Like Father, Like Son
Among the many storylines designed to tug at the heartstrings of adult audiences, it’s tough to beat the old switched-at-birth gambit. It works as well on the big screen as on television and transcends all cultural barriers. Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda (“Nobody Knows,” “Still Walking”) has taken the drama inherent in all switched-at-birth dramas and added a subplot specific to contemporary Japanese culture. In “Like Father, Like Son,” parents Ryota and Midori Nonomiya and Yukari and Yudai Saiki are stunned to learn that the boys they’ve been raising for the past six years, indeed, were switched while the mothers were recovering from giving birth. This, of course, sets up the classic dilemma over whether blood ties are stronger than emotional bonds. Because Japan remains a largely patriarchal society, Koreeda holds a tight focus on how the news directly impacts Ryota and Yukari. Without giving too much of the story away, the biggest differences between the two men come from their respective lifestyles and the things they’ve handed down to their sons, Nobuko and Ryusei, respectively. Ryota is as dedicated to his company and career as Yukari is committed to keeping his wife and son happy and upbeat. Nobuko has been raised to reflect his father’s obsession with money and material possessions. As expected, the boy excels at the piano and in school, even if their face-time is limited to what Ryota spares from work. Ryusei is a fun-loving boy, doted on by his parents, but not much of a student. Ryota’s immediate solution to the dilemma is simply to accept his birth-child and purchase or lease the one raised under his roof. Yukari feels insulted by the offer, even if, at first, he seemed more interested in pursuing a lawsuit against the hospital than getting his real son back. Instead, the families agree to slowly wean the boys from the lives they’ve known for so long and reduce the effects of traumatic withdrawal. Koreeda does a really nice job maintaining the suspense throughout “Like Father, Like Son,” without appearing to take sides. Not surprisingly, perhaps, it takes a bit longer while for the women to step out of the shadows, but, when they do, they shine. The surprises Koreeda plants along the way make the journey that much more enjoyable. – Gary Dretzka
The Face of Love
As great as it is to see Ed Harris and Annette Bening in the same movie, undisguised by layers of makeup and wrinkle tape, it’s every bit that depressing to see them in a rom-drama as criminally maudlin as “The Face of Love.” It’s almost as if co-writer/director Arie Posin (“The Chumscrubber”) set out to make the kind of movie Hollywood doesn’t make anymore, but neglected to do his homework on what made the classics gel and the characters memorable. None of the blame can be placed on the back of Harris and Bening, however. They exude copious amounts of “chemistry” and keep us interested, even when the characters they play stop making sense. Fonda plays an upscale SoCal widow, Nikki, whose husband, Garrett, died six years before she meets Harris’ Tom, who is 10 years removed from being jilted by his wife. Garrett drowned at a Mexican resort, while taking a midnight swim, and, even absent any extenuating circumstances or intrigue, Nikki’s never attempted to fill the void in the company of another man. Mind you, Nikki has an interesting job, a supportive daughter (Jess Weixler) and a close male friend and neighbor, Roger (Robin Williams), who’s been waiting five years for the right time to ask her out on a date. One day, after a visit to an art museum, she encounters a man who’s a dead-ringer for her husband. After assuring herself that the man isn’t an apparition. Nikki even manages to joke about it with Roger. Once she picks up his scent, again, Nikki begins to act crazier than a whole flock of lonely loons. Learning that he’s an artist and teacher, she shows up in class one day and asks him to tutor her at home, which he does. As soon as Tom begins to show signs of falling in love with her, however, Nikki appears to change her mind about him. All along, she refuses to tell him the truth about his likeness to Garrett and that he drowned, creating a mystery where one needn’t exist. Neither does she reveal the source of her newfound happiness to her daughter and Roger, who might have conspired to have her committed.
