Saturday, December 31, 2011

#1 Amar Chitra Katha: Jesus Christ

Amar Chitra Katha (Immortal Picture Stories), the largest-selling comic-book series in India, has, from time to time, brought out special issues on epics and events that shaped history. This particular issue, published in 1980, tells the beautiful story of Christ from his birth to his crucifixion. A major portion of the comic-book is devoted to the time Jesus spent with the apostles and the miracles he performed. The speech bubbles and the coloured illustrations are clear and simple.

ACK, as it is known, has published more than 400 titles, mainly on the great Indian epics, mythology, history, folklore and fables, often revolving around people who made a difference. Since its launch in 1967, ACK has sold over 90 million copies in 20 Indian languages. 

You can read more about this educational series at

Friday, December 30, 2011

Books I read in 2011

“Predictable” is the word I would use to describe the sort of books I read in 2011, a diverse mix of fiction and non-fiction, including philosophy, but no surprises, really. I did not have a reading plan for this year and I don’t have one for next year either, save for a couple of authors I have mentioned in my posts. I intend to read more short stories, poetry and classics in 2012, though.

I read a few books over the past twelve months. This does not include the dozens of comics I read. To give you a rough idea, this is what my assorted ‘fiction’ list looks like…

Ernest Hemingway — For Whom the Bell Tolls

Tom Clancy — The Hunt for Red October

Agatha Christie — The Murder of Roger Ackroyd & The Mysterious Affair at Styles

A.J. Cronin — The Spanish Gardener

P.G. Wodehouse — Piccadilly Jim & Money for Nothing

Jack Higgins — Keys of Hell, Storm Warning & The Iron Tiger

John Irving — The 158-Pound Marriage, The World According to Garp (re-read) & The Hotel New Hampshire

Ed Gorman — Cavalry Man: The Killing Machine

Thomas Hardy — Jude the Obscure

Jonathan Kellerman — Dr. Death

Elmore Leonard — Pagan Babies

Don Pendleton — Mack Bolan, the Executioner: Death Load

Leon Uris — The Angry Hills

Boris Pasternak — Dr. Zhivago

Harold Robbins — A Stone for Danny Fisher (re-read)

Among non-fiction, I had fun reading The Complete Prose of Woody Allen.

Like I said, no surprises...

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Jean-Paul Sartre in Nausea

I suppose it is out of laziness that the world is the same day after day. Today it seemed to want to change. And then anything, anything could happen.

I am going to outlive myself. Eat, sleep, sleep, eat. Exist slowly, softly, like these trees, like a puddle of water, like the red bench in the streetcar.

It left me breathless. Never, until these last few days, had I understood the meaning of "existence."

There is a universe behind and before him. And the day is approaching when closing the last book on the last shelf on the far left; he will say to himself, "now what"?

He is always becoming, and if it were not for the contingency of death, he would never end.

Every existing thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness, and dies by chance.

When she was in Djibouti and I was in Aden, and I used to go and see her for twenty-four hours, she managed to multiply the misunderstandings between us until there were exactly sixty minutes before I had to leave; sixty minutes, just long enough to make you feel the seconds passing one by one.

Three o'clock is always too late or too early for anything you want to do.

If you want to learn or read more about Jean-Paul Sartre, I recommend

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2012 TBR Challenge: Friedrich Nietzsche

A lot of book-bloggers are making resolutions for Literary 2012—books they plan to read next year—and the lists I have read so far are impressive...and intimidating. They include titles I have never heard of. Ignorance is not always bliss. Some of these books I have added to my own tentative list which, as it stands, is nothing to write to the book club about. But there is one book that I intend to read: The Philosophy of Nietzsche. 

Big name, big book. The literary equivalent of heavy metal, you might say.

I have never read Nietzsche before, not in the way Nietzsche should be read. But I am familiar with all his books and from time to time I have read his assorted quotations and pondered over their deeper meaning.

