Polish National Cinema (review)
- Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies
- Center for the Study of Film and History
- Volume 33, Number 2, 2003
- pp. 88-89
- Additional Information
Book Reviews | Regular Feature December 1941 in New York City! But the absolute nadir is reached on pages 35-36 when the author provides his reader with an extended list of "established actors... [who] decided to place their careers on hold to enlist" — in addition to naming the many stars who did serve with distinction (Jimmy Stewart, Tyrone Power, Clark Gable, et al.), the list also gratuitously includes, Neville Brand, James Arness, Walter Matthau, JackValenti, Rock Hudson, Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon— to the best of this reviewer's knowledge none of these honored veterans in this catalogue of wonders had established acting careers before the war and some never would—most notably the longtime (since 1966) MPAA spokesman, Jack Valenti. One is also less than reassured re McAdams' basic historical knowledge when he notes that the twin-engined specially adapted land-based B-25 bombers of the famous April 1942 Doolittle Raid upon Japan, launched on a planned one way mission from the carrier USS Hornet, did not have enough return fuel. There is also the matter, on page 72, of solely crediting the Marines for their "grueling combat" on Guadalcanal, Guam, Pelelui, etc.—what about the thousands of Army personnel that fought and died on those islands? And then there is the confusing conflating (for the general reader) of fictional and nonfictional, as well as temporal and geographical, film representations of battlefield realities, including traumatic injuries, on pages 96-97. In fact, despite the muddled assertions of McAdams, such WWII era documentaries as With the Marines on Tarawa (1943) and The Battle ofSan Pietro (1945), the former entirely using color actuality footage, were very graphic for their time. His more extended comments on the latter wartime documentary, an acknowledged classic directed by John Huston, provide interesting information regarding censorship difficulties encountered by Huston, but fail to make it clear why there were such problems and exactly what combat footage evoked these production concerns . There are also numerous historical digressions throughout this book, strung together in an almost maddening postmodern pastiche style, that are in no way linked to the war film genre, including five pages devoted to the last days before FDR's death and anothernearly sevenpages describing the final weeks ofWorld War II. However, one must concede that McAdams references to war films released after 1945 become more comprehensive— though new information related to these films is largely confined to production histories and/or comparisons between the original books or scripts and the final screen versions, the author's forte— not close analyses of either the films' content, form or audience reception. But the tendency to weave back and forth between the script(s), the final film, non-filmic reality and factoids can be confusing —particularly for those who may have never screened the film. McAdams does make afairly interesting linkage ofThe Sand Pebbles (1966), a high budget Steve McQueen adventure portrayingAmerican gunboat patrols in 1920s China, to theVietnamWar, but fails to elaborate upon the subject in any detail. A few pages later he makes a more dubious and unsubstantiated claim re 60s youth alienation and the 1969 release, They Shoot Horses, Don't They?—a Depression era film that centers upon a dance marathon and includes among its lead characters a sailor played by the then 50ish Red Buttons. The number of films and background details exponentially increase as we plow through the latter quarter of the twentieth century—though McAdams' observations are largely confined to the "list of usual suspects." However, the author's polemics, particularly as related to the Vietnam War, increase as well, reflecting the inability of many who came of age in the sixties and seventies to be dispassionate regarding the war's failures and/or its continued repercussions upon the American psyche. Michael S. Shull Mount St Marys' College ShullMS@aol.com Marek Haltof. Polish National Cinema. Berghahn Books, 2002. 350 pages; $69.95. Complex Story Let me be blunt. I know nothing about Polish motion pictures . Sure, I know a little about Polanski and Kieslowski but that's about it. In fact, not only do I not know much about the Polish National Cinema, I know even less about Poland...