Five Came Back (2017)
We all know that war is hell. So how do you get your country to support the war effort when it becomes a necessary evil? You make documentary films.
This Netflix limited series is a brilliant demonstration on how to motivate the masses without lying to them. Frank Capra, in particular, after watching the 1934 Nazi film “Triumph of the Will”, felt totally defeated: he was supposed to make a series of documentary films called “Why We Fight” and he could see that the Germans were much better at everything, including propaganda. Then he got the bright idea of using their films to show Americans what they were up against. As he said in this series, he saw Hitler as a Charlie Chaplin character, Mussolini as a buffoon, and Hirohito as a 19th century warlord. He saw how utterly ridiculous they were. He thought the American people would agree.
But Hollywood had already got the joke years earlier:
Charlie Chaplin made a silent film called “The Great Dictator” in 1940.
And the Three Stooges lampooned Hitler and his crew in 1941’s “I’ll Never Heil Again”.
But, of course, war is no laughing matter. But it is food for thought, is it not?