My hardbound copy of The Philosophy of Nietzsche [The Modern Library, 1954] is a 1,120-page volume which contains the complete and unabridged texts of Nietzsche's five most famous works: Thus Spake Zarathustra, Beyond Good and Evil, Genealogy of Morals, Ecce Homo and The Birth of Tragedy.

The German philosopher, who was plagued by ill-health through most of his adult life, was one of 19th century’s most radical and brilliant thinkers. As Willard Huntington Wright, a US art critic and author, says in his introduction to the volume, “He was constantly ill and for the most part alone, and this perturbed and restless period of his life resolved itself into a continuous struggle against melancholy and physical suffering.” It was during these difficult years that Nietzsche wrote all of the above works and more as well as “an enormous number of notes which were to constitute his final and culminating work, The Will to Power.”

Friedrich Nietzsche will live up to my expectations. The question is will I live up to his? Time to find out.

Meanwhile, here are a few random books with curious titles I found on The Modern Library website. Some are popular among readers.

We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live by Joan Didion

When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S. Kushner

Classics to Read Aloud to Your Children by William F. Russell

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain

A Garden of Earthly Delights by Joyce Carol Oates

The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

The Key & Diary of a Mad Old Man by Junichiro Tanizaki (Translated by Howard Hibbett)

The Vintage Book of Classic Crime edited by Michael Dibdin

Photos: Scans of front and back covers of my copy of the book.

Monday, December 26, 2011


Annapolis, no please

I had mixed feelings when director Sam Raimi got rid of James Franco in Spider-Man 3. On one hand, I thought his insufferable character, Harry Osborn, had outlived his usefulness even though he eventually helps his friends Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) and Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) overcome the combined might of super-freaks Venom (Topher Grace) and Sandman (Thomas Haden Church). On the other hand, I felt Peter needed his best friend around considering he didn't have any other friends. Maybe, just maybe, his death at the hands of the alien symbiote Venom was premature.

Jordana Brewster and James Franco in a still from the film.
So it was with mixed feelings that I watched James Franco play naval rookie Jake Huard in Annapolis (2006) directed by Justin Lin. My first thought was: didn't they find anyone else? Apparently not.

Annapolis is the story of a young man from a not-too well-to-do family of shipbuilders who dreams of joining, and graduating, from Annapolis, the elite US naval academy, and he does so against odds that run only in one direction–his way. First of all, he arm-twists a Congressman into selecting him; second of all, his grades are below average; and third of all, he is not exactly an asset to his class of cadets.

But Huard is determined to see it through Annapolis for two reasons: one, a promise he made to his dying mother, and two, make his father, Bill Huard (Brian Goodman) believe in him. But life at the academy isn’t a cakewalk, as Huard’s inability to measure up to its high standards earns him the scorn of his superiors, particularly Cole (Tyrese Gibson), and the ridicule of his batch mates whom he lets down frequently.

A frustrated Huard confronts his academic ineptitude by walking out of Annapolis. Not for long, though. His father, whom he meets at the shipyard where he, himself, used to work as a welder, tells him, rather condescendingly, that he is not capable of pursuing his dream. Huard, in an I-gotta-make-my-daddy-proud-of-me moment, does an about turn and returns to the academy, only this time for real. He studies hard and for once remembers naval history; trains hard and helps his fat roommate train harder; endures punishment and punishment posting; and eventually enrolls his name in a boxing tournament, the prestige of Annapolis, which is open to all ranks.

The boxing contest, in fact, forms the backdrop of this movie, as Huard, an amateur boxer, trains under Ali (Jordana Brewster), his superior and love-interest, and goes on to defeat one opponent after another including a senior officer. Predictably, Huard meets reigning champion Cole in the final, a battle that proves to be the one redeeming feature in an otherwise forgettable tenure at the academy. Huard proves his true mettle against Cole and though he loses the crown, he wins hearts. As Huard makes his way back from the ring, he sees his father in the stands, beaming with pride.

Annapolis is probably the story of many real-life Jake Huards who, in spite of their poor social backgrounds and academic deficiencies, make it through some of the toughest US defence academies to, as Huard says with grim determination, “Serve my country, sir.”

