Friday A/V Club: The Story of Hitler's England

Something to watch with The Man in the High Castle


The Grasshopper Lies Heavy

Today Amazon released another eight episodes of The Man in the High Castle, a TV-ish series loosely adapted from Philip K. Dick's excellent novel about a world where the Allies lost World War II. That's as good a peg as any to recommend one of my favorite what-if-the-Axis-won alternate-history tales: Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo's 1965 film It Happened Here.

Strictly speaking, this isn't a story about a timeline where the Germans won World War II. It's a story about a timeline where the Germans conquered Britain during World War II. The war is still ongoing, and without offering any spoilers I'll just say that for most of the movie it's an open question which side will win. At any rate, the picture isn't really about the global conflict. It's about life under occupation, and the ease with which people in such a situation can become collaborators. Put another way: This isn't a film about war so much as it's a film about fascism.

The full movie doesn't seem to be online, but here's an excerpt: a newsreel that shows the occupation from the Nazi propagandists' point of view. There are a lot of wry touches here—in this vision of history, the Christmas truce during World War I planted the seeds of German-British unity, the air raids that decimated London were "the fruits of Jewish control," and any resistance to the new order can be dismissed as communist:

Bonus link: If Dick's novel is my favorite World War II alt-history story and this movie is my second favorite, I suppose the number-three slot goes to Brad Linaweaver's book Moon of Ice. In Linaweaver's libertarian spin on the story, Europe goes totalitarian while the U.S. becomes virtually stateless. Check it out here.

(For past editions of the Friday A/V Club, go here.)

NEXT: Reason Weekly Contest: Name a Genetically Modified Fish

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  1. It’s a good thing we’ll never have to learn what happens when Britain is taken over by militant, power-hungry anti-Semites who believe it’s their destiny to rule over the world and exterminate those that don’t fit into their ideal world.

    1. You misspelled European Union.

      1. Nope.

        I don’t know whether the UK, Sweden, or Germany will be the first domino to fall, but absent some massive and unforeseeable liberalization of Muslims, as well as both the European/British right and left (the latter will work to promote jihad instead of liberalization, because its only real consistent principle is hatred for the West), we will have world war 3 on our hands within a generation, and without the beneficial clarification of states and borders and uniforms.

        1. Oh for fuck’s sake, I came to this thread because it doesn’t relate to the great Musselman peril. Can you please shut the fuck up about it? There are plenty of threads on that subject elsewhere.

          1. No, sah, I shall not. Muslim fundamentalism is currently the chief threat to Western liberty, both in and of itself, in the way it strengthens the arguments of Euro fascists and police staters, and in its pernicious relationship with social justice warriors and other nihilists and quislings. Feel free to ignore it, but it’s a more important subject than the brawl between Uber and cabbies or pot legalization, and it is a very time sensitive problem.

            1. At any rate, it isn’t exactly difficult to see the relationship between ISIS and Nazi ideology, nor the threat of the increasing political power of people with similar views, which is separate from the danger of random acts of political violence and could lead to the deaths of millions, rather than hundreds. So you have no good reason to assume it wouldn’t come up.

            2. It’s also fucking boring. Everyone already knows what everyone thinks about it.

              1. jesus Zeb I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this hardline about anything.

                1. Maybe I’m having a bad week.

                  I just wanted some light lunchtime conversation about something not too related to current events. Is that too much to ask?

        2. Crap, that Nope was supposed to be a link.

  2. You know… who… uh, who else…

    1. Haarald Hadrada?

    2. William the Bastard?

  3. This seems like anti-America propaganda to me. A world where the Yanks can’t pull the Limeys’ fat out of the fire? Get out of here.

  4. loosely adapted from Philip K. Dick’s excellent novel

    Hmm…excellent seems somewhat overblown here. The novel goes nowhere, and has little point. Like most of Dick’s stuff, his core ideas are great but the execution is rambling, unfocused, and lost.

    The show is pretty good, though. And Alexa Davalos is gorgeous.

    1. Like most of Dick’s stuff, his core ideas are great but the execution is rambling, unfocused, and lost.

      Like Ayn Rand?

      1. He said the execution is “rambling, unfocused, and lost,” not “used to bludgeon strawmen to death at tedious length.”

        1. Our current government keeps making them less strawful.

          1. It’s not their fault someone stuck the Congressional Library’s copy of Atlas Shrugged in with the instruction manuals.

    2. All I know about Phil Dick is that Total Recall is based on something he wrote, so he can’t be all bad. “See you at the party, Richter!”

      On the other hand, I never managed to appreciate Blade Runner.

      1. That’s because Blade Runner is one of Ridley Scott’s overblown fiascos.

        1. Uh-oh, are we preparing to talk about how bad Prometheus is? Because I know some people here really hate that one, while I found it ……. decent.

          1. I think Prometheus is a great movie about the disastrous effects of sending morons on a deep space mission. But I doubt that was the movie Scott thought he was making.

            1. Hey, reserve a healthy portion of the blame for Damon Lindelof, dude.

          2. My favorite Ridley Scott movies are Kingdom of Heaven and Matchstick Men, so I really have no room to judge.

            1. Not White Squall? Oh Hugh.

              1. Thelma and Louise is also pretty solid.

            2. Only saw Matchstick Men once, many years ago, but I remember it having some great Nicolas Cage moments.

              Never saw Kingdom of Heaven, but can’t imagine I’d like it anywhere near as much as Gladiator.

              1. You wouldn’t. It’s hard to see the beauty past Orlando Bloom and Eva Green’s performances.

            3. Matchstick Men was an excellent movie. Kingdom of Heaven wasn’t bad, but it was a little plodding and predictable.

      2. One of the reasons that movies made from Dick novels have to deviate so much is the aforementioned execution. I mean, to even just have more than a one or two episode show for Man in the High Castle, they’re going to have to make tons of shit up out of whole cloth, because there just isn’t much to the novel.

      3. The problem with reading PKD after watching PKD movies is that outside of one or two production, no one real tries to adapt Dick to the screen. They take his idea, turn it inside-out a few times, and then make a movie that only has to pay Dick’s estate in order to not be sued.

      4. Honestly though, Total Recall is the only PKD-based movie that is enduringly good. And that probably has more to do with Paul Verhoeven taking what he liked and ignoring the rest. We’ll see with TMITHK.

    3. I watched it and for the most part am enjoying it, but I can’t get over one nagging problem.

      Why the hell would they be taking all the newsreel footage BACK to its point of origin when the entire point of it is to create dissent by leaking into the population at large. Its going the wrong way!

      1. I watched the first episode of the Spielberg High Hill thing and it just moved too slow for my taste. The effects left a lot to be desired too. It looked like a computer loaded with After Effects was handed to a somewhat bright first year film student, rather than an actual professional.

        1. Sorry, High Castle rather than Hill.

  5. “The war is still ongoing, and without offering any spoilers I’ll just say that for most of the movie it’s an open question which side will win. At any rate, the picture isn’t really about the global conflict. It’s about life under occupation, and the ease with which people in such a situation can become collaborators.”

    I liked that movie better when it was called Red Dawn.

    (the original, of course, not the remake)

    1. It Happened Here and Red Dawn are…rather different.

      1. I was just talking out of my you-know-what.

        They should do a movie about the Dutch occupation of England:

        “Not all of the habits that the Dutch brought to Britain were beneficial. Their national drink, gin, very quickly outstripped beer.

        “Within half a century, half of the 15,000 watering holes in Georgian London were dens dispensing cheap and lethally strong “mother’s ruin”. The social consequences were catastrophic.

        “It is a curious footnote in the Dutch conquest of Britain 320 years ago – an invasion that, according to our history, never really happened – that one of its unintended imports was the curse of binge-drinking.”

        1. At one time, half of Hollywood’s historical dramas* were about the Norman occupation of Saxon England, including 100% of the Robin Hood movies.*

          *source: a warm, dark place

  6. I think I’ll skip The Man in the High Castle, and start Jessica Jones (with Jane from Breaking Bad) on Netflix instead.

    1. Why not watch both? I know I will be. Krysten Ritter in one, and Alexa Davalos in the other? Fuck. Yes.

      1. Epi has many girlfriends who have no idea he even exists.

        1. They know! In my fevered imagination, they know!

      2. Because I’m already busy enough with the shows I’m currently watching – The Walking Dead, Leftovers, