‘Come and See’ the horror of genocide

By Tom Von Malder | Jul 05, 2020
Photo by: Criterion Collection Alexie Kravchenko, then 14, plays Flyora in "Come and See."

Owls Head — Come and See (Russia, 1985, Criterion Collection, Blu-ray or standard DVD, NR, 143 min.). The title comes from the Revelation of St. John the Divine in the New Testament. As the seals are opened, each of the beasts say, “Come and see,” and then launch forth, conquering and taking away peace on Earth. In this film, directed and co-written by Elem Klimov (“Rasputin”), the beasts are the Nazi troops who invaded Belarus in 1943, destroying 628 villages by burning them to the ground and killing all their inhabitants.

The film opens with a man shouting at what turns out to be two children playing war among the remains of a battlefield. As the man exits, we see the first of the children at play and then the second, who is also hunting for a weapon. The rest of the film centers on the experiences of that teenager, who finds a rifle and then enlists to fight with the Soviet resistance, as the Nazi stormtroopers from Germany have invaded their land.

The boy is Flyora, amazingly played by Alexei Kravchenko, who was 14 during the filming and had never acted before. He only showed up at an audition in support of a friend, who was not hired. Throughout the film, Flyora displays a wide range of emotions, mostly through his face, which becomes more weathered in the process. In the extras, director Klmov said that before starting the film, he feared his young actor might go mad for all he had to go through.

Flyora’s mother does not want him to go to war, but the boy insists. However, he is soon left at a reserve camp by himself, after being ordered to give his boots to a veteran’s whose footwear is falling apart. While he is crying in the forest, he hears a woman crying and he comes to befriend her (Olga Mironova as Glasha). There is a marvelous scene of the two of them playing in the rain, before they are interrupted by a half-dozen Nazi paratroopers and a bombardment that destroys the reserve camp.

With no camp to defend, his leg injured and his being temporarily deaf from a bomb, Flyora brings Glasha to his home town, only to find it deserted. In desperation, he races towards an island surrounded by a muddy marsh, hoping his mother and young identical twin sisters have taken refuge there. Only Glasha looks backwards briefly and sees the bodies of all the villagers piled up against a wall.

While the island does not hold Flyora’s family, it does hold dozens of refugees. Here, he departs from Glasha when he is sent out with two others on a food gathering run that basically turns into a disaster. However, Klimov and cinematographer Alexei Rodionov (TV’s “Red Shoes Diary,” “The Admiral”) again capture beauty among warfare with the red of machine gun fire crossing the darkened, foggy sky amidst flares as Flyora tries to lead a commandeered cow across an open field.

When a stranger tries to protect him, they arrive at that man’s village just as Hitler’s troops take over the town, herding everyone into a large barn, a barn nearly all will never leave after one of the most horrific scenes I have ever seen in a film, a scene that seems to go on forever. Flyora barely survives, having left the densely packed, locked-in villagers through a window, when the German commander says adults who come out, leaving the children behind, will be spared. A simple nod by the almost bored-looking commander spares Flyora’s life. The only other person to exit is a woman with a child, but the child is thrown back.

Ultimately, it seems that Flyora, based on a real person, only survives because he is so powerless in the maelstrom of evil that surrounds him. Klimov co-wrote the script with Ales Adamovich, who was the same age as Flyora when he and his family fought with the partisans and witnessed the genocide perpetrated by the Nazis in Belarus (then known as Byelorussia). The Nazis told their victims they did not deserve to live.

In a new interview, cinematographer Roger Deakins, who recently won his second Oscar, among 15 nominations, for his work on the slightly similar “1917” war film, points out some of the interesting camera techniques used in the film, including use of a Steadicam (10 min.). He also points out how often than camera is used to create a portraiture, as the frame so often is just of a face; this is particularly noticeable early on. The film is presented in a new 2K digital restoration.

Extras include three interviews from 2001. In his (20:46), Klimov talks about how the film had to change its name and the seven years of delay in making it, after Russian censors objected to the initial script. Klimov said he wanted to do a war film because, when he was nine, he fled the bombardment and burning of Stalingrad with his mother and younger brother on a ship that had to go through a literally burning river. Although he lived until 2003, “Come and See” was the last film Klimov made. The other interviews are with Kravchenko (13:07), who said he cried during the audition when asked to image his mother was sick and tells tales of the filming, such as the struggling through mud scenes; and with production designer Viktor Petrov (7:44). Kravchenko, by the way, is still acting, but he waited a full 10 years before his second acting job.

Additionally, there are three of the five 1975 short films by Viktor Dashuk that consist of the accounts of survivors of the Belarus genocide (49:25 total); a new interview with Klimov’s brother, German Klimov, his frequent collaborator (26:40); and a 1985 feature on the film that includes on-set footage, Karavchenko performing a song composed while making the film and interview bits (10:25). In the latter, we learn the Nazis killed 83,000 during the Belarus genocide. The 30-page booklet includes essays by critic Mark Le Fanu and poet Valzhyna Mort. Grade: film 4 stars; extras 3.75 stars.

Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it

Romance on the High Seas (1948, Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, NR, 99 min.). Last week’s column included an early starring role by Lucille Ball in “Dance, Girl, Dance,” while this column includes early performances by Doris Day and Rock Hudson (see below). In fact, Day, who sings “It’s Magic,” “I’m in Love,” “Put ‘Em in a Box” and “It’s You or No One,” made her film debut in this light comedy of deliberately mistaken identities. In the film, the neophyte actress seems to take on a different, almost glowing personality when singing. The two aspects would come closer together in her work during the 1950s.

The songs, which also include “Run, Run, Run,” sung by co-star Jack Carson, and “The Tourist Trade,” were written by greats Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn, with “It’s Magic,” what the film was called in Great Britain, nominated for an Academy Award. The film’s scoring by Ray Heindorf also was nominated for an Oscar. Another great, Busby Berkeley, staged the musical numbers.

Day plays poor nightclub singer Georgia Garrett, who is sort-of dating her pianist Oscar Ferrar (musician Oscar Levant, who also had 15 acting roles), but constantly turning down his marriage proposals. One thing Georgia likes to do is go to a travel agency and plan out a vacation that she never takes because she cannot afford it. One day at the agency, she encounters Elvira Kent (Janis Paige, later in “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies” with Day). Elvira is married to Michael Kent (Don DeFore, later of TV’s “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” “Hazel”; who actually looks a bit like Carson here), but both are constantly suspicious that the other is cheating, even on their wedding day.

Now married three years, Michael again puts off their anniversary trip – he runs the Miracle Drug Co. for his Uncle Lazlo Lazlo (S.Z. Sakall of “Casablanca,” “In the Good Old Summertime”). This gives Elvira the idea to hire Georgia to play her on the cruise, for the trip to Rio and $1,000, while she stays in New York City and spies on her husband. Suspicious because Elvira decides to go on the cruise without him, Michael hires private detective Peter Virgil (Carson of “A Star Is Born,” “Arsenic and Old Lace”) to go on the cruise and keep an eye on his wife.

Things become complicated when Georgia, pretending to be Elvira, starts to fall for Peter, who quickly becomes her near-constant companion on the cruise. Ultimately, everyone ends up in Rio. The film was directed by Michael Curtiz (“Casablanca,” “White Christmas,” “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” among his 178 films).

Extras include a Bugs Bunny cartoon, “Hare Spitter” (7:09); and “Let’s Sing a Song from the Movies” with the Melody Makers (10:43). Grade: film 3.5 stars; extras 1.5 stars

Taza, Son of Cochise (1954, KL Studio Classics, Blu-ray + 3D, NR, 79 min.). Rock Hudson had appeared in some two dozen films before starring in this Western for director Douglas Sirk, but none of his performances were very notable and some even were uncredited. This was the second of eight movies Hudson would make with Sirk, with “Magnificent Obsession,” later that same year, being the big breakthrough for Hudson and another triumph for Sirk.

Here, Hudson plays Taza, the elder son of Cochise, who takes over leadership of the Chiricahua Apache tribe after his father’s death in an early scene. Taza vows to continue his father’s peaceful ways, forged with a treaty three years previously, after battling the American army for seven years, while younger son Naiche (Bart Roberts, aka Rex Reason, of “This Island Earth,” “The Creature Walks Among Us”) wants to align with Geronimo (Ian MacDonald of “High Noon,” “The Texas Rangers”) and fight to reclaim their land.

While Cochise is only in the film for a few minutes, he is played for the third time by Jeff Chandler, who also played Cochise in “Broken Arrow” (1950) and “The Battle at Apache Pass” (1952), making this a kind of sequel.

In addition to fighting over the future of the tribe, the two brothers also fight for the affections of Oona (Barbara Rush of “It Came from Outer Space,” “When Worlds Collide,” “Magnificent Obsession”), who greatly prefers Taza, but whose father is aligned with Naiche.