It isn’t difficult to imagine what Alfred Hitchcock or, even, Brian DePalma, might have done with such a juicy setup and A-list cast. “The Face of Love” does gives off the occasional “Vertigo” vibe. It could even work as a comedy, playing off the idea that neither Garrett nor Tom knew he was a twin, and Nikki decides to turn the surviving brother into a virtual clone. Or, the “Heaven Can Wait” conceit could be pulled off the shelf and tweaked to fit Posin’s story. Instead, Posin does none of these things. The cop-out ending could actually have been borrowed from a tragic Harlequin romance. We want to like Bening/Nikki, but lose all sympathy for her as she continues to torture Tom with her neuroses. Posin simply skips the part when viewers are told why Garrett was worthy of a six-year mourning period – Jackie Kennedy only lasted five years before remarrying – and how a smart woman wouldn’t be able to see the problems in falling in love with a doppelganger. Our frustration with Nikki translates into something resembling anger and pity. To be fair, the movie has received some positive reviews in mainstream publications. Even so, the modestly budgeted movie only played in a few dozen theaters and didn’t come close to recovering its nut. That I can’t remember seeing a single ad for “Face of Love,” suggests to me that the distributors couldn’t wait to get the picture into the DVD and VOD pipeline, where the presence of big-name stars does help business. The DVD adds interviews, making-of material and deleted scenes. Sadly, “Face of Love” may be the last movie we see in which prominent actors – including Amy Brenneman, as Tom’s still supportive ex-wife – look and act their age. -– Gary Dretzka
Over the past 60 years, rock ’n’ roll has lent itself so well to parody (“This Is Spinal Tap”), satire (“The Rutles”) and outright ridicule (“Bye, Bye Birdie”) that the line separating fact and fantasy has blurred to the point of non-existence. Now that Kiss has joined Alice Cooper in the Hall of Fame, it’s conceivable that the Insane Clown Posse could be only two or three gold records away from someday making the same leap. Knowing that Sara Sugarman’s entertaining, if lightweight British comedy, “Vinyl,” is based on an actual “rock-’n’-roll swindle,” perpetrated in 2004 by the Alarm’s Mike Peters, gives us hope that there’s still room for fun in the music industry. And, wouldn’t it be hilarious for a Juggalo festival to break out at the induction ceremony? You bet. Here, after a booze-fuelled post-funeral jam session, Johnny Jones (Phil Daniels) and his old band-mates from Weapons of Happiness roll tape on a pop-punk single. Considering the condition their conditions were in, the song’s surprisingly catchy. When Jones shops it around to A&R executives and radio DJs, however, he’s basically told that no one under 21 wants to watch old folks boogie. In a rare moment of lucidity, Jones erases “Weapons of Happiness” from the label of the cassette and replaces it with the name of an imaginary band, “The Single Shots.” When he’s contacted about the tape’s origin, Jones explains that it’s from a band comprised of Welsh newcomers, who had come to him for advice and tutelage. As was the case with Peters’ 2004 hit single “45 RPM,” performed under the pseudonym, the Poppy Fields, the Single Shots’ “Free Rock ’N’ Roll” climbs rapidly up the charts.
While Jones’ mates can’t understand why being over the hill is considered to be such a crime, they agree to help in the search for teenagers willing to go along with the ruse. Once assembled, the nascent musicians will be trained in the ancient art of conning gullible teenagers. The Shots’ lead singer and guitar player is a brash busker who goes by the name, Drainpipe (Jamie Blackley). He actually possesses some genuine musical chops, none of which he’s encouraged to demonstrate. As is all too common in the rock game, jealousy and egos rise to the surface just as the Shots are on the brink of stardom. In one clever sidebar, Jones comes to believe that Drainpipe is the son he can’t remember conceiving one night, after a concert, with a groupie, who, long ago, stopped keeping track of her conquests. “Vinyl” won’t make anyone forget “Spinal Tap” or, even, “The Rutles 2: Can’t Buy Me Lunch.” It does, however, provide 85 minutes of non-taxing entertainment. If only Sugarman had resisted the urge to play “Free Rock ’N’ Roll” ad nausea and added a couple of more songs to the soundtrack. The Blu-ray adds a short behind-the-scenes featurette, a music video of “Free Rock ‘n’ Roll” and photo gallery. – Gary Dretzka
The Last Days
Deadly Eyes: Blu-ray
These days, you’ve got to hand it to any filmmaker willing to make a dystopian thriller without also adding zombies, vampires or virus-carrying werewolves to the mix. As used to the undead as we’ve become, it’s kind of nice to be threatened by something other than a shuffling freak. In “The Last Days,” we’re in Barcelona and the world has been plunged into chaos by an agoraphobia-inducing force, known as “The Panic.” Besides bouncing into an invisible psychological shield when venturing outdoors, those who dare go further afield soon have oxygen crushed from their lungs. Marc is in a high-rise office building when the Panic takes hold, presumably waiting to be laid off by a senior executive, Enrique, also known as the Terminator. Instead, they’re required to work together to rescue loved ones they have reason to believe might still be alive in other buildings or shelters. The trick, of course, is to accomplish this task without exposing themselves to the plague. All I’ll reveal here is that a tunnel in the office building parallels the city’s subway system, where thousands of people now live. A GPS app on Enrique’s phone could hold the key to survival, but, first, they are required to protect it from gangs of robbers. While brothers David and Alex Pastor (“Carriers”) were able to create a credibly impenetrable aura to the outdoors scenes, the limits of a $5-million budget are visible in the panoramic views of a wasted city as seen from the upper floors of the skyscraper. Everything else is fine.
