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Clive Rees has made a wonderful "dark" film based on Jean-Paul Clebert's book which describes a WWII story that one can hardly believe, yet true! The film was ahead of its time and the production suffered from financial problems and lack of faith in the film. This caused in cutting down scenes, and finally in never releasing the film, despite the great stars involved in it (Peter Sellers, Jeremy Kemp, Peter Vaughan, Charles Aznavour and others)! Since then, the film has appeared a handful of times in festivals & retrospectives and was released as a VHS in USA (1984). Yet, the VHS version is a vulgarly abridged one where entire scenes are missing... I was happy to help the film be part of a Peter Sellers retrospective in the annual Athens International Film festival (September 2000), held by Sinema magazine. Clive Rees attended the screenings and brought with him the directors' cut version of the film, which runs about 15 more minutes. The result is a totally different film, a poetic creation, a really great drama, with wonderful performances of the participating actors! The audience gave 95,3% positive votes for the film and gave a long, spontaneous applause, which I think was, at last some reward to Clive Rees' unlucky film. If only had the film been released nowadays, I am pretty sure it would have had a completely different chance. Now, at least it deserves a great DVD version and I hope it soon will (but of course it would have to be the director's cut and hopefully a making of documentary). Does anyone listen???
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is an amazing film. Listen for the movie soundtrack... yes, what
soundtrack? There is a little music at start and end, and then... the
silence becomes the tomb that these men are trapped in. It's based on a
book, and I don't know if it's a true story or not, but I'd love to
find out. This isn't a flashy movie and it's darkly lit and the sound
(on my video anyway) is poor. But wow! Men trapped in a tomb with no
hope of escaping for SIX YEARS. What a story. There is enough food,
water, liquor and candles to last them for most of the movie.. the only
thing is, being trapped near the ocean without any hope of escape, the
men face boredom. Interesting relationships bloom and ways of passing
the time, such as games, are the men's only escape. When a bicycle is
discovered, the men go crazy with delight.
This is a tough film to watch. It's scary to imagine it happening. And there are good, good performances by the crew involved. I saw it because of Peter Sellers- I came away realizing this movie is stolen by the whole cast and I wish it would be seen more and appreciated. This is a film I think Alec Guinness would have appreciated.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Last September I had the chance in co-organising a retrospective for Peter Sellers for Athens' international film Festival("Sinema" magazine)and amongst the material selected, top of the list to be exact, was "The Blockhouse". Clive Rees, the film's director, flew to Greece to attend the screening and brought with him his own version of the film. Well, anyone who has seen the VHS version that was distributed in the early 80s in the US, should better forget it! The director's cut was fantastic and what seemed "strange" in the other version(where, even a death was missing, along with some of the film's most beautiful scenes), now was complete and absolutely wonderful. The film is a drama, based on a true story of seven men captured in a German blockhouse, where all the exits are destroyed. They find there food, candles and wine and two of them survive until their (accidental)rescue, six years later. All performances are great(Peter Sellers, Charles Aznavour, Jeremy Kemp, Nicholas Jones, Per Oscarrson, Leon Lissek, Peter Vaughan)and Clive Rees has given us a film of strong emotions and unforgettable atmosphere. I strongly hope the film will find its way on DVD (and I hope it is the director's cut that would be chosen)! A great movie! But beware, despite Sellers' involvement in it, the film is not a comedy! It's is a drama... A great one!
This film could have been a masterpiece as the cast was great and the story
was moving.Peter Sellers gives an excellent performance, in
one of his most dramatic roles, but the film was hampered by the bad sound
(mostly).What's more, its direction didn't help much and it is sad that
great performances of most of the actors, remained, for many years,lost and
I guess its grade should be 3 stars.
All the actors in this film do a fine job. But honestly, I can't see
why other reviewers are going ape over Peter Sellers - are they just
surprised that he could be serious? The man was a good actor, not just
a clown. But in this film, we don't really know his character - he's
just one of seven sorry souls trapped underground in a large storeroom
after an Allied raid on the camp where they were held prisoner.
The film has an interesting premise, but trying to cram six years of action into 90 minutes is beyond the ability of the director and writers. It becomes very episodic, starting with a decent amount of set-up, followed by what more or less amounts to a series of death scenes. The story is certainly tragic, but it feels like Cliff's Notes on celluloid. I'm going to try to find the book.