The film is pretty standard Western fare, with the twist that Taza and some of his men volunteer for the new reservation police force and thus wear army uniforms. Taza’s viewpoint is that Apache should discipline Apache, and the White Eyes discipline the White Eyes. A huge plus is the location filming at the Arches National Monument Park in Utah. Plus, there is a score by Frank Skinner, who scored more than 125 films, including “Destry Rides Again,” “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” and “Magnificent Obsession” among them.

The film, which has a new 2K master, comes with informative audio commentary by film historian David Del Valle and author/screenwriter C. Courtney Joyner. The disc also contains the 3D version of the film. It is one of only two films known to have been released in the Pola-Lite 3D System, using one projector. Mike Ballew, a 3D expert, provides audio commentary about 3D films and how “Taza” was shot over a slide show of stills from the film (19:58). Grade: film 2.5 stars and extras 3 stars

Sixteen Candles (1984, Arrow Films, Blu-ray, PG, 92/94 min.). This seminal movie was the first that screenwriter John Hughes also directed and it helped make a star out of young actors Molly Ringwald (her 3rd feature film) and Anthony Michael Hall (his 3rd feature film). Ringwald was just off “Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone” and Hall had broken out in “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” Other future stars in the film are siblings Joan and John Cusack and Michael Schoeffling, who would go on next to make “Vision Quest.”

The film was a hit because of Hughes’ genuine and funny script that had age-appropriate actors acting like real kids.

The basic plot is that Samantha’s (Ringwald) sister Ginny (Blanche Baker of “The Girl Next Door”) is getting married on Saturday, so her family forgets that Friday is her 16th birthday. School does not lift her spirits, so she decides to go the school dance, where The Nerd (a fantastic Hall, who is introduced by snippets of the “Dragnet” and “James Gunn” themes) constantly tries to win her interest. Samantha, a sophomore, secretly has a crush on popular senior Jake (Schoeffling), who is very much attached to overbearing Caroline (Haviland Morris of “Gremlins 2: The New Batch,” “Home Alone 3”). During a class, Samantha filled out an anonymous questionnaire in which she revealed that Jake is the person she would want to have sex with. The piece of paper gets misdirected and she does not know that Jake found it and realizes it is from her, sparking his interest in knowing her better.

Among Samantha’s often crazy relatives are Paul Dooley as her father Jim, Justin Henry as her dismissive younger brother Mike and Carlin Glynn as mother Brenda. The out-of-town relatives bring along a foreign exchange student, Long Duk Dong (Gedde Watanabe of “UHF,” Gremlins 2: The New Batch,” “Mulan”), whose behavior when drunk is much funnier than his name. John Cusack plays Bryce, a member of The Nerd’s pack, while Joan Cusack is the Geek Girl with the neck brace that makes drinking difficult.

Universal released a Blu-ray version in 2012, but this version is visually superior. The longer cut includes a cafeteria scene, which also is accessible by itself (1:26), plus and alternate home video soundtrack, as at least two songs were replaced due to rights issues. This release also comes with six new interviews: a look at casting with Jackie Burch, who says Hughes wrote the film for Ringwald (9:06); Watanabe and Deborah Pollak (she plays the girl Duk ends up with) are reunited (19:20); John Kapelos, who played groom Rudy (6:26); Adam Rifkin, who played an extra nerd (8:19); camera operator Gary Kibbe (7:38); and score composer Ira Newborn (8:19). There also is a visual essay by Soraya Roberts (17:21); an archival featurette from 2008 (37:58) and three image galleries. Grade: film 4.5 stars; extras 3.75 stars

Pretty in Pink (1986, Paramount Blu-ray, PG-13, 96 min.). After making both “Sixteen Candles” and “The Breakfast Club” with writer-direct John Hughes, Molly Ringwald starred in her third straight Hughes written film, only this time directed by Howard Deutch, who would direct “Some Kind of Wonderful” the next year. However, this was his feature debut after making music videos with Billy Idol and Billy Joel. The Blu-ray is remastered from a 4K film transfer supervised by Deutch.

In the film, Ringwald plays Andie Walsh, a high school girl from the poor, working class side of town. Harry Dean Stanton (“Alien,” “The Green Mile”) plays Jack, her depressed, unemployed father whose wife has left him. To save money, Andie designs and makes her own clothes. Her best friend is social outcast Duckie (Jon Cryer in his 3rd film; later “Superman IV: Quest For Peace,” TV’s “Two and a Half Men,” “Supergirl”), who is secretly in love with her. Andie also is getting attention – unwanted – from elitist rich boy Steff McKee (James Spader, now of TV’s “The Blacklist”), while she would rather it be her secret crush, preppy Blane McDonough (Andrew McCarthy, fresh off “St. Elmo’s Fire”). Blane does ask her to the prom, though pressure builds against the couple.

