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The World War II Combat Film: Anatomy of a Genre Paperback – May 15, 2003
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From Library Journal
In singling out World War II combat films from war films in general, Basinger argues that these films about heroes who lead mixed ethnic groups toward combat objectives constitute a separate genre with clear origins and a discernable evolution. From beginnings in such films as Wake Island and Bataan, which established their conventions, Basinger identifies four additional stages through which the films moved as their generic conventions were inflected in response to Korea, the Cold War, and Vietnam. While Basinger's detailed analyses of individual films gives her argument great specificity, she dodges tougher questions about the forces behind generic change. Primarily for specialists. Marshall Deutelbaum, English Dept., Purdue Univ., W. Lafayette, Ind.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
She develops a typology of combat films. (1) The early years of World War II defined the combat genre. Lots of preaching and explaining why we were fighting the war. The enemy were "bandy legged monkeys" and so on. (2) The genre is solidified, so to speak, in the middle years of the war. The conventions are now taken for granted. There will be a diverse group of varied ethnicities -- a Jew from Brooklyn, a farmer from North Dakota, a stern but fair leader, etc. No one asks why the war is being fought. (3) A more realistic refining of the genre, such as "The Story of G.I. Joe." A lot of mud, some complaints about the service and the way it's run, and the men fear for their lives.
The prose style is deliciously free of theoretical tar babies. She doesn't carry on about European intellectual fads. It's all as plain and American as apple pie, so it's easy to understand. I can't quite get over how she's packed so much information -- and all of it engaging -- into a book covering such a vast collection of pieces drawn from vernacular culture.
Basinger takes the WWII combat film to see how genres work. She did this because, obviously, there were none made before December 7th 1941, so there are no "lost films" in this genre. Thus she sees how genre elements come together gradually (the prototype phase), snap into place as a perfect model (the archetype), are used by skillful directors for powerful films that transcend the norm (masterpiece) and then lose their effectiveness and are inverted or combined with other genres to try to attract an audience (decadence.)
She looks at combat films from the 1940s to the 1980s, so she doesn't talk about all films made in Hollywood in 1941-5. If a film doesn't have a lot of combat, she ignores it. However, she does discuss many films and besides showing how genres develop, she shows how the combat film changed. The focus on a platoon of average Joes (Guadacanal Diary) eventually gives way to a focus on an elite force (Where Eagles Dare, for instance).
A very informative and thought producing book, perhaps the best by Basinger.