This was probably Stanley Myers's easiest film to score, since it only called for an opening and closing bit with only a couple of instruments. The lack of music throughout underscores the claustrophobic atmosphere of the "dungeon." The sound and picture quality of the DVD available from Netflix (in 2010) leave much to be desired. If you enjoy dark, depressing, hopeless stories, this should be in your top ten.
this is a wonderful and compelling movie starring one of cinemas greatest comic artists in a staight role as a frenchman who hides in a bunker with a group of fellow patriots in a bunker in occupied france during world war 2. quite why this film has never been widely shown compared to lesser peter sellers' efforts a'la 'the bobo' and 'the fiendish plot of fu manchu' is indeed a mystery. highly recommended.
I consider myself as big a Peter Sellers fan as there is in the world, but this one film had eluded me for years until now...It is one of my favorite of Sellers' performances, and is a very powerful film overall. Highly recommended!
The DVD box for "The Blockhouse" says "A true story of perseverance and survival". The same could be said for the audience. The constant darkness, illuminated only by candles, cannot shed enough light on this story of seven men, trapped underground for six years. As entertainment the film is a failure for three reasons. 1. The claustrophobic darkness is depressing. 2. The lack of any background or character development means a "so what" as far as differentiating who we like or dislike. 3. The abominable audio quality of the DVD makes understanding what is being said impossible. What you are left with is a dark, depressing, boring, and unintelligible movie. Not recommended. - MERK
Took me 15 years to remember it, buy it, and view it once more. I'd
love to see Directors-cut....and Hollywood should Definitely re-release
this film as DVD. This IS a very haunting movie....dry dialogue, great
performances by all...with words often unspoken. Dark, deep...but true
story...Truly-deserves new or re-release. Sellers was brilliant in this
movie.....great performance, as so many only regarded him for his
comedic charm and abilities. I very HIGHLY recommend this film.
One must go back to War Films in general for a long long time just to discover such a unique film presentation. I consider this to be totally riveting...though my copy was "grainy" and soundtrack was not up to par by my standards. I have an original VHS copy only. BUT, this film shines like a diamond in the rough so to speak. The men portrayed must have had tons of fortitude...or a belief system that belies more than basic survival. Great Flick.
A film that seems intended to drive its audience to mass suicide, "The
Blockhouse" is more likely to inspire tedium and finally relief when it
limps to its unsatisfying conclusion.
The film features seven slave laborers in World War II France who find themselves trapped deep in an underground chamber when their German position is bombed and shelled in preparation for D-Day. There is no escape for these men; they must bide their time eating and drinking from the ample provisions left by the German Army, do their best not to get on each other's nerves, and hope for a miracle.
The film stars Peter Sellers, though he is only a first among equals here and certainly not to be watched for his comic prowess. Playing a teacher named Rouquet, he has a light moment trying to teach dominos to the others, but for the most part stares bleakly at the walls as a heavy beard grows on his face. Sellers is completely convincing in his part, but it is less a character than a construct. Rouquet is the voice of hope whose point in the story is being stilled.
The other main character, and the only one that catches your notice, is Jeremy Kemp's Grabinski, a rational man who realizes before anyone else the hopelessness of the situation but who tries to make things bearable for his comrades. His exchanges with Rouquet playing games reflects the hope/no hope dichotomy.
"I think you'll lose," Grabinski tells Roquet during the dominos demonstration.
"How can you possibly tell I'll lose when I'm teaching you this game?" Roquet replies.
"Never mind," Grabinski shrugs.
The whole movie is like that, unconnected vignettes between the trapped men that strive at some greater purpose without advancing anything resembling a plot. Director/co-writer Clive Rees seems to be trying to go for a Pinder or Beckett thing with the sparse dialogue and hopeless situation. But too much bleakness keeps us distant from the characters and their situation.
As calamities pile up, like the suicide of one of the men and the arrival of winter, it's all you can do to register their pain. You don't have any sense of who these people might be, however good a job Kemp, Sellers, and the other actors do. And they do good work all around, including the legendary French singer Charles Aznavour as a tough scrapper named Visconti and Swedish notable Per Oscarsson as the brooding Lund. With their beards and grimy faces, and their believable, seemingly improvised acting, they pull you into their horrible situation easily enough. But the film lets them down in terms of having anything more to say than life is hell.
Don't be fooled by the 90-minute running time: This is a long movie to sit through, tough to follow with choppy editing that seems to kill off one character twice while two others disappear without explanation. Characters say little to one another, and when they do speak it is often pitched so low one can barely hear it. The visual design leans heavily on the dark surroundings to the point where the only print available today screens like an oil spill.
This is a movie I wouldn't watch once if it wasn't for Sellers, and can't recommend even to his fans. If you like bleak movies, you may feel otherwise, but whatever your mindset I doubt you will have any more success figuring out what is happening than I did.
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