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Zastrozzi: A Romance (1986)
Excellent Adaptation of Gothic Horror Masterpiece
Zastrozzi, A Romance is a four part adaptation of the 1810 Gothic horror novel by Percy Bysshe Shelley by David G. Hopkins, who directed and wrote the screenplay. Hopkins stays true to the plot and the themes of the novel but changes the time period from 1810 to the contemporary year of 1986 and switches the setting from Munich, Passau, and Venice to rural England. The plot revolves around an outlaw, Zastrozzi, who seeks revenge against his half-brother, Verezzi, whom he kidnaps and tortures. The story is about revenge and obsession. Verezzi is relentlessly pursued by Zastrozzi, driven by "the fiercest revenge", who states that "we exist together, we circle each other".
The series is divided into four parts, each consisting of 52 minutes, Chapter One: Capture, Chapter Two: Conspiracy, Chapter Three: Seduction, and Chapter Five: Murder.
Mark McGann played Verezzi, Tilda Swinton played his intended wife Julia, Hilary Trott played Matilda, who seduces Verezzi, Yvonne Bryceland was Claudine, Max Wall was the Priest, while the title character Zastrozzi was played by Geff Francis.
In the first segment, Verezzi is captured or abducted by Ugo, played by Matthew Zajac, and Bernardo, played by Bernard Padden, two henchmen working for the mysterious outlaw Zastrozzi. He is held captive in a motel room. Outside he hears a person shout: "Isn't the universe better without a god? Who needs a god? Who needs him?" He finally manages to escapes in their car.
In the second segment, Verezzi is befriended by Claudine, a wheel-chair bound blind woman. Zastrozzi and Matilda conspire to manipulate Verezzi and keep him under their control. Matilda wants Julia killed.
In the third segment, Matilda is able to seduce Verezzi by telling him that Julia is dead.
In the final segment, the confrontation between Matilda and Julia takes place.
The producers are Lindsey C. Vickers and David Lascelles. Andrew McAlpine was the production designer and Maggie Hayes designed the costumes. The musical score is by Martin Kiszko which imbues every scene and which highlights the drama.
The cast give excellent performances. Mark McGann portrays Verezzi as a passive and powerless victim. Hilary Trott is the sultry seductress who manages to seduce Verezzi. Julia, as portrayed by Tilda Swinton, is bewildered and aghast as the the third person in the love triangle. Geoff Francis gives a low-key and subdued performance as the mastermind of the tragedy, Zastrozzi. Max Wall is literally off the page in his performance as the irreverent priest, Oliver.
The adaptation stays true to the Percy Bysshe Shelley novel, even interspersing paragraphs from the actual book between scenes. The 1810 novel focused on atheism as the motivating theme for the action. This is largely absent in the television adaptation. There is also no trial or punishment of Zastrozzi and Matilda in the television version. We are not told what motivated Zastrozzi to seek revenge against his half-brother Verezzi. In addition, the role of the priest is expanded in this adaptation at the expense of the other characters and the development of the plot. The priest has no direct connection to the story but acts as a chorus like in a Greek tragedy.
The film debuted in the UK on April 13, 1986. The series was shown in the U.S. on PBS on the WNET program "Channel Crossings" in two parts on Thursday, October 16 and the following week on October 23, 1986.
The New York Times reviewer John J. O'Connor described the series as "admirably adventurous and provocative" and a "strange and imaginative film".
Overall, the writing, direction, and acting are excellent. This is an effective adaptation of the Percy Bysshe Shelley novel. David G. Hopkins deserves kudos for bringing to television this early Gothic horror masterpiece.
Krvava bajka (1969)
The Kragujevac Massacre in Film
In 1969, A Bloody Tale was released in Yugoslavia as a film of the 1941 Kragujevac Massacre in Serbia.
How accurate is the film? Was the Kragujevac Massacre precipitated by a Communist Partisan guerrilla attack against German troops?
