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Obscure Film

Obscure Film: All This and World War II (1976)

Obscure FilmTrey TakahashiComment

In the 1960s and 1970s, movie studios began to produce some truly bizarre films that broke away from the conventions of filmmaking. Waves of art films (experimental films) saw their release to either cable networks or to theatres, and many of them so bizarre that they completely fell out of the public’s consciousness. Nowadays, most folks will cite the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine (1968) as one of these such films. A wonderful combination of the music by the legendary rock group set to a truly obscure plot and animated style. However, there is a film that also takes the music from the Beatles and tries to paint a story with it, a film so bizarre and outrageous that it bombed from the box office and remains largely unknown by anyone outside of the rock n’ roll community or an avid b-list movie watcher: All This and World War II (1976).

Opening screen from the movie All This and World War II (1976)

Originally conceived by legendary record executive Russ Regan in a dream, All This and World War II took the idea of telling the story of World War II through the Beatles’s music. Set to various clips from golden era films and newsreels, All This and World War II was poised to be a ‘musical documentary’ covering the main events of the European and Pacific theatre from start to finish. With the only dialog coming from movie clips, and visual indicators of time/era/location from newsreels, the entire project makes for a very loosely driven narrative of the war. Nearly impossible to follow for the uninitiated of World War II, the film’s only redeeming quality had to come from a strong and powerful soundtrack. Still, despite the pure outlandishness of the film from concept, design, and editing, the film was given a full theatrical release by 20th Century Fox. With a $1.2 million dollar budget and a total bomb at the box office, the film was pulled from theatrical release after only two weeks.

Album art for the soundtrack to All This and World War II (1976)

Since then the film has largely remained in obscurity, not many people have really heard about it or remember it, those who do mainly recall the film from the soundtrack which made it on the charts and was quite popular in the late 70s. Drawing from the talents of many famous musicians such as Elton John, Keith Moon, the Bee Gees, Tina Turner, Peter Gabriel, and many more, the film used covers of Beatles songs rather than securing the rights for the original recordings themselves. Perhaps this is what gives the film its interesting flair, having such tracks as “Come Together” covered by Tina Turner set to a sequence of Americans rallying for the war effort or the Bee Gee’s rendition of “Sun King” providing the background tune to Japanese kamikaze pilots flying to Pearl Harbor.

An artist's parody of Tojo on the track page for the Bee Gee's cover of "Sun King"

Since its pull from theatrical release, it was rumored to have been destroyed by Fox, being remembered as an embarrassing experiment that failed miserably. However, the film did make it to several film festivals in very selective showings, and one more recent showing in 2007 at midnight in Los Angeles. While it never was released to the public the only available surviving copies derive from one single bootleg recording from a late night cable TV broadcast. Outside of people’s hands, and outside of the public’s consciousness, the film was regarded as one of the crown jewels of missing media, until the bootleg resurfaced and copies were made and digitized. Still, only a select few know about the film, and probably fewer have come to appreciate the outlandish concept behind it. If you can find a copy of it, it is probably one of the best little films to put on in the background as people watch, scratch their heads, and wonder what this whole thing is all about.

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-Trey Takahashi

Obscure Film: Freedom and You (Red Nightmare) (1962)

Obscure Film, HistoryTrey Takahashi1 Comment

From World War II onward, the U.S. Federal Government were hard at work churning out ‘educational’ propaganda films to influence and educate American Citizens on matters of public safety and patriotism. Some of their most famous films include the famous seven part series on World War II Why We Fight (1942-1945), along with other notable short films such as The House I Live In (1945) and Duck and Cover (1952). Among these famous films, praised for their unique style and characteristics defining propaganda film, came a unique film during a peak of the Cold War. In 1962 U.S. Department of Defense Information and Education Division released a feature length film entitled Freedom and You (commonly known as The Red Nightmare), a film to truly capture the ideal American Citizen and their responsibilities thereof and to scare the American public with life in the Soviet Union. Hosted by Jack Webb and using the narrative style of The Twilight Zone, Freedom and You (1962) tells the story a father named Jerry and his ‘all-American family’ who awake to find their town under the influence of the Soviet Union.

The film tries to portray checkpoints in the Soviet Union put up in a small "American" town

The film plays a unique part of telling the history of fears in the United States as well as popular beliefs as to what ‘proper’ American life was really about. In the beginning of the film we see Jerry skipping out a working father’s duties such as meetings with the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and labor union, even worse is Jerry’s notion to skip out on his U.S. Army Reserve training. The audience is told that his behavior is unacceptable as he is taking advantage of “freedoms” and “privileges” afforded to him by living in the United States. As he continues to take advantage of these liberties, Jack falls into a dream from a “guilty conscience” where he finds himself awaking in a reality where his town has fallen under the influence of communism.

Jerry is interrupted at home by a group of soldiers entering his home

Each section of Freedom and You (1962) exemplifies different aspects of American society considered to be the norm and essential for any American citizen. As Jerry discovers the newfound communist influence of American life, he finds his daughter leaving home for voluntary service on an industrial farm. Several military personnel who enter Jerry’s home forcefully remove her from the home despite her voluntary agreement to go to work an industrial farm. Representing the treat of the dissolution of the American family unit coupled with the loss of ‘inherent’ American rights. Jerry goes from a relaxed life where he has liberties to one where everything is taken away from him as he exists in a powerless society. Perhaps one of the most profound moments is when his kids threaten to report him to the authorities because of his vocal frustration with the new communist system. He tells his kids that he is enrolling them in Sunday school, and drags them to what use to be a church now converted to a State Museum.

Jerry defends his American rights against a mock communist court.

Duty to the country through voluntary service in the armed forces; having a happy nuclear American family; practicing a healthy spiritual life; and the freedom to take action and 'think'. During both the First and Second Red Scares and into the 60s a perpetual feeling of uneasiness and paranoia existed among Americans, citizens constantly trying to blend into a mold of the model America. To stray away was to become a deviant, a trader, to the United States of America. Freedom and You (1962) came at a time when tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States were at a height from the Cuban Missile Crisis, and stands as a testament to just how crazy life was during the Cold War.

For more info about life during the Cold War and U.S. Propaganda, check out some of these suggested titles:

-Trey Takahashi