New extras are an isolated score track and director Deutch talking about the film in a “Filmmaker Focus” (7:38). From early DVD releases is a look at the original ending and Ringwald’s illness (12:15). Grade: film 4 stars; extras 2 stars

Cannery Row (1982, Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, PG, 120 min.). Based on John Steinbeck’s “Cannery Row” and its sequel, “Sweet Thursday,” the film, written and directed by David S. Ward (writer of “The Sting,” “Sleepless in Seattle” and the two “Major League” films), features a nice performance by Nick Nolte as the semi-mysterious Doc. The film is less about Steinbeck’s novels and more the character names and the atmospheric setting.

That setting is among the closed fish canneries in post-World War II Monterey, Calif., where many down-and-out characters live, including a homeless street group led by Mack (M. Emmet Walsh of “Blade Runner,” “The Jerk”) and which includes the giant, but simple-minded Hazel (a fine performance by Frank McRae of “Last Action Hero,” “Loaded Weapon 1”). Doc (Nolte of TV’s “Rich Man, Poor Man,” “The Mandalorian” and the upcoming “Paradise Lost”) himself is sort of a marine biologist now, studying octopi among others. His semi-secret past is he used to be a very good baseball pitcher. The Seer (Sunshine Parker of “Tremors,” “The Sure Thing” with John Cusack) hangs out on the beach and says cryptic words of wisdom.

There’s also a brothel in the neighborhood, although it goes by the name of the Bear Flag Restaurant. It is run by Fauna Flood (Audra Lindley of “Desert Hearts,” TV’s “Three’s Company”), who takes in new arrival Suzy DeSoto (Debra Winger of “Terms of Endearment,” “An Officer and a Gentleman,” “Urban Cowboy”), a wanderer who clearly ends up in the wrong business. Eventually, Fauna asks Doc to show interest in Suzy to build up her confidence so she can find a job elsewhere, as Fauna is losing money on her.

Highlights of the film include Doc and Suzy dancing in ever more complicated style; a frog hunt by Mack and his boys; and a surprise party that goes very wrong. There also is a very emotional death. The film is very episodic; it even throws in a neighborhood baseball game – without Doc.

The film’s pluses are Nolte, the production design by Richard MacDonald and the blues-jazz score by Jack Nitzsche. John Huston narrates. There are no bonus features. Grade: 2.75 stars

The H-Man (Japan, 1958, Mill Creek, Blu-ray, NR, 87 min. Japanese version, 78 min. English version) and Battle in Outer Space (Japan, 1959, Mill Creek, Blu-ray, Nr, 91 min. both versions). This science fiction double feature, on two discs, features two films from “Godzilla” and “Mothra” director Ishiro Honda and special effects wizard Eiji Tsuburaya. This is the North American Blu-ray debut for “The H-Man,” the lesser of the two films, and the second release for “Battle in Outer Space.”

In “The H-Man,” radiation from an H-bomb test affected workers on a boat, liquifying their bodies into a green goo that seeks other humans to feed on. That goo has come to Tokyo and most of the film is about the police’s attempts to solve a murder that has no body. By the film’s end, the goo is being battled in the sewers, which are set afire with gasoline. The film is very slowly paced but the special effects are OK, with the exception of one takeover of a woman by the goo. The goo forming sort-of green ghosts is unique.

“Battle in Outer Space” has aliens from the planet Natal stationed on the moon and preparing to attack the Earth. Early on, their spaceships destroy Japan’s orbiting space station. Those spaceships, by the way, were recycled from 1957’s “The Mysterians,” also directed by Hondo and a film I saw upon its original release which helped spark by interest in science fiction as a 9-year-old. The aliens also manage an anti-gravity wave by aiming absolute zero at objects. They do that to a railroad train bridge, causing a train to crash when the bridge is lifted into the air.

Earth responds by sending two rocket ships to the moon to take out the aliens, not knowing that one astronaut has had an alien mind control chip implanted in his brain. In this pre-digital era, the film makes good use of miniatures and matte paintings. Some of the city destruction late in the film too obviously looks like carboard structures being shaken, but that also was the case in the “Godzilla” films. The sky battle above Earth is well done, and more exciting than the slow-paced action on the moon. The bonus feature is audio commentary on the English version by authors and science fiction historians Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski. Grade: H-Man 2 stars; Battle 2.75 stars; extra 2.5 stars

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Comments (1)
Posted by: ANANUR FORMA | Jul 13, 2020 22:40

Speaking of movies did you see   "John Lewis, Good Trouble,"  yet ? fantastic film.



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