In terms of acting skills, James Franco, as the cocky and bungling Jake Huard, is rather mediocre with his trademark smile being the only notable feature throughout the film. Annapolis is a film you should watch if you’ve nothing worthwhile to see. What was that I said about mixed 

For Tuesday's Overlooked/Forgotten films, visit Todd Mason's blog Sweet Freedom.

Friday, December 23, 2011

#5 Ode to Christmas (in India)

Dim dawn behind the tamarisks — the sky is saffron-yellow — 
As the women in the village grind the corn,
And the parrots seek the riverside, each calling to his fellow
That the Day, the staring Easter Day is born.
Oh the white dust on the highway! Oh the stenches in the byway!
Oh the clammy fog that hovers
And at Home they're making merry 'neath the white and scarlet berry —
What part have India's exiles in their mirth?

Full day begin the tamarisks — the sky is blue and staring —
As the cattle crawl afield beneath the yoke,
And they bear One o'er the field-path, who is past all hope or caring,
To the ghat below the curling wreaths of smoke.
Call on Rama, going slowly, as ye bear a brother lowly —
Call on Rama — he may hear, perhaps, your voice!
With our hymn-books and our psalters we appeal to other altars,
And to-day we bid "good Christian men rejoice!"

High noon behind the tamarisks — the sun is hot above us —
As at Home the Christmas Day is breaking wan.
They will drink our healths at dinner — those who tell us how they love us,
And forget us till another year be gone!
Oh the toil that knows no breaking! Oh the Heimweh, ceaseless, aching!
Oh the black dividing Sea and alien Plain!
Youth was cheap — wherefore we sold it.
Gold was good — we hoped to hold it,
And to-day we know the fulness of our gain.

Grey dusk behind the tamarisks — the parrots fly together —
As the sun is sinking slowly over Home;
And his last ray seems to mock us shackled in a lifelong tether.
That drags us back how'er so far we roam.
Hard her service, poor her payment — she is ancient, tattered raiment —
India, she the grim Stepmother of our kind.
If a year of life be lent her, if her temple's shrine we enter,
The door is hut — we may not look behind.

Black night behind the tamarisks — the owls begin their chorus —
As the conches from the temple scream and bray.
With the fruitless years behind us, and the hopeless years before us,
Let us honor, O my brother, Christmas Day!
Call a truce, then, to our labors — let us feast with friends and neighbors,
And be merry as the custom of our caste;
For if "faint and forced the laughter," and if sadness follow after,
We are richer by one mocking Christmas past.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Celebrating Christmas with Comics

Drooling over mouthwatering comic-book covers, especially the oldies, is a reckless diversion that occupies one's time and thoughts in a most pleasant way. If you're a comic-book reader or collector, even better. If you're not, you can start right here. Either way it's a visual treat that few meaningful hobbies or pursuits offer with the exception of fine art and philately. This blog, for the first time in three years (which isn't much), is ringing in Christmas with some eye-catching comic-book covers (and a magazine cover too) that are not unfamiliar to this blogger. Sit back and take a few seconds to look at the vertical slideshow I've put together. Merry Christmas to you all!

Copyrights: Harvey Comics, DC Comics, Archie Comics, Walt Disney, Marvel Comics, World Editions and Hank Ketcham/Fantagraphics Books

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Laugh out loud with Schwarzenegger

I have seen nearly every Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, some more than once, but never ever in a cinema hall. I have watched all his films on cable and none on video or DVD. I have thought it to be a waste of time, money and energy to see his films in a theatre. No doubt, he is a big entertainer and, in my opinion, bigger than Sylvester Stallone and Jean Claude Van Damme, but still not worth the price of a movie ticket, popcorn, samosas, and coke.

Yet, not a week goes by when I don't see his films or at least parts of whichever film cable TV is showing. Last week, I saw two of Schwarzenegger's earliest movies, Commando (1985) and Predator (1987), both among my favourites. Terminator I & II come third. All three films are notorious for Schwarzenegger's one liners.

My favourite line in Commando (and there are quite a few) is in the last scene when Schwarzenegger, as the retired special agent John Matrix, is returning after rescuing his daughter from the clutches of a Latin American dictator. He has also just destroyed the "military" camp and killed hundreds of the dictator's armed henchmen. As he makes his way to a waiting amphibious aircraft, he encounters General Franklin Kirby (James Olson), the head of his elite unit, who asks him: "Leave anything for us?" and Schwarzenegger replies, deadpan, "Just bodies." You need to be a Schwarzenegger to say that.

In Predator, Schwarzenegger, as Major "Dutch" Schaefer, the lone survivor of a team of special forces ops butchered by the invisible alien, is fighting an almost losing battle against the Predator. At one point, the alien reveals himself and Schwarzenegger goes, "What the hell are you?" To which, the Predator retorts, "What the hell are you?"

Without these one liners, including the 'I'll be back" in Terminator, Schwarzenegger's films wouldn't have been as entertaining as they eventually turned out to be. The former Mr. Universe-turned-Conan the Barbarian-turned-California Governor is not a funny actor and, technically, he sucks at humour. But give him four-worded lines and you can trust him to deliver them in a way that'll make you laugh out loud. That's why I like his 


For Tuesday's Overlooked/Forgotten films, visit Todd Mason's blog Sweet Freedom

Monday, December 19, 2011

Fathers And Sons or Sons And Fathers?

Wars are fought in Commando Comics and their close and distant cousins like Battle Picture Library and Sgt. Rock. The battles continue to rage in Commando which has been published and republished by D.C. Thomson of Dundee, Scotland, since 1961. Recently, I came across two titles which left me baffled—Commando No.4152: Fathers And Sons and Commando No.4427: Sons And Fathers. For a moment I thought it was printer's devil, with misleading cover illustration and all, that had gone unnoticed. On a closer look I found they were separate issues with distinct stories, both celebrating an event.

While Fathers And Sons marks 90 years since the end of World War I (1918-2008), Sons And Fathers commemorates fifty years of Commando Comics (1961-2011).

 The Armistice issue (left) was one of an eight-part series brought out by Commando on the events of the Great War. It says, "Two young soldiers—one British, one German—were about to go into battle as the Second World War broke out. Like many of their friends, their fathers had seen action years earlier in the First World War. But for this particular pair of warriors, there was a bizarre link which, one day, would end in bitter tragedy..."

The Golden Jubilee comic (below) declares, "There they stood, back-to-back, Beretta sub-machine guns stuttering as they fought for their lives. It had been the same many years before as their fathers had battled shoulder-to-shoulder in a heroic but doomed last stand. Would history repeat itself? Or was there another twist to the tale?"

Commando Comics go with two popular themes: British and German soldiers fight each other, which is usually the case, or they fight side by side, on rare occasions. One way or other, Commando Comics are eminently readable.

Covers: © DC Thomson & Co. Ltd

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Agadoo by Black Lace

I was half-way through college when I first heard this party song by British Euro pop band Black Lace. It was the whackiest number to come out in 1984 with lyrics that made little sense and music you couldn't write home about. It was the kind of song you heard once and forgot, and seldom recommended. Yet, Agadoo ruled for a long time on the UK Singles Chart becoming the eighth bestselling single in the UK that year. It became quite popular in India too.

According to Wikipedia, "In a survey for dotmusic in 2000, respondents voted Agadoo as the fourth most annoying song of all time. In a poll for Q magazine in 2003, a panel of music writers voted Agadoo as the worst song of all time, saying: 'It sounded like the school disco you were forced to attend, your middle-aged relatives forming a conga at a wedding party, a travelling DJ act based in Wolverhampton, every party cliche you ever heard.' The panel also described it as 'magnificently dreadful'."

