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103 min / 1943
Rating: 10/10

When Ilsa Lund hears that the Nazis have killed her husband she is inconsolable…until she meets Rick Blaine. They meet in Paris, a city on the brink of an invasion by German forces, and in the midst of this ongoing chaos the two quickly fall in love. But then, mysteriously, Ilsa runs away. She disappears from Paris without a word of explanation, and leaves Rick an embittered man. Three years later they bump into each other again, this time in the free French North African town of Casablanca, but Rick is stunned to find out that Ilsa is there with her very undead husband!

I am a fan of many World War II films, particularly those that were made at that time. What sets Casablanca apart (and above) the many other very good WWII movies is that it is not a movie about heroes doing heroic things. Rather it is about lonely, broken, and even wretched people in difficult conditions doing the right thing in the end. That might sound rather depressing, but it isn’t. These are the sort of folk we can empathize with, so when they pick principle over pragmatism we’re right there with them, cheering them on, and hoping that we would do the same.

For a very different (but equally enthused) review, check out Harma Mae Smit’s thoughts here.

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Drama, Family, Movie Reviews

The Seahawk

Drama / Action 109 minutes / 1940 RATING: 8/10 While The Seahawk is set in 1585, and pitches Spain against England, this film was all about the politics of its day. Spain is clearly a stand-in for the Germany of 1940, and King Phillip could only have been more Hitler-esque if they had given him the small patch mustache. The story begins with Phillip laying out his plans for world domination. He demands from England that they refrain from building a fleet and offers his friendship, if they give in to his demands. Queen Elizabeth does her very best Chamberlain imitation, refusing to prepare for the clearly hostile Spain. She chooses to appease the tyrant, even as Phillip is building an armada. Then there is Captain Thorpe (Errol Flynn) with his own stand-in role. He has his own ship, which is part of an English privateer fleet, the Seahawks. Even as Elizabeth appeases Phillip, the Seahawks raid Spanish towns and sink Spanish ships. Thorpe is channeling at least a little Churchill, urging the queen – and through her, the nation of England – to prepare for war. That makes this film fascinating on two very different levels. It is a fantastic swashbuckling film all on its own, and it is also a wonderful bit of anti-Nazi propaganda, intended to rally the nation to resist. Queen Elizabeth concludes the film with a speech that is a clear call for America to come join the war. "When the ruthless ambitions of a man threaten to engulf the world, it becomes the solemn obligation of all free men to affirm that the earth belongs not to any one man, but to all men." Cautions There is a lot of fighting, with folks getting stabbed and shot. But there is no gore. Conclusion I had an opportunity to watch The Seahawk with a group of friends who, as a general rule, don't watch black and white films. A few exchanges struck them as a bit corny – acting in the 1940s did sometimes take a melodramatic turn – but the swashbuckling action and the self-sacrificial hero, the Second World War subtext, well, it swept away all their resistance. They simply couldn't help themselves: they had to love it! Jon Dykstra also reviews movies at where some of these reviews first appeared. ...