The League of Gentlemen (1960) – A Movie Review

This is an English bank heist film.  And it’s a good one.

(Spoiler Alert – Skip down to last paragraph to avoid spoilers and read recommendation)

The movie opens up with a man emerging from a London manhole cover dressed in proper evening attire and driving away in a Rolls Royce.  That should set the tone for the movie.  This same man, retired Lieutenant-Colonel Norman Hyde, is next seen cutting some five-pound banknotes in half and mailing the halves along with a paperback book about a bank heist called the “Golden Fleece” to seven different men.  Next, we meet each of these men as they receive their packages.  Each is a retired military officer.

Major Peter Race is now living as a down on his luck gambler.

Captain “Padre” Mycroft is a confidence man pretending to be a vicar.

Lieutenant Edward Lexy, played by a much younger Richard Attenborough, is an electronics technician who does side jobs “fixing slot machines for racketeers to shortchange the winners.

Captain Martin Porthill is a gigolo living off the largesse from middle-aged women

Captain Stevens is a homosexual masseuse.

Major Rupert Rutland-Smith is a piano player barely getting by.

Captain Frank Weaver is an unhappily married man.

Hyde is contacting each of them because they were dishonorably discharged from the military and therefore unable to make a good living in the civilian world.  He wants to offer them a share in a bank heist that he is planning.  Each of them has an expertise that will contribute to the success of his military style mission to rob a bank of a million pounds from which each will get an equal share.  One is an expert in explosives, another in communications, another a procurement expert who can forge car and truck license plates.  Two of them are combat veterans who are well trained in crowd control and unafraid to kill.  One is adept at hotwiring and stealing cars.  All have a desire to escape their present lives and live happily ever off of one enormous payday.

They all sign on with Major Race as Hyde’s second in command.  Their first objective is to steal enough weapons and explosives from a British military base to outfit the heist.  The men follow an ingenious plan of Hyde’s to decoy the personnel of the base with a phony inspection by top brass while the rest of the crew pillage the arsenal.

After this success the team moves forward on the plan.  They steal the vehicles they’ll need for the robbery.  They assemble the explosives and the jamming devices.  And they work out the schedule down to the minute.  And as soon as the armored car leaves the bank and turns the corner, the team springs the trap.  The utility shafts that house the alarm and phone lines are blown, the air outside the bank is filled with dense smoke and the team raids the bank brandishing machine guns.  They quickly wheel away the cart from the armored car delivery with the twenty boxes each containing fifty thousand pounds and escape with the money.

But completely coincidentally a little boy had copied down the license plate number of the getaway truck.  Later that day we see Hyde distributing the money to the team at his hideout.  The mood is celebratory.  One by one the team members take their cut of the loot and leave.  When only Hyde and Race are left, a call comes in on the telephone.  It’s Scotland Yard and they order them to come out and give themselves up.  Hyde demands to know which of the team turned them in.  Instead, they find out about the little boy and the license plates.

When they are escorted into the police-wagon we see the rest of the team already captured and manacled together.

I found this old bank heist movie a hidden gem.  I’d never heard of it and despite its “ancient” origin it was very well done, both in terms of the acting and the heist details.  The camaraderie of these total strangers is somewhat reminiscent of such military movies as “The Dirty Dozen” and “The Great Escape.”  But in this case the battle is a crime.  I highly recommend this movie to anyone who likes a good heist movie and to the general viewer of quality cinema.

The Terminal List (2022) – A TV Review

“The Terminal List is Amazon Prime’s action thriller tv series based on Jack Carr’s 2018 novel of the same name.  It stars Chris Pratt as Navy Seal Lieutenant Commander James Reece and centers around Reece’s revenge mission to avenge the deaths of his family and comrades in arms.

I won’t put in my usual spoiler alert because I’d rather not go through the whole plot piece by piece.  I’ll just give you my reaction to the series and recommendations.

So, first off, the author Jack Carr was a Navy Seal so I guess that lends some credibility to the technical details of the show.  As far as the plot, it’s a highly charged story of wrongdoing by the rich and powerful that a few years ago I would have said was too outlandish to be true.  But now that real life government malfeasance (FBI targeting of political opponents, COVID related tyrannical actions) is standard operating procedure who is to say what’s outlandish.