Here's the video link to this crazy song. I usually post the lyrics too but let's skip this one, shall we?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

War movies worthy of World War II

War is a dirty business, yet, in a perverse fashion, war also entertains. In one of life’s tragic ironies, the senseless deaths of hundreds and thousands on the battlefield—civilian or combatant, ally or enemy—is reenacted on the big screen for the amusement of an audience that can scarcely perceive the true horrors of war. If you are not in it, how can you feel the pain? The audience can be, at best, sympathetic and, at worst, a mute spectator. I would like to think of war movies as awakening us to the terrifying realities of war and its aftermath, and educating and entertaining us at the same time. A reality check, as it were. 

A few days ago, I saw The Dirty Dozen, presumably for the twelfth time, and enjoyed the derring-do of US Major Reisman (Lee Marvin) as he leads a dozen dirty and convicted murderers on a secret mission to wipe out, what seems like, half the roster of German officers during World War II. Nearly every German officer and soldier is either gunned down or blown up. There are losses on the dirty-dozen side too with only Major Reisman and Joseph Wladislaw (Charles Bronson) surviving in the end.

This movie, for no apparent reason, set me thinking about the dozens of war films I have seen over the years; many of them true to reality. An anthology is beyond me. For instance, I haven’t seen many pre-1960 war films, mostly black and white but captivating nonetheless. So what I have done is put together a list of twenty-one of the finest (and panned) World War II films made over a 22-year period from 1957 through 1979. With the exception of Kelly's Heroes (1970), I have seen, or at least remember seeing, the remaining twenty films.

Mind you, this odd-numbered list is not the absolute roll-call of war films during this period and it’s likely I have missed some obvious ones.

As you will, no doubt, glean from the titles, the twenty-one World War II films are all blockbusters, pumped up with adrenalin from a terrific star cast that is every director’s dream and every viewer’s delight. These are fictional films but some have played out on the historical battlefields. For example, The Bridge on the River Kwai alludes to the construction of a railway in Burma in early 1940s while The Great Escape is believed to have actually taken place.

A random headcount reveals the following interesting aspects in these films:

* Richard Burton, Donald Sutherland, Robert Ryan, and Telly Savalas star in four of the films; Charles Bronson, Maximilian Schell, Henry Fonda, Michael Caine, Robert Shaw, Edward Fox, and Michael Byrne appear in three; and Richard Harris, Sean Connery, James Coburn, Clint Eastwood, Martim Balsam, and Donald Pleasence act in two movies each.

* Ken Annakin, John Sturges, and Guy Hamilton are the only ones to have directed two films each.

* Three singers, Trini López, Paul Anka, and Art Garfunkel, share a film each.

* Three of these movies are based on thrillers written by Scottish novelist Alistair MacLean (remember him?). Two others are adapted from the novels of Cornelius Ryan.

* Watch out for young stars like William Shatner, Harrison Ford, Dan Ackroyd, and Clint Eastwood.

With bayonets at the ready, let's run through some of the memorable war movies ever made this side of WWII.

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

Director: David Lean
Book: French writer Pierre Boulle
Cast: William Holden, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, and Geoffrey Horne

Plot: Spirited British POWs are forced to build a bridge for their Japanese captors even as the Allies plan to destroy it.

Standout: Alec Guinness as Colonel Nicholson.

The Guns of Navarone (1961)

Director: J. Lee Thompson
Book: Alistair MacLean
Cast: David Niven, Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn, Stanley Baker, and Richard Harris

Plot: A three-member British crack force is sent to occupied-Greece to destroy powerful German guns that loom over a strategic sea channel.

Standout: Gregory Peck as Capt. Keith Mallory

Judgment at Nuremberg (1961)

Director: Stanley Kramer
Cast: Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Maximilian Schell, Montgomery Clift, William Shatner, and Werner Klemperer

Plot: The war is over and most of the Nazi leaders have been prosecuted. The fate of four Nazi judges, however, hangs in the balance.

Standout: Spencer Tracy as Chief Judge Dan Haywood

The Longest Day (1962)

Directors: Ken Annakin & Andrew Marton
Book: Cornelius Ryan
Cast: Paul Anka, John Wayne, Robert Ryan, Richard Burton, Sean Connery, Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, George Segal, Rod Steiger, and Robert Wagner

Plot: D-Day, the Allied landing in France, is told on a scale bigger than 70mm. Look out for the cameos.

Standout: John Wayne as Lt. Col. Benjamin Vandervoort

The Great Escape (1963)

Director: John Sturges
Cast: Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasence, James Coburn, James Donald, David McCallum, and John Leyton

Plot: Don’t miss the comic parts in this otherwise true story of an audacious plan by Allied POWs to escape from a German camp…by the hundreds.

Standout: Steve McQueen as Hilts ‘The Cooler King’

Battle of the Bulge (1965) 

Director: Ken Annakin
Cast: Henry Fonda, Robert Shaw, Robert Ryan, George Montgomery, Charles Bronson, and Telly Savalas.

Plot: It’s the Battle of Belgium really, as Allied and German forces clash in the Ardennes in the last months of World War II. Round one to Germany.

Standout: Robert Shaw as Col. Hessler

The Dirty Dozen (1967)

Director: Robert Aldrich 
Cast: Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland, John Cassavetes, Richard Jaeckel, George Kennedy, Trini López, Ralph Meeker, Robert Ryan, Clint Walker, Robert Webber, Tom Busby, and Ben Carruthers

Plot: The dirty dozen, a band of convicted murderers, give their lives for the Allied cause. Only one among them survives to tell the story of the secret plan to assassinate hundreds of German officers and soldiers.

Standout: The dirty dozen

Where Eagles Dare (1968)

Director: Brian G. Hutton 
Book: Alistair MacLean
Cast: Richard Burton, Clint Eastwood, and Patrick Wymark

Plot: A US ranger finds himself in a secret British operation to rescue an American General held prisoner at Nazi headquarters, but there’s more than meets the eye.

Standout: Richard Burton as Major John Smith

Battle of Britain (1969)

Director: Guy Hamilton 
Cast: Michael Caine, Trevor Howard, Laurence Olivier, Christopher Plummer, Michael Redgrave, Robert Shaw, Michael Bates, and Edward Fox

Plot: It’s the RAF vs. the Luftwaffe as the two countries battle for control of British airspace, and the invasion of Britain that never came.

Standout: Michael Caine as Squadron Leader Canfield

Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)

Directors: Richard Fleischer & Kinji Fukasaku 
Cast: Martin Balsam, Sô Yamamura, Joseph Cotton, Jason Robards, and James Whitmore

Plot: On December 7, 1941, Japan took America and the rest of the world by surprise with a Sunday morning air raid on Pearl Harbour at Honolulu, the capital of Hawaii. This film dramatises the events leading up to that fateful day, and Japan’s greatest blunder.

Standout: Jason Robards as Lt. Gen. Walter C. Short

Catch-22 (1970)

Director: Mike Nichols 
Book: Joseph Heller
Cast: Anthony Perkins, Martin Sheen, Jon Voight, Orson Welles, Alan Arkin, Martin Balsam, and Art Garfunkel.

Plot: If you’ve read Heller’s satirical novel, then you know the film is about a USAF bombardier’s desperate effort to be certified insane to avoid combat flying missions. It’s a catch-22 situation because if the man does not seek an “unfit to fly” evaluation he continues to fly and if he is sane enough to seek one, it means he is not insane and still flies. That’s military logic for you.

Standout: Alan Arkin as Capt. John Yossarian

Kelly's Heroes (1970)

Director: Brian G. Hutton 
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas, and Donald Sutherland

Plot: A group of US soldiers sneaks across enemy lines to get their hands on a secret stash of Nazi treasure.

Standout: Telly Savalas as Master Sergeant Big Joe

Patton (1970)

Director: Franklin J. Schaffner
Books: Ladislas Farago's Patton: Ordeal and Triumph and Omar N. Bradley's A Soldier's Story
Cast: George C. Scott, Karl Malden, Stephen Young, Frank Latimore, and Michael Strong

Plot: Patton tells the true story of General George S. Patton, the brave and outspoken US commander, nicknamed Old Blood and Guts, during World War II.

Standout: George C. Scott as General George S. Patton Jr

Raid on Rommel (1971)

Director: Henry Hathaway 
Cast: Richard Burton, John Colicos, Clinton Greyn, and Wolfgang Preiss

Plot: The ‘Desert Fox’ was to Germany what ‘Old Blood and Guts’ was to America. A British commando unit is on a mission to destroy German guns at Tobruk in North Africa, and along the way comes Field Marshal Erwin Rommel.

Standout: Richard Burton as Capt. Alex Foster

Operation Daybreak (1975)

Director: Lewis Gilbert 
Cast: Timothy Bottoms, Martin Shaw, and Joss Ackland

Plot: Operation Daybreak recounts the true story of a plan by a Czech resistance force to assassinate an SS General known as The Butcher of Prague. Don't miss the last heartrending scene.

Standout: Timothy Bottoms as Jan Kubis

The Eagle Has Landed (1976)

Director: John Sturges 
Book: Jack Higgins
Cast: Michael Caine, Donald Sutherland, Robert Duvall, Donald Pleasence, and Michael Byrne

Plot: A crack German parachute unit is sent to Britain to kidnap Prime Minister Churchill and bring him to Berlin. Don’t forget to read the book.

Standouts: Michael Caine as Colonel Steiner and Donald Sutherland as IRA ideologue Liam Devlin

A Bridge Too Far (1977)

Director: Richard Attenborough 
Book: Cornelius Ryan
Cast: Sean Connery, Ryan O'Neal, Gene Hackman, Dirk Bogarde, Michael Caine, Michael Byrne, Anthony Hopkins, James Caan, Maximilian Schell, Colin Farrell, Laurence Olivier, Robert Redford, and Edward Fox

Plot: With a solid cast like that you don’t have to bother with the story. Still, this historical film captures the Allies’ failed attempt to capture strategic bridges to Germany in Operation Market Garden.

Standout: Standout: Dirk Bogarde as Lieutenant-General Frederick 'Boy' Browning

Cross of Iron (1977)

Director: Sam Peckinpah 
Cast: James Coburn, Maximilian Schell, James Mason, and David Warner
Book: The screenplay is based on the 1956 novel The Willing Flesh by Willi Heinrich

Plot: Two German military officers are caught in an ego clash and spar over the decorated Iron Cross, somewhere on the Russian front.

Standout: James Coburn as Unteroffizier Feldwebel (Staff Sergeant) Rolf Steiner

Force 10 From Navarone (1978)

Director: Guy Hamilton 
Book: Alistair MacLean
Cast: Robert Shaw, Harrison Ford, Edward Fox, Franco Nero, Carl Weathers, Richard Kiel, and Michael Byrne

Plot: An assorted bunch of military experts team up to raid and destroy a bridge vital to German strategy.

Standout: Harrison Ford as Colonel Barnsby

The Biggest Battle (1978) 

Director: Umberto Lenzi
Cast: Orson Welles (narrator), Henry Fonda, Helmut Berger, Giuliano Gemma, John Huston, and Stacy Keach

Plot: Story of how WWII affected the lives of a German and an American family that had sons and fathers fighting in the war.

Standout: Helmut Berger as Lt. Kurt Zimmer

1941 (1979)

Director: Steven Spielberg 
Cast: John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Ned Beatty, Treat Williams, Christopher Lee, Tim Matheson, Robert Stack, and John Candy

Plot: Hysteria grips California following the bombing of Pearl Harbour as an assorted group of defenders try to defend the coast against an imagined Japanese invasion.

Standout: John Belushi as Capt. Wild Bill Kelso

Note: Material for this post has been sourced from IMDb and Wikipedia for factual correctness.

Don't forget to check out Tuesday's Overlooked/Forgotten movies at Todd Mason's blog at

Monday, December 12, 2011

R.I.P. Mario de Miranda,

Mario Miranda, the legendary Indian cartoonist and illustrator, died last week in his hometown, in the idyllic coastal state of Goa. You can read more about Mario and his distinctive art at mariomiranda and wikipedia. Mario at work is from All sketches reproduced below are by Mario Miranda.