should have some recognition amongst cult film fans.
I saw this film prior to joining the British Army. I went through my basic training, at first difficult and then as I progressed much easier. My time was spent during the height of the troubles in NI and the cold war. There was times when I questioned myself on what I had gotten myself into, not for long, as the training would always take over and you would always react instinctively. The voice over used to display what the soldiers are thinking is spot on, though I would have added breathing and heart rate as this seems to pound in your ear drums in given situations. Some years later I was in Canada for a family get together. An Aunty of mine who lives in the USA and is a lecturer at the Columbus Uni Ohio had done a paper on the effects of the British Army in NI. She spent some time out there researching. Although an ex pat she was very anti-British. She made a bee line for me and condemned me for being a British soldier. My only answer was see the film 'A long day's dying'. It's the closest a civilian will get to realise why a soldier does what he does. The answer is right at the end.
I saw the long day's dying when it first came out at the cinema, I
thought the film gave a good soldiers point of view, it gave a
realistic account, of men at war. The storyline moves at a nice pace,
showing a group of men behind enemy lines, and trying to return back to
their own lines with an enemy prisoner. The characters are well
developed, and believable.
David Hemmings is a good actor and plays the leading role with conviction, as does Alan Dobie (as German Helmut) I was surprised, that i have been unable to find this film on VHS or DVD, and I feel it has become the forgotten film, which is sad , as it is superior to many other war films I have seen.
This is not a movie you watch for entertainment, at least most people I
know would not.
It's portraits the cruelty to both body and mind that happen in a war pretty well, the characters seem plausible, especially because you "read their minds", something more often found in books and rarely in movies, however done very well in this piece. I would place it next to "All quiet on the western front" and "Die Brücke" in terms of leaving a lasting impression.
I wish I could screen it at school, along with the other two movies - however finding a copy of it showed to be pretty hard - which is a shame.
Superb film with no actual spoken dialogue which enhances the level of suspense. The whole approach gives a completely different twist to a war film.
Well worth watching again if only it could be found. I saw it perhaps 20 or so years ago. - Fantastic!
Not sure one can call this an anti-war film, it shows war at an elite
level. These are elite troops that know what they are doing and take
great pride in it. Even when they are pacifist, they still enjoy the
skill level and defeating their foes, even if it does go against being
a pacifist. The movies is slow and rather uneventful and in many ways
is rather tame as war movies go-more so by todays standards, no body
parts flying off as in modern movies. It is brutal in other ways though
as you see killing at a personal level. This is more of a thinking
man's movie. Once you start to watch you don't want to miss anything.
The thoughts of the men in the movie and their interactions, is what
the movie is about- not the combat itself or a big exciting storyline.
This maybe called a war triller.
If you are into the skill of war, if you are into reading or seeing programs about the SAS and so on, YOU WANT TO WATCH THIS MOVIE!!!!!
Comparable movies are The Hill (1965) with Sean Connery, 49th Parallel (1941) with an all star cast, The Naked and the Dead (1958) with Cliff Robertson. All are unusual in their way and show war at a personal level. Enjoy!
I have seen this film only the one time about 25 years ago, and to this day I have always told people it is probably the best film I have ever seen. Considering there was no verbal dialogue and only thought dialogue i found the film to be enthralling and I even found myself holding my breath so as not to make any sound. I would highly recomend this film, I wish it was available on DVD.
Surprise, it was released on Historia (French counterpart of the History Channel) Of course it was dubbed in French, but it did not lose any of its suspense, almost claustrophobic atmosphere. The paratroopers were third-dimensional in character and even the German prisoner seemed believable ! Not the all good for our side and all bad for the enemy kind of script ! Excellent ! Would compete well with today's movies like Pearl Harbour, etc. etc. !
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