The acting for the most part is very good.  There were maybe one or two scenes that didn’t seem to correspond to how I thought the characters emotional states would make them act.  But since the author probably corresponds more closely than I do to the psychological profile of the characters in the story maybe it’s my ignorance of their mindsets.

One of the plot elements involves the brain trauma that Reece is suffering from.  This leads him sometimes to slip back into old scenes in his life, sometimes at very inconvenient points in the plot.  Occasionally during the story, I thought the memory problems were a little distracting but by the end of the series I was satisfied that the plot device was justified.  It also gives us a chance to see his personal life with his murdered wife and daughter.  Now this is a difficult layer to add to a story like this.  I would say they pulled it off mostly well.  By the end of the story the character seems to have come to closure with his loss.

As far as action, there is plenty of it.  Reece and his allies do an amazing amount of damage to the people on his “terminal list.”  And there is quite a bit of brutality to his campaign.  Some of it is up close and personal.  But I would say the violence isn’t merely gratuitous but follows the plot of avenging the terrible crimes that have been committed against Reece.

I watched the show with Camera Girl.  Now she’s an action novel junkie.  She’s a big fan of Reacher and Bosch so a little violence isn’t a big deal to her.  There was one scene that she thought was a little too vicious but by the end of the series she was a big fan of the story.  So, I would recommend this series to anyone who likes the action thriller genre.  It also lacked any woke nonsense of any kind.  In that sense it was very refreshing.  I give this series a highly recommended rating.

Guest Contributor – War Pig – War, Up Close & Personal

A lot of real action with elite units is up close and personal. You have to be able to look them in the eye and kill them. You can smell and almosr taste their adrenaline, their fear, their natural body odor. You have to become almost animalistic in your fury. Killing up close is killing well when done correctly. They gift you with their lives and you can almost see the other side in their eyes but they glaze over too soon. One thing, if you ever kill up close as with a knife, you, yourself will never fear death again and that is the greatest gift.

Guest Contributor – War Pig – Memorial Day

My Memorial Day weekend will be spent visiting various cemeteries. I have veteran relatives to honor, such as mom, dad and several uncles and cousins. I will also remember conrades who died in action or later after retirement. My Vietnam generation is fast aging. Most of us who were privates then are in our 70s now, and those who were officers and NCOs are even older. Many of us served well into the War on Terror and against Iraq and even Afghanistan, as well as many places that never made it in the news.

For me and many others Memorial Day is bittersweet and rather melancholy. Families with a strong military tradition likely feel the same. Since the Civil War there have been men and women in our family who have served and fought in each war and “police action”. So I will stand and salute as the Anthem or Taps is played or the colors pass at various cemeteries and Memorial services, and I will shed the odd tear in memory of those braver than I who went before.

 

Guest Contributor – War Pig – 03MAR2022 – On War

(In reply to comments on the review of the 1965 movie “The Battle of the Bulge”) – photog

I’ve never heard what Eisenhower had to say about it. I get my lean on it from my uncle, an enlisted man. Battles are seen quite differently if you’re one of the dogfaces in the ranks than by staff generals and politicians and people who write about it later.

Having been in a couple or so battles myself I can say the troops fight a battle intimately, not cooly and detached like they do at headquarters. You fight what is in front of you and you do not fight for king or country. You fight for the dogfaces to your right and left, your brothers. Your own world in battle is quite small, really. Your brothers on your right and left, and what you can see to your front. Usually about 400 yards or so. Modern thermal sights changes that for tank xrews and the like, and better optics on rifles extends that range a little bit but the soldier with the rifle in the ranks can only worry about what he sees and what can see him.

I generally don’t watch war movies that involve ground action. They are so fake overall. I’ll watch Battle of Brirain or In Harms Way about planes and ships, but I usually don’t watch ground war movies. I saw Bulge before I went to Vietnam. After that I gave up on ground war movies. I especially never watch movies about conflicts or operations in which I took part. They remind me of things I’d rather not remember and they are so wrong I get angry.

