All This and World War II

All This and World War II

Film review by: Witney Seibold



            “All This and World War II” (1976) is a proto-musicvideo film which sets footage from WWII-era newsreels and films to a score of impressive Beatles covers.

            The result is a little mixed in practice, often forcing the whole affair into a cheesy realm of over-the-top self-important protest hooey (I can almost hear the one unenlightened would-be producer at the pitch session: “The kids love The Beatles, and they hate the war in Vietnam! They’ll come see it for sure!”). But more often, “All This and World War II” is a fascinating curio from a bygone era, when music was more important, protest felt like it had actual power, and commentary on world issues felt like it may be listened to.


            Some of the songs connect directly to the footage we’re seeing (Bryan Ferry’s “She’s Leaving Home,” for instance, is placed over footage of women agreeing to join the war effort), some of the songs have tentative connection to the footage, but sound really cool (Tina Turner’s cover of “Come Together” is played over the Japanese – or I guess The Japs, as they were called at the time – doing military training), and some make no sense at all (“Strawberry Fields Forever” not only had a weird placement over planes taking off, but Peter Gabriel’s cover sounds like he’s doing his best Kermit the Frog impersonation). Most of the songs are just wonderful takes on the Lennon/McCartney oeuvre, whether in context or not. Frankie Laine’s “Maxwel’’s Silver Hammer” is fun and jaunty, and matches well with the proud child-soldiers signing up to fight. Elton John sings “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” and it doesn’t match the footage, but it’s amazing to hear. The entire soundtrack listing can be found online on that Wikipedia thing I hear is so popular:


            “All This and World War II” is a war-protest film of sorts. The Vietnam war was raging at the time, so, with a heavy dose of irony, director Susan Winslow depicted an era in American history when war was great, fighting was heroic, dying for your country was a massively noble, and the division between Good Guys and Bad Guys was more distinct. Perhaps looking at a “noble” war through the prism of modern Wars of Lies will take some air out of The Greatest Generation, and let them change the mindset that keeps them from ending war altogether.


            An interesting omission from “All This and World War II” are Jews. Or any real on-camera horror for that matter. Plenty of distant bombings and fires, but no on-the-ground shenanigans. Perhaps concentration camp footage wasn’t easy to come by in 1976, but the protest factor may have worked better with more shocking images. Or perhaps not. I’m only theorizing.


            My movie-guru friend Marc informed me that this film was inspired by a 1975 film called “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” which set the jaunty and upbeat songs from the 1930s against the real-life Depression horrors that were on mot every street corner. These experimental collage films are too rare. Like I said, “All This and World War II” may not always have the impact the filmmakers had intended, but as a historical curiosity, it can’t be beat.


          If you get a chance to see it, sieze it. It’s unlikely this film will ever make it to video (the rights clearances sound like a nightmare), but, from what I hear, it makes its way to cable now and again, and certain clips can be found on that copywright-free playground of You Tube. I saw it at a rare midnight screening. Keep an eye out.

Published in: on June 8, 2007 at 8:32 pm  Comments (1)  

The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

One CommentLeave a comment

  1. always gratifying to find that one of your long forgotten films has been rediscovered by a new generation.

    sandy lieberson

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: