Wednesday, 1 May 2013

No.94 : The Bunker

The Bunker at IMDb
No, it’s not a sequel to ‘Happy Gilmour’, the Bunker in question is that of Hitler in this American TV movie from 1981. It was in fact a mini series with the version I saw chopped down to a meagre two and a half hours. At least its bound to have a surprise ending? What?

The film opens two months after Hitler’s demise with an American officer arriving at the bunker for a nosey. He provides a bit of narration before we dissolve into flashback as the bunker is being prepared for the fuhrer’s arrival. The sets aren’t that impressive but the cast is, with familiar faces raiding the dressing up box all over the place. We meet Martin Jarvis’ cockney mechanic as well as Drax off ‘Moonraker’ as Martin Bormann. Julian Fellowes of ‘Downton Abbey’ fame shows up as an officer and the pivotal role of Albert Speer is taken by Richard Jordan who was the baddie sandman in ‘Logan’s Run’.

The main role of Hitler is taken by Anthony Hopkins who for some reason plays the megalomaniac as a Welshman - they won’t like that in the valleys! The plot is basically that of the superior ‘Downfall’ with the frail Hitler battling his officers and sanity as he tries to salvage the war. He orders a scorched earth policy but Speer is keen to distract the head Hun to save the German nation. Meanwhile, Hitler’s dog has puppies.

The film is seen from the viewpoint of several characters such as Speer who is trying to bump off the horrible Herr at any cost and the kitchen staff, including Pat Butcher, who are having trouble keeping the dinners coming. Elsewhere Henry Davenport off ‘Drop the Dead Donkey and Mr Bronson off ‘Grange Hill’ boost their Cvs with small but well accented parts.

To lift the claustrophobic air we also get some scenes in flashback such as Hitler walking his dog and his birthday party - maybe the full version has him getting his hair cut too; they seem very through. As the war gets worse - seen only by more rumbles from outside - the officers gather to convince Hitler to seek peace in scene familiar to anyone who has seen ‘Hitler’s X-box stops working’ on YouTube

The plot doesn‘t need much more analysis as it‘s a well worn tale with a surprise free conclusion. The scale of the production is impressive although the uniforms look a bit too crisp for it to be believable as a last stand. There is no attempt at speaking German or even consistent accents but it is well staged with a good cast doing their best with familiar material.

The production won an Emmy and it was a clear template for ‘Downfall’ with many of the scenes such as the medals presentation complete and intact. It is however too long and fails to match the later film’s sense of authenticity. There is no grime, or sense of desperation present, merely Hitler’s shaky hand as his officers head off to their next acting gig.

Hopkins is OK in the lead but he’s let down by a moustache that’s too big and a script that has him shout too much and act irrationally too often. Of course we are dealing with a maniac here but his outbursts didn’t convince and his hands and accent were equally shaky and equally unconvincing.

Overall this was a decent stab at familiar material but it lacked authenticity or any sense of drama. I preferred ’Downfall’ for it’s use of German, its crumbling and dirty sets and it’s far creepier Goebbels.

THE Tag Line - Take a Sandwich to The Bunker (sand wedge - geddit?)

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