Released in 1982, “Deadly Eyes” resembles dozens of other sci-fi and creature-feature flicks in which mammals, bugs and fish are mutated into monsters after being contaminated by pollutants, toxins or radiation. The modern era began in Japan, with such irradiated monsters as Rodan and Godzilla, and soon would flourish under the watchful eyes of Roger Corman. A half-century later his fingerprints can be found all over such modern Syfy hybrids as Sharktopus, Piranhaconda and Camel Spiders. Like “Willard,” “Ben” and “The Food of the Gods,” “Deadly Eyes” is infested with vermin. It was adapted from a James Herbert novel, “The Rats,” and directed by Robert Clouse, who also helmed the kung-fu classic “Enter the Dragon.” After a shipment of genetically enhanced corn is prevented from leaving a Toronto port, the local rat population feasts on it. The more they eat, the bigger and more vicious they become. Pretty soon, the rats’ hunger can’t be sated by the meager rations provided by other sewer dwellers. Humans become the next likely target. You know the rest. The creepiest scene by far takes place in a movie theater showing “Enter the Dragon,” also produced by Hong Kong’s Golden Harvest. Just as Bruce Lee is getting the best of Kareem Abdul Jabbar, rats the size of small dogs begin attacking patrons reaching for popcorn boxes on the floor. “Deadly Eyes” is a million miles from being a masterpiece, but any movie with Scatman Crothers is automatically better than most others. The making-of featurette is a hoot, as well, especially the description of how dachshunds respond to having rat costumes put on them. – Gary Dretzka
By now, it’s become axiomatic: add any variation of the word, “sex,” to the title of a movie or DVD and it’s going to capture someone’s attention, resulting, perhaps, in a few more ticket sales and rentals. Other than the coincidence of nearly simultaneous release dates, Bernard Rose’s occasionally steamy “sx_tape” and Jake Kasdan’s yet-to-be screened “Sex Tape” could hardly be more different. Rose’s thriller uses the implied promise of sex to lure horror buffs who’ve run out of patience with found-footage flicks, while, according to early reports, Kasdan hopes to attract viewers who’ve yet to see Cameron Diaz’ boobies on film. I have no way of knowing if Kasdan, Diaz and Jason Segel can repeat the commercial success they enjoyed with “Bad Teacher” – skin or no skin – but, having watched “sx_tape,” it’s easy to see why the producers felt as if they might have needed a crutch to sell their movie. Caitlyn Folley plays Jill, a free-spirited artist who favors micro-miniskirts and other aggressively slutty attire. Her videographer boyfriend, Adam (Ian Duncan), is one of those pathetic geeks who films his every move, if for no better reason than that he owns a camera. One day, while driving around a parched section of Los Angeles, they pass an abandoned building that once served as a hospital and residence for “wayward” girls. Jill talks Adam into joining her on a walking tour of the facility, which is only slightly less secure than your average highway rest station.
