In this series, inspired by real events during World War II, the kind, intelligent and worrisome Albert Foiret runs both a café, which is the only notable public house in a small Belgian ... See full summary »
In this series, inspired by real events during World War II, the kind, intelligent and worrisome Albert Foiret runs both a café, which is the only notable public house in a small Belgian town, where locals therefore naturally mix with the Nazi occupation forces, and a just as publicity-shy (even his bed-ridden wife knows nothing) network of the Belgian resistance, devoted to the evacuation of shot-down Allied pilots to Britain. He and his secret 'army' (including some of his staff and the Brussels Dr. Pascal Keldermans), taking orders by illegal radio from London, constantly risk their lives -and if caught by the professionally torturing Gestapo, possibly everyone else's- to find the pilots, hide, nurse and prepare them for the long, dangerous journey out of the Reich under the Nazis' noses, a never ending cat-and-mouse game against specialized German hunters, run by the gentleman Luftwaffe (Air Force)- Major Erwin Brandt and the ruthless Nazi 'secret state police' run by the cunning,... Written by
I've just finished watching Secret Army on UK Drama and, for me, it's BBC drama at its best. It might have seemed hard for the team that had produced the highly acclaimed 'Colditz' series to live up to its reputation but I believe that this highly popular classic surpassed it.
Colditz did have a distinct disadvantage, taking place mostly within the four walls of a POW camp, making the atmosphere at times rather claustrophobic and making the scope rather limited. Secret Army, on the other hand, was able to use and contrast a variety of places and situations. As well as this, it had more detailed analysis of the all the characters - something which was often lacking in its forerunner and also examined their motives. Using the setting of Brussels in World War II, the producers were able to capture perfectly the grim realities of life under German occupation with the distant hope of liberation. Everything from the sinister music to the camera angles, special effects and scenery was cleverly thought out. The varied plots, whose frequent twists kept everyone guessing, along with many clever subtleties and inferences, made each episode thoroughly enjoyable.
The central character of Albert Foiret was carefully scrutinised, his greed and ruthless determination to keep ownership of his beloved Candide at any cost coming out. Bernard Hepton seemed able to show an inexhaustible range of emotions, making his character something of a change from the German Kommandant he had played previously. In contrast, the virtually emotionless Kessler could show generosity, and great loyalty, albeit misguided, to his beloved country and Fuehrer. Clifford Rose was perfect as the bespectacled, ice-cold SS man with no sense of humour. Even the smaller parts, such as Alain and Dr. Keldermans were well played by Ron Pember and Valentine Dyall, along with Monique (Angela Richards) whose lovely singing in the seemingly happy atmosphere of the Candide was often made to contrast the often sinister goings on elsewhere.
The series just seemed to go from strength to strength as the characters developed and plots became more complicated. The last few episodes produced a gripping climax as we were left wondering how all the ongoing issues were going to resolve themselves, and there was much irony when many did not end up the way you would have expected.
Unlike many of the older WW2 films this serial was certainly not biased towards the allies - airmen were often seen to act rather crassly and the resistance people could be less than scrupulous, sometimes killing innocent people and breaking promises for their own survival. It also addressed many issues which were not always fully appreciated, like the uneasy relationship the French and Belgian police had with the Germans, the contempt felt by the Wehrmacht for the SS and the bitter power struggle between the resistance and the communists. Being a product of the 70s there was none of the gratuitous violence or obligatory sex scenes which can sometimes mar the storylines of more contemporary works.
Secret Army was very much a true-to-life drama - even if there were many improbable coincidences and few factual errors with many memorable episodes. I'd certainly recommend it.
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