The Victors (1963 film)  

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The Victors is a 1963 British-American war film written, produced and directed by Carl Foreman, whose name on the film's posters was accompanied by nearby text, "from the man who fired The Guns of Navarone". Shot on location in Western Europe and Britain, The Victors features an all-star cast, with fifteen American and European leading players, including six actresses whose photographs appear on the posters — Melina Mercouri from Greece, Jeanne Moreau from France, Rosanna Schiaffino from Italy, Romy Schneider and Senta Berger from Austria as well as Elke Sommer from West Germany. One of the posters carries the tagline, "The six most exciting women in the world… in the most explosive entertainment ever made!".



The film follows a group of American soldiers through Europe during the Second World War, from Britain in 1942, through the fierce fighting in the Italian Campaign and Invasion of Normandy, to the uneasy peace of occupied Berlin. Production of the story's action meant filming scenes that took place in Sweden, France, Italy and England.

It is adapted from a collection of short stories called The Human Kind by English author Alexander Baron, based upon his own wartime experiences. In the film the British characters of the original book were changed into Americans in order to attract American audiences.

Carl Foreman wrote, produced and directed the epic. He called it a "personal statement" about the futility of war. Both victor and vanquished are losers.

The film slips between Pathé-style newsreel footage showing the conquering heroes abroad for the audience at home, and the grim reality of battlefield brutality and post-conflict ennui. No battle scenes are depicted in the film.

The story is told in a series of short vignettes, each having a beginning and an ending in itself, though all are connected to the others, as a series of short stories adding up to a longer one.

Atypically of Hollywood interpretations of the Second World War at the time, the depiction of American GIs shows soldiers worn out by battle, weary of conflict and capable of casual cruelty towards outsiders and also to other Americans. In one vignette a group of white American soldiers attack and brutally beat two black American soldiers. Others show American military personnel (star George Peppard) becoming players in the "black market," although Peppard goes back to his unit when he sees them leaving for the front, and Americans and Russians alike exploiting German women sexually.

The hostility of German civilians towards their American and Soviet occupiers is also depicted.

One of the cinematic high points is the detour of one truckload of GIs out of a convoy, for the express purpose of supplying witnesses to the execution by firing squad of a GI deserter (a scene inspired by the real-life 1945 execution of Pvt. Eddie Slovik). Depicted in a huge, otherwise empty, snow-covered field near a chateau at Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines on Christmas Eve, while the film audience first hears Frank Sinatra singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and then a chorus of "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing", after the fatal shots are fired. This scene is remarkable for its stark, visually extreme imagery, and the non-combat stress and anguish foisted on GIs during a lull in combat. The New York Times film review stated "it stands out in stark and sobering contrast to the other gaudier incidents in the film".

The whole film is shot in black and white, and so the black regimented figures of the firing squad and witnesses face the lone man bound to a stake in the midst of a snow-covered plain. The addition of surreal accompanying Christmas music and absence of dialogue make this scene an often cited one. The juxtaposition of saccharine music with a frightful scene was emulated the following year by Stanley Kubrick in Dr. Strangelove, which was also shot in black and white.

An anti-war message also unusual for the time period - and particularly regarding America's involvement in the Second World War - is found in the final vignette. An American soldier (co-star George Hamilton) stationed in post-war Berlin picks a fight with a drunken Soviet soldier (Albert Finney), possibly to avenge the rape of his German girlfriend by Soviet soldiers during the Battle of Berlin. The fight ends with each man killing the other and the camera slowly pulls back to show the bodies of the two one-time allies lying in the shape of a V for Victory in a seemingly limitless desert of rubble and ruins.

Saul Bass created the opening montage and title sequence that covers European history from the First World War to the Battle of Britain in the Second World War.

The film was nominated for a Golden Globe (Most Promising Newcomer, actor Peter Fonda).


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The Squad [Firing squad members]

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Songs listed in opening credits

End quotation

"My subject is War, and the pity of War.

The Poetry is in the pity.

All a poet can do today is warn..."
Wilfred Owen
Born, March 18, 1893.
Killed in France, November 4, 1918.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Victors (1963 film)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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