Although reluctant to invade the presumably haunted hospital, Adam does see how it might be used as a gallery for Jill’s next showing. Not surprisingly, perhaps, the discovery of a mattress with leather bindings sets her libido racing. Unfortunately, her lust also manages to summon the ghost of a former resident, who sees in Jill an opportunity to settle some old scores. Rose employs some rapid-fire-editing tricks to raise goosebumps as the two women merge spirits and Jill begins to suffer the same nosebleeds a patient might have experienced after a lobotomy. Things really begin to go haywire, though, after the panicked couple escape the hospital, just as Jill’s car is being towed to a city lot. As freaked out as they are, Jill and Adam are hornswoggled into giving the friends who come to their rescue a guided tour of the joint. Why? Just because. This time, of course, even crazier things happen inside the facility. Some of it even passes for being logical. Genre buffs may remember Rose as the creator of the well-regard 1992 hit “Candyman,” which was partially set in the Cabrini-Green housing projects. Since then, he’s collaborated with Danny Huston on several interesting arthouse dramas adapted from the works of Leo Tolstoy. Although Folley shows some promise as a sexy scream queen, even fans of found-footage pictures probably would find something substantial lacking in “sx_tape.” It includes a making-of featurette. – Gary Dretzka
Southern Comfort: Blu-ray
Director Walter Hill contends that “Southern Comfort” wasn’t intended to be a metaphor or allegory for the American debacle in Vietnam. In 1981, however, that conflict still weighed on the American psyche like a yoke made of lead and metaphors were easier to market than outright indictments of U.S. policy. If the war had never occurred, it would have been much easier to see “Southern Comfort” as a Cajon-flavored sequel to Hill’s 1979 cult hit, “The Warriors.” In both pictures, an authority figure is killed early on in the proceedings and his underlings are required to fend for themselves as they make their way home. In “The Warriors,” the gang framed in the death of the charismatic leader is challenged by dozens of other New York street units, one more outrageously drawn than next. In “Southern Comfort,” Peter Coyote plays the leader of a squad of National Guardsman on a training mission in Louisiana’s bayou country. After the knuckleheads in his unit steal the pirogues belonging to a group of Cajun hunters, one of them fires off a clip of blanks at the men. It would have been impossible for the hunters to know that the shots were harmless, so they respond in kind. This time, however, a bullet takes out Coyote, leaving the soldiers without an experienced guide, compass, map or mediator for petty disputes. In retaliation, they kidnap another Cajun hunter and destroy his cabin. Knowing the swamp like the back of their hands, the hunters have no trouble picking off the weekend warriors. Powers Booth and Keith Carradine play the only two soldiers who survive the massacre, only to be trapped in a backwater village during a fais-do-do and pig slaughter. Filmed on location in the Louisiana backcountry, during winter, the actors’ ordeal was as arduous as it might have been for actual guardsmen. “Southern Comfort” holds up very well as an action-adventure and, yes, metaphor for Vietnam. The interviews shot for the Blu-ray release are entertaining and informative, as well. – Gary Dretzka
How the West Was Won: Season 2
The Big Valley: Season 3
AMC: Hell on Wheels: Season 3
PBS: America’s Test Kitchen: Season 14
Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when elaborate family dramas challenged nomadic Western heroes, gunslingers and dedicated lawmen for the hearts and minds of television viewers. “Bonanza” had already demonstrated how a family’s worth of storylines could provide exponentially more variety and opportunities for action, melodrama, comedy and fan appeal. “Dallas” would pick up where such series as “The Big Valley” left off, less than a decade earlier, with oil barons overcoming the cattle barons of yore and adulterers replacing horse thieves as the scourges of the west. In several ways, the matriarchal character played by “Miss Barbara Stanwyck” was modeled after Ben Cartwright and a prototype for Miss Ellie in “Dallas.” As the first female lead in a TV Western, Stanwyck was only slightly less formidable a presence than she had been in such movies as “Double Indemnity” and “Stella Dallas.” After her husband’s death, Victoria Barkley assumed command of the sprawling Barkley Ranch in California’s Central Valley. It wasn’t a figurehead position and Victoria frequently dressed as if she were about to join her sons — Richard Long, Peter Breck, Lee Majors — and cowpokes branding cattle. Despite being noticeably more fashion conscious, her daughter, Audra (Linda Evans), didn’t mind getting her hands dirty, either. The series was set, if not filmed, near Stockton in late 1800s, so all mother and daughter had to do to find couture clothing was make the short haul to pre-earthquake San Francisco. (Fact is, though, Audra’s taste in hats and bonnets can only be described as laughable.) “The Big Valley” remained popular, even as ABC executives felt the urge to sell their souls for younger demographics. It remains a terrific entertainment.
“How the West Was Won” borrowed its title from MGM’s 1963 Cinerama blockbuster, which told an epic story of conflict and conquest through the experiences of four generations of the Prescott family, circa 1839-89. The Macahans’ plans to make the cross-country trek to Oregon were interrupted by the Civil War and, in the interim, the clan is homesteading half-way between Virginia and the West Coast. Season Two begins with simultaneous crises involving widespread hostility toward the Mormon migration, a bounty hunter hot on the heels of Luke (Bruce Boxleitner) and the slaughter of buffalo on Sioux land by Russian royalty. The show’s greatest selling point, of course, is James Arness’ portrayal of mountain man Zebulon “Zeb” Macahan, who serves as the conscience of the plains. Not all of the scenarios are supported by actual logistics or historical records – the Russians did embark on a hunting party in the Dakotas, but with the approval of the Sioux and cavalry – but such details have rarely confounded Hollywood screenwriters. Fionnula Flanagan also has been recruited to substitute as family matriarch for Eva Marie Saint, who was unceremoniously killed off between seasons. The series nicely captured the grandeur of the American West, as well as such unsavory traits as bigotry, racism, corruption and a lust for vigilante justice.
