Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tuesday's Forgotten TV-Movie: World War II: When Lions Roared

This week's Tuesday's Forgotten TV-Movie is one that I'm surprised is forgotten, as it was pretty notable at the time. It's the 1994 NBC TV-movie World War II: When Lions Roared.

The movie stars John Lithgow as Franklin Roosevelt, Bob Hoskins as Winston Churchill, and Michael Caine as Joseph Stalin, and focuses on their tenuous relationship during the span of the war. The film is notable for several reasons:

1) It was the first program filmed in (analog) high definition to air on an American network (in this case, NBC). Of course, American TV was still presented in standard definition at the time, so I guess no one noticed.

2) There are only five speaking roles in the entire film: the three mentioned above, plus Roosevelt's foreign policy guru and most trusted advisor, Harry Hopkins (Ed Begley, Jr.) and Stalin's right-hand man Vyacheslav Molotov (Jan Triska).

3) A great deal of the dialogue is taken directly from recorded sources, such as official communiques between the parties and first hand accounts of the events.

4) The film used an interesting technique in which the characters would sit in their offices and verbally state written communication, while the other would appear on a split screen and dictate their reply on the spot, actually looking in the other character's direction as if they were in the same room. The clip below demonstrates more clearly what happens during these scenes.

I highly enjoyed this film when it first aired, but I've never seen it rerun since, and to my knowledge, it's currently out of print in any home video format.

Here is a sample clip below. Thanks!

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