This is how the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum describes the events that led up to the Kragujevac massacre: "In response to the capture of the 6th Company of the 920th Security (Landesschuetzen) Battalion by Cetnik resistance fighters in the town of Gorni Milanovac on 28 September 1941, the overall Wehrmacht commander in Serbia, General Franz Boehme, sent German troops to the area to carry out reprisal actions."
According to this account, it was Chetnik guerrillas under Draza Mihailovich that sparked the events that followed. The movie seeks to be politically correct and reflects the Communist orthodoxy or ideology or Party line, however, that it was only the Partisans that were engaged in guerrilla activity. As a movie made during the height of the Communist dictatorship of Josip Broz Tito, this type of falsification is to be expected. The most glaring inaccuracy is with regard to the time of year depicted in the movie. The actual Kragujevac massacre occurred in the fall, October 21, 1941. In the movie, however, the time of year appears to be spring or summer with the corn fields just planted. The German tanks used in the movie appear to be inaccurate historically. The Germans used the Panzerkampfwagen Mark III and captured French Somua S35 tanks in the Kragujevac region in 1941. The tanks and personnel carriers used in the film appear to be improvised types that are not historically accurate. The German personnel carriers, in particular, stand out as anachronistic and ones not used by German forces at that time or place. The German tanks appear to be U.S. M4 Sherman E4 series medium tanks with 76 mm guns produced in the early 1950s which the U.S. shipped to Yugoslavia after the 1948 Stalin-Tito split for use in the Yugoslav Army.
There are other problems of historical accuracy as well. Why would the Germans broadcast on the radio a speech by Adolf Hitler from the 1934 documentary Triumph of the Will? In German? Moreover, Rudolf Hess is heard following the Hitler speech. Hess, however, had flown to Scotland on May 10, 1941 and been captured in an unsuccessful attempt to recruit Britain as an ally before the German invasion of the USSR. Clearly, historical accuracy, verisimilitude, and cinema verite are not high priorities of the movie. The screenwriter Branimir Jankovic is not a historian and the research involved was not very thorough or extensive.
Were children executed? The Germans executed males between the ages of 16 to 60. In the movie, children under 16 are shown being executed. This was obviously for dramatic effect and to heighten the pathos and emotional impact.
How accurate is the number given of those killed at 8,000 men and boys? This number is obviously inaccurate and grossly inflated and was used by the Tito regime to hype up the massacre. The most recent determination of the number of persons killed in the massacre is 2,794 men shot, 415 in villages and 2,379 in the city of Kragujevac.
The movie is marred by the need to present the Communist Party line or historical orthodoxy on the events depicted. These instances are relatively brief in the movie. If one can overlook these intrusions, the movie works. The metaphor or theme of the movie is subservience or acquiescence to force or overwhelming power. Should one collaborate with the occupiers or should one resist? This is the overarching theme of the movie. The metaphor for this theme is the scene where German officers force the children to shine their shoes. The children choose defiance and resistance, choosing to die rather than to submit. On this level, the movie is successful in appealing to transcendent and universal human traits. Should one fight or should one submit? How do you respond to military occupation? Should one be a "traitor", "quisling", a "collaborator". Or should one resist and oppose force? In a movie, the choices are always easy or easier because actors do not die. They live to act in other movies. In real life, choices on whether to resist involve real consequences. Is it better to resist and to face death or is it better to endure occupation and oppression? One lives to fight another day. But most importantly, one lives, one survives. These can be difficult and controversial questions. But they are not ones that are presented only in movies and in fiction. These are universal human dilemmas that all people in any country and in any time can relate to. They are dilemmas that have always faced mankind and continue to do so. Can military occupation lead to peace and stability? In Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, and Bosnia? These are issues that still are relevant because they represent fundamental and transcendent human values.