Mormons also take it on the chin in Season Three of “Hell on Wheels.” Set primarily on the eastern portion of the first transcontinental railroad, its hero is a former Confederate soldier, Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount) still haunted by his past. The story, so far, has followed the portable town of Hell on Wheels as it makes its way west to Promontory Point, Utah. The greatest enemy to progress has been Colm Meaney’s hideously evil financier, Thomas “Doc” Durant. As the season opens, Bohannon is snowbound and nearly frozen in the ruins of the village destroyed in an Indian raid, last season. Durant has been ousted from his position with the railroad and imprisoned for his role in an embezzlement scheme. Needless to say, they both find their natural footing in due time. This stanza, Bohannon is control of the railroad’s progress, while Durant conspires to return to his position of financial power. The producers have done a terrific job integrating a half-dozen parallel storylines over 10 episodes, while maintaining the heated pace of the railroad construction itself. Filmed in Alberta, “Hell on Wheels” looks as good as it plays.
Years before the Food Channel was added to the cable-TV universe, PBS was the only network that foodies could turn to for lessons in French cooking and how to pronounce terms associated with haute cuisine. PBS has since dialed up its own food lineup to include niche shows and value-added traditional cooking. “America’s Test Kitchen” It offers quality information to pros and amateurs, alike, with advice on cookware, trends, quality issues and the dissection of recipes. Season 14’s offerings range from “grown-up grilled-cheese sandwiches” and chicken parmesan to an “updated” versions of Julia Child’s stuffed turkey and Florentine lace cookies. – Gary Dretzka
World War I Centennial Commemorative Collection
PBS: The Wipers Times
Nova: D-Day’s Sunken Secrets
Day of Days: June 6 1944: American Soldiers Remember D-Day
This summer marks the centennial of the start of World War I and 60th anniversary of D-Day, two events that shaped our world at a time when it was threatening to come apart at its seams. The United States came late to the party that was WWI, so, too often, filmed representations are limited to airborne dogfights and trench warfare. Only a fool or documentarian with the gift of time on his side would attempt to make sense of the whys and wherefores of the fully global war, which ended with a treaty that lead directly to World War II. Even so, several of the movies that attempted to depict the horrors and heroism of WWI, without the benefit of sophisticated special effects, remain among the most compelling of all Hollywood pictures. Four of them are represented in Warner Bros.’ “World War I Centennial Commemorative Collection.” They are “The Big Parade,” “Wings,” “The Dawn Patrol” and “Sergeant York.” In 1927, King Vidor’s “The Big Parade” became the highest-grossing silent film of all time, as well as the first realistic war drama; also from 1927, “Wings” is the story of two men who have gone to war to become fighter pilot — one rich, and one poor — and are in love with the same woman; in 1938’s “The Dawn Patrol,” Errol Flynn and David Niven starred as roustabout French Corp fighter pilots, who come face-to-face with the harsh realities of war; and two-time Academy Award-winner “Sergeant York,” the story of a backwoods boy (Gary Cooper) who became one of WWI’s greatest heroes.
If any war would appear to be bereft of humor, it’s World War I. In WWII, at least, it was possible to poke fun at Hitler’s mustache, Mussolini’s ham-shaped chin and Hirohito’s circular glasses. All WWI had going for it was mud, trenches, mustard gas and officers who kept their distance from the front. The absurd command decisions made by absentee brass provided all the ammunition a group of British soldiers would need to create a satirical magazine, The Wipers Times, printed on a press left abandoned in a bombed-out building in Ypres, Belgium. The Brits pronounced the name of the hotly contested city in such a way that it rhymed with “wipers,” ostensibly providing the sanitized title of their publication. Of course, after it had been passed around the trenches, the paper also served a quite different purpose, also associated with the word “wipe.” And, yes, caricatures of officers and spoofs of their decisions filled the pages that served double-duty as toilet paper. Ben Chaplin is quite good as the amateur journalist who saw Wipers’ Times as a combination of Punch and the British Music Hall performances. Michael Palin keeps things light as a general who correctly saw the role of such gallows humor in war and refused to censure the editors when they were identified by twit subordinates. I don’t think that “The Wipers Times” was shown here, if only because the U.S. had yet to enter the war and television programmers are reluctant to test American viewers’ ability to grasp British humor. They needn’t have worried. The show translates well into our own peculiar notion of the English language.
With all due respect for the tens of thousands of Allied soldiers, sailors and airmen who sacrificed their lives on D-Day, it’s possible that decisions made by top brass leading up to the invasion resulted in more needless deaths than we’ll ever know. Although no one comes right out and says it during the course of these fine 50th-anniversary documentaries, there are indications mistakes were made solely based on overinflated egos, nationalistic pride and incomplete intelligence. Blessed with a half-century’s worth of scientific hind-sight, of course, it’s now possible to come to conclusions that may, for all we know, already be stashed away in the Pentagon archives and unpublished memoirs of people who were there. The sheer enormity of the mission and huge toll paid by American, British and Canadian personnel – along with the significance of the victory — has led to a largely unquestioned acceptance of the official D-Day line. While there’s no question it was a magnificent effort on everyone’s part, these docs provide WWII buffs with some ammunition, at least, to play Monday-morning quarterback.
“D-Day 360” uses data gathered though forensic laser scanning, 3D computer modeling, light detection and ranging technology (LiDAR) and eye-witness accounts to deconstruct the battle for Omaha Beach. Produced by Glenn Swift and directed by Ian Duncan for Windfall Films, “D-Day 360” locates all of the German positions – some buried in sand and vegetation – and demonstrates how miraculous it was that anyone survived the punishing cross-fire defense that left no inch of the beach unprotected and precisely targeted artillery fire from concrete bunkers that withstood the morning’s bombardment from above. The presentation begs the question as to how much stronger were the defenses at Calais, if the Allied leaders chose to attack Normandy, instead. What the show doesn’t do is describe what happened inside those bunkers that allowed the amphibious landing to succeed, against all true odds. We’ve been led to believe that these were elite troops dedicated to Nazi principles, when it’s possible that the soldiers manning the machine guns and cannons had replaced more-seasoned troops sent to the Eastern front. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. Someday, I’d like to see a documentary in which modern military experts give their unbiased impressions, one way or the other, on the preparations for D-Day.
In a similar vein, “D-Day’s Sunken Secrets” combines highly sophisticated technology with the accounts of veterans to reveal the extent of the carnage perpetrated even before the landing craft reached Omaha Beach. In launching the largest armada in history to invade the Normandy beaches, Allied brass may or may not have anticipated the threat to ships from submerged mines and other obstacles designed to puncture landing craft. In less than 24 hours, more than 5,000 ships crossed the English Channel, along with thousands of tanks and nearly 200,000 men. When some of those tanks sank, instead of “swimming” to the beach, as planned, their absence made the soldiers that much more vulnerable to machine-gun fire. Small surveillance subs responsible for clearing a path through enemy minefields performed as designed, but, given the need for secrecy, it would have been impossible to get rid of them completely without alerting the Germans. “Nova” producers were given exclusive access to a unique collaboration between military historians, archaeologists and specialist divers to carry out the most extensive survey ever done of the seabed bordering the beachheads. Dive teams, submersibles, underwater robots and ships equipped with top-end sonar scanners were able to create a map, locating the final resting place for our ships and identifying many of them by number. The heart-wrenching testimony of survivors is further intensified when some of them are invited to board a submersible and survey the damage at close range. It’s only fitting that British engineers are given the credit due them for creating vehicles that took out mines and barbed wire, while also advancing the assault. (General Eisenhower and his associates decided to go it alone, without the benefit of advanced British armor.) “D-Day’s Sunken Secret” is a fascinating account of a largely forgotten aspect of the invasion and reminder of the unseen graveyard at the bottom of the ocean.
“Day of Days: June 6, 1944” takes a more traditional approach to PBS’ commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Normandy. It brings together American D-Day veterans, who comment on their experiences for the benefit of an audience whose knowledge of the fateful event may be limited to what they’ve seen in movies. As is generally the case with WWII veterans, these men have lived with the painful memories submerged within them for most of the last 70 years. They recount their transformations from boys to men, reveal their uneasiness with the term “hero” and grapple with why they survived when so many others did not. – Gary Dretzka