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Saturday, April 30, 2005

 

Film Review - The Winds of War (1983)

I wanted to share this review with you before the end of the semester because I read this book while I was overseas in Desert Storm. In a combat zone, depending on what type you are in, you can have a lot of downtime. As it so happened that after the hostilities ended in 1991, I had a lot of downtime while waiting to rotate back to Germany, so I tore away from Desert Storm and delved into World War II.

I had remembered The Winds of War mini-series based off Herman Wouk's book, and aquired both the books during the war. This past year I bought the seven-disc set, to both The Winds of War, and War and Remembrance, of which both series total nearly 50 hours of viewing time. Watching both of those mini-series brought back many memories not only reading the book, but of the place wear I read the book. I can remember exactly how my tent set-up was, I still remember the sun's rays hitting The Winds of War as I read, and all was right with the world.

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The Winds of War follows a U.S. Navy family -- The Henry's. Cmdr., later Capt. Victor "Pug" Henry, played by long time actor Robert Mitchum, is the Navy attache in 1939 Berlin, and he is stationed at the American Embassy in Berlin prior to the Nazi invasion of Poland, which he predicts. Pug's wife Rhoda, played by Polly Bergen accompanies him on his assignment to Berlin, and while on the ocean voyage meets instrumental people he will come to know over the next couple of years. German General von Roon, played by Jeremy Kemp, as well as the Tudsbury's, 28 year-old Pamela and her elderly father British journalist Talky, played by Victoria Tennant, and Michael Logan, who meet up with Pug on their journey through 1939-1941. Pug and Von Roon, also become social friends, and even play tennis and hunt together before the Polish invasion seperates their friendship forever.

Pug, a fictional character is thrown into situation after situation a foreign diplomat could only dream of -- from meeting Adolf Hitler right off the bat in Berlin, to then later meeting Mussolini, then Churchill, Stalin, as well as President Roosevelt himself on many occassions. I imagined myself as Pug Henry as I delved initially into the book but today watch the DVD, because I've been to many of the places that Pug visited.

Pug develops a special relationship with President Roosevelt, played by Ralph Bellamy, and the President uses Pug as a way to gauge America's reluctant entrance toward entering the War.

Wouk introduces us to Pug's defiant son Byron, played by an aging Jan-Michael Vincent, who eventually falls for the headstrong niece of a famous Jewish-American author Aaron Jastrow, played John Houseman who lives in Sienna, Italy. Natalie Jastrow, played by Ali McGraw, eventually finds herself with Byron under fire from the German blitzkrieg at the onset of the attack that crushed Poland in 1939. In that time, Leslie Slote, played by David Dukes, who works with the foreign service, whom Byron met in Sienna, and they part ways from Warsaw, Byron and Leslie going on to Berlin, while Natalie back to Sienna.

Byron is fearlessness in Poland, and takes chances by sketching maps from the top of a church tower under fire near the German lines, or and bringing water to the beleaguered American Embassy in smokey Warsaw.

In Berlin, Pug meets Palmer Kirby, played by Peter Graves, who happens to be working on the secretive atomic bomb, and Pugs other son Warren, played by Ben Murphy is qualifying as a naval aviator. Pug is called to The White House to meet with the President to explain how he predicted the Polish invasion, and its there he begins his relationship with Roosevelt. As the same time, Palmer and Rhoda start off their relationship with Pug away, and blosoms into a full fledged affair when they meet again in Washington.

Pug meets up with the Tudsbury's in London and Berlin. From London he witnesses a British bomber crew bomb Berlin. He witnesses the Atlantic Charter, he goes to Russia and convinces Stalin to give up codes and harbor charts so that America can provide Lend-Lease assistance.

Bryon and Natalie's love brings them to wed in Lisbon, Portugal. Natalie later becomes pregnant and is forced to have her baby in Rome, but her and her baby, along with her uncle are trapped in Italy, and thus starts her ordeal till the end of WWII as a prisoner of the Nazis.

Pug and the Tudbury's as well as Slote all meet in Moscow, where Pug is inspecting the Eastern front for Harry Hopkins, Roosevelt's aide, just before he is sent to Pearl Harbor prior to December 7th. It is in Moscow that Pug realizes that Pamela is in love with him, even though she has a beau in the RAF. Pug loves her but can't leave his wife yet, even though Rhoda has been having an affair with Palmer, of which he knows nothing about.

In Pearl Harbor, Pug meets up with Warren and wife, and their son, Vic, and by that time it is too late. The attack has occurred and his battleship is lost for a year to 18-months. That's where The Winds of War ends, in Pearl Harbor, just as World War II is beginning.

Herman Wouk has already written close to 1000 pages, and he has only gotten us through Pearl Harbor. Wouk is kind to the German Generals treating them calm to the megalomania of Adolf Hitler, who fights German on her way to greater ruin. Wouk's brilliance is that the real protagonist is war itself, and it is calmly revealed in the complicated breakdown of events that the book and mini-series pursue,

I melded with Wouk as I initially read his work, and it inspired me to write my own story of my experiences in Desert Storm, of which I have a manuscript in Hollywood at this time. Wouk is a writer that can put unseemingly innocent people into incredible situations, and make it look like its nothing after you meet with the likes of Hitler, Churchill, Stalin, Mussolini, and Roosevelt himself. As for Pug Henry, its just part of the job.


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