 

Guest Contributor – War Pig – The Battle of the Bulge

My uncle, who fought under Patton, told me of how the battle shaped up for him and his tank crew. It was snowy and icy and muddy all at the same time. The Germans did blow up trees to block roads and used mines and panzerfausts with skill and daring. They shelled trees to make splinters to wound the infantry. Pattons forces did have to fight without air cover. I don’t know if it was the prayer Patton uttered or just a warm front moving in but when the skies cleared, P47s, B25s/26s and British Typhoons feasted upon the Germans. The brave men of the 101st Airborne were heroic in their stand which brought down the entire offensive. Both the last stand of the 101st and Patton’s charge are excellent examples of American military exceptionalism.

Guest Contributor – TomD – 23FEB2022 – Thoughts on the Battle of Midway

Tom | Flickr

TomD

I’ve spent a great deal of time throughout my life reading about WWII in general. I was born a few years after the end of the war and grew up in a society in which virtually everyone’s father took part in one way or another. My father was a 1943 West Point grad who was a company commander with the 101st Airborne when the Germans shot him up very badly at the Battle of the Bulge, crippling him physically for life, but not mentally as he later got a MS Degree in Chemical Engineering.

But for some reason, I’ve always been most fascinated with the Pacific war, and especially with Midway. I’ve lost count of the number of books I’ve read on the battle and can specifically recommend Shattered Sword, a history taken from the Japanese viewpoint.

Midway, the battle turned on the purest of luck and very easily could have gone the other way had 3 or 4 isolated throws of the dice gone otherwise. The US would have eventually won the war anyway but it would have been a longer and harder version of the already desperate and bloody struggle that it was.

Below, a photo of interest, it is the last actual aircraft still in existence to have taken part in the battle. This SBD Dauntless was based on Midway Island and wasn’t one of the 3 squadrons of SBDs from Enterprise (I think) that luckily found the Japanese fleet as all their fighter defenses were down at wave top height finishing off a squadron of torpedo bombers. The next 5 minutes proved decisive as those SBDs sank 3 of the 4 Japanese carriers.

The plane in the photo made it’s attack earlier but none of the Midway Island aircraft made any hits. After the battle, this plane was flown to the point of decrepitude and sent back to the US for use in training new pilots. Some US Navy Ensign pilot candidate managed to put this aircraft in the drink while trying to land on a training carrier in one of the great lakes where it remained until salvaged 50 years later. The wreck was taken to NAS Pensacola where it was restored and is currently on display at the US Naval Air Museum.

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07DEC2021 – OCF Update – Pearl Harbor Day

I’m sure the mainstream media will celebrate Pearl Harbor Day with endless recriminations about Japanese Americans being interred in California.  But I think it’s important for us in post-America to remember what a united nation can accomplish when its enemies give it no choice.  We may have the courage to unite against the enemies within who are determined to destroy us and our way of life.

Pearl Harbor Survivors Tell Their Stories

 

Guest Contributor – War Pig – East Berlin and Breaking Bread with Ivan – Part 2

Guest Contributor – War Pig – East Berlin and Breaking Bread with Ivan

 

(photog) – War Pig, what would an American serviceman have to do to enter East Berlin? Just a frontier checkpoint to inspect identification papers?

(War Pig) – Back then, you had to have a pass, and you had to be in uniform. Military from America, Brits, French, etc. were nothing unusual in visiting East Berlin. They were rather inclined to allow you in as you brought western currency with you. Your papers were inspected at the checkpoint but I don’t remember anyone being denied entry with the paperwork correct. You could even bring in a camera as long as you obeyed the “do not photograph” signs. You were overcharged but even at that it was cheaper than West Berlin prices. As I recall, we had black beer, & roast or corned beef sandwiches on dark bread. Hearty and satisfying. Must have been corned beef as I now remember I mentioned to the Russian that the corning spices in German corned beef were different than the Irish style used in America. That led to a side discussion about our favorite foods. He was surprised that I actually like borscht. I said I liked it some ways as I had had it about a dozen different ways and I only liked two or three.

I wish I could meet him again if he still lives. I’d like to see how he got along. It really would have been a pity if we’d had to fight each other.