Guerrilla Resistance in Nazi-Occupied Yugoslavia
Ealing Studios in Great Britain released Undercover on July 27, 1943 on the guerrilla resistance movement in Axis-occupied Yugoslavia. Undercover was re-released by Columbia Pictures on September 14, 1944 in the United States under the title Underground Guerrillas. The movie was originally entitled Chetnik and was to document the Yugoslav Chetnik resistance movement headed by Draza Mihailovich. Because the movie was released when British support for Mihailovich was waning, however, the film was re-edited and references to Mihailovich and the Chetniks were deleted. The movie is invaluable, nevertheless, as a cinematic account of the resistance movement headed by Draza Mihailovich and the Chetnik guerrillas and how the perception of their role changed.
John Clements starred as Captain Milosh Petrovitch, a Serbian guerrilla resistance leader in German-occupied Yugoslavia, modeled closely on Draza Mihailovich. Mary Morris played Anna Petrovitch, his wife. Stephen Murray played Milosh Petrovitch's brother, Stephan Petrovitch, modeled on Milosh Sekulich, a Serbian physician who had worked at the Municipal Hospital in Belgrade from 1935 to 1941 and who fled to London to turn over a memorandum that documented the genocide committed against Serbs by Croats and Bosnian Muslims in the Ustasha NDH Nazi-allied state.
Milosh Petrovitch forms a guerrilla army in the mountains of Serbia attacking German troops and blowing up bridges and mountain tunnels. Stephan Petrovitch goes undercover and pretends to be a quisling and collaborator in order to obtain information from the German forces to pass along to the guerrillas. The climactic scene is a pitched battle between Serbian guerrillas and German troops. The Serbian guerrillas defeat the German troops and infiltrate the mountains from where they plan future attacks against Axis troops.
Michael Wilding plays Constantine, one of the Serbian guerrillas. Stanley Baker, in his first movie role at the age of fourteen, plays a Serbian student, Petar. Robert Harris plays German officer Colonel Brock, who orders the execution of six Serbian schoolchildren by a firing squad for resisting the Nazi occupation of Serbia. Academy Award nominated screenwriter John Dighton co-wrote the screenplay.
Undercover remains an important World War II movie on the resistance movement in Yugoslavia and in Serbia. The movie shows how the perception of the role of Draza Mihailovich and the Chetnik guerrillas in the resistance movement was altered and manipulated to reflect and to accommodate the political machinations and calculations of that time. Nevertheless, Undercover is an invaluable film account of the Yugoslavian resistance movement led by Draza Mihalovich and the Chetnik guerrillas, even though presented in a generic and fictionalized account.
World War II Yugoslav Resistance Movement
On January 11, 1943, Twentieth Century Fox released the movie Chetniks! The Fighting Guerrillas on the Serbian guerrilla movement headed by Draza Mihailovich in German-occupied Yugoslavia. The movie was a box office and critical success, starring Philip Dorn as Draza Mihailovich and Anna Sten as his wife. The movie was the Hollywood chronicle of the Chetnik resistance movement.
Draza Mihailovich launched a resistance movement against the Nazi occupation forces of Yugoslavia in 1941. This was unprecedented and created a sensation in Europe and in America. In America, Draza Mihailovich became one of the most popular figures in the news. In the May 25, 1942 issue of Time Magazine, Mihailovich was on the cover under the heading, "Mihailovich: Yugoslavia's Unconquered." He was one of the major contenders for the title of Time's Man of the Year.
As a result, in 1942, a Hollywood movie was made by a major studio, Twentieth-Century Fox, called Chetniks!—The Fighting Guerrillas which portrayed Draza Mihailovich and his forces as allies of the US. The film starred Dutch-born Philip Dorn as Draza Mihailovich. He played Papa Lars Hanson in the 1948 classic I Remember Mama, nominated for 5 Academy Awards. Russian-born Anna Sten, Samuel Goldwyn's answer to Greta Garbo, was his wife, Lubitca Mihailovitch. The movie was produced by Bryan Foy and Sol M. Wurtzel, who had been one of the top executives at William Fox's studio.
The movie was directed by Louis King, a director best known for directing the My Friend Flicka sequels in the 1940s, Thunderhead—Son of Flicka (1945) and Green Grass of Wyoming (1948), which received an Academy Award nomination, the Bulldog Drummond series of films, Charlie Chan in Egypt (1935) with Warner Oland and Rita Hayworth, and a series of low budget B westerns in the 1920s and early 1930s, the most notable of which were made at Joseph P. Kennedy's Film Booking Offices of America movie studio (FBO) in the 1920s.
The screenplay was written by Jack Andrews and Edward E. Paramore, Jr., based on the original story by Andrews. The movie was well-written, based on the facts of Draza Mihailovich's life. Andrews and Paramore are able to capture what motivates Mihailovich in the following dialogue from the movie:
Lubitca Mihailovitch: The Germans say, "It is only a matter of time until we catch you!"
Draja Mihailovitch: You don't believe that, do you?
Lubitca: They're strong. They have so much.
Draja: Yes, but we are stronger because we have something they never had: The will to be free. You see, our people don't like to be conquered. So they never will be.
The film opens with a statement that the film is dedicated to Draza Mihailovich and the Serbian Chetnik guerrillas. In the opening scene, German bombers attack Yugoslavia and bomb Belgrade in 1941. German tanks and armored vehicles are shown invading and occupying Yugoslavia. Then Chetnik guerrillas are shown attacking German occupation troops and resisting the occupation by sabotage. A German officer who predicts an easy occupation and imminent conquest of Yugoslavia is shown being shot by Chetnik guerrillas.
The movie takes place in the mountainous coastal city of Kotor in Montenegro. Draza Mihailovich and his Chetnik guerrillas are able to ambush and capture Italian occupation troops and officers. Mihailovich is portrayed as a real-life Zorro, who is able to outwit the Nazi war machine. A Gestapo officer, Col. Brockner, played by Martin Kosleck, is able to discover the identity of Mihailovich's two children, Mirko and Nada, and his wife, Lubitca. German forces then take them into custody to extort Mihailovich to surrender. The original musical score was by Hugo W. Friedhofer, who won the Academy Award for Best Musical Score for the classic World War II movie The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). Friedhofer had also been the musical arranger on Casablanca and Now, Voyager in 1942. The cinematography was by Glen MacWilliams. The film editing was by Alfred Day.
The New York Times reviewed the movie favorably on March 19, 1943 after it was shown in New York at the Globe in a review by "T.M.P." (Thomas M. Pryor). The New York Times called the movie "splendidly acted" and that it had "the right spirit". Hal Erickson of All Movie Guide (AMG) reviewed the movie favorably as well, noting how Mihailovich was vindicated. Erickson wrote that the movie portrayed Mihailovich as "a selfless idealist, leading his resistance troops, known as the Chetniks, on one raid after another against the Germans during WWII."
Chetniks! The Fighting Guerrillas was reviewed positively in the Los Angeles entertainment trade paper The Hollywood Reporter when released in 1943: "Seldom has Hollywood given attention to a motion picture that offered more stirring material than this first feature about a living military hero of World War II."
In a review in the Chicago Daily Tribune on April 1, 1943, "Chetniks' Story Is Dramatically Told in Movie 'CHETNIKS'", Mae Tinee wrote: "This is a fiercely satisfying picture. We all know about the Chetniks, fighting guerrillas of JugoSlavia. We devour every word we can find to read about them--and a lot of us dream of them.... Now comes the movie ..."
The film remains unavailable on DVD in the US in large part because the role of Mihailovich in World War II was rewritten and revised and falsified after the war. The movie is no longer politically correct.
Chetniks! The Fighting Guerrillas documents and dramatizes a remarkable and unique moment in the history of World War II. It captures a special moment in time. This is a movie that deserves to be recognized as an important film of World War II.