Overlord (1975) 

 

 

 

Director:     Stuart Cooper.

Cast:    Brian Stirner (Tom), Davyd Harries (Jack), Nicholas Ball (Arthur), Julie Neesam (The Girl), Sam Sewell (The Trained Soldier), John Franklyn-Robbins (Dad), Stella Tanner (Mum), Harry Shacklock (Stationmaster), David Scheuer (Medical Officer), Ian Liston (Barrack Guard), Lorna Lewis (Prostitute), Stephen Riddle (Dead German Soldier), Jack Le White (Barman), Mark Penfold (Photographer), Micaela Minelli (Little Girl).

movie follows the an ordinary British fellow from induction to D-Day

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie.

Black screen with noise of men marching and tanks rumbling.  Newsreel footage, including Hitler flying over bombed areas of Europe.  There are also scenes of British soldiers and somebody getting shot. 

Young Thomas Beddows runs home.  His father greets him saying its time for the bus that will take him to the train to go to camp for his basic training for the army.  His mother has done his packing already, so now all he has to do is say good-bye and get going.  Newsreel footage of a bomber plane flying and shooting at ships, followed by scenes of the English countryside seen from an airplane. 

Beddows's train stops.  Newsreel footage of London fire fighters battling fires. 

Beddows runs to, but just misses his train connection.    Newsreels of the evacuation of  Londoners from London. 

The station master asks Beddows:  "Are you for the camp?"  Yes.  "You're a bit late."  Beddows has to walk the rest of the way to the camp.  He enters into his assigned barracks and talks to the corporal there.  The corporal demands that he go outside again and this time knock on the door and ask permission to enter.  Beddows doesn't see the need for this, but the corporal insists.  He is then sent to hair cuts.  From there he is given his clothing and supplies.  The medical exam is next.  Beddows faints when he receives an injection. 

Beddows has made a friendship with a fellow named Arthur.  During maneuvers Arthur takes a smoke break.  Beddows stops with him even though he knows they are falling behind the rest of the squad.  When they start walking again they see the squad on the other side of a ravine.  In an effort to catch up with his squad Beddows starts descending the side of the ravine.  His friend warns him against this, but Beddows doesn't listen to him.  Next thing we see is Beddows rolling down the steep side of the ravine.  For this, Beddows is thrown in the stockade overnight. 

Newsreel footage of a British bomber flying over the English Channel, followed by scenes of anti-aircraft fire.  Bombed out parts of city are shown, followed by the many fires and explosion made by a British bombing raid. 

Beddows dreams of checking the pockets of a dead German soldier.  He then runs a hell of a long ways all by himself with explosions taking place not far from him.  He also dreams of getting hit by a bullet in the head.  Beddows's other close friend, Jack, comes in to complain about the war and the army. 

The men are taken to the coast for combined exercises and assault training.  Newsreel footage of American soldiers marching.  Soldiers in a boat are swamped by the waves hitting against the coast.  Many of them are thrown into the waters of the Channel.  The men then practice beach landings.  On his craft Beddows feels a bit sea sick.  He goes to a bar and sees a pretty young woman.  He offers to buy her a drink but she turns him down.  But she will dance with him.  After dancing for awhile, they go outside for a walk.  Beddows kisses her.   Newsreel of long lines of equipment waiting to be loaded onto ships. 

Arthur complains to Jack about all the waiting in the army.  He says that they are just so much canon fodder.  Beddows comes in with some letters from home.  It's his birthday.  Later he writes his parents.  He writes:  "Everything out of the army and my mates here has faded away."  Newsreel footage of German planes being knocked out of the sky. 

Arthur say that he does not think that he will live through the war.  "I can feel it", he says.  Newsreel footage of the equipment being loaded on to ships.  Scenes of ships heading over to France for the D-day invasion.  In the air there are a few blimps.  Men are getting on the ships.  Airplanes are taking off with gliders filled with men behind them.  This is followed by scenes of men getting off the ships and onto landing craft. 

Beddows has a flashback.  The men have to burn all their letters.  Beddows says:  "I've got nothing now."  He thinks of Janey, the young woman who he recently met.  There is a scene where she shows Beddows how they prepare the bodies of the dead.  She lays him down on the floor and takes off his clothes.  Beddows tells her "Now bring me back."  She takes off her blouse.  He then dreams that he dies. 

On the landing craft Jack, Arthur and Beddows try to keep each other's spirits up.  And then, even before the landing craft gets close to the shore, a bullet hits Beddows in the head, killing him instantly.   Jack and Arthur are shocked as hell by the complete randomness of the hit. 

Newsreel footage of the troops landing on Normandy beach.  And then comes the film of wounded and dead soldiers being placed back on ships.

 

The film was very short, only 1 hour and 19 minutes.  The intermixing of actual newsreel war footage with the story of Private Thomas Beddows was very interesting.  But there really wasn't that much to the story of Beddows.  His story could have been the story of thousands and thousands of other blokes being sent into war.  I guess what is most shocking is the ending.  Seemingly out of nowhere, not even having landed, Beddows is dead.  And he is the only one dead in his landing craft.  The others were not touched.  At first I couldn't believe what I thought was happening.  But it was confirmed.  And to me, who has seen gbtter films about D-Day, the ending is probably the film's most unique feature.  It seems like we are just getting started and the hero of the story is dead.  What sudden finality.  War is hell.  No happy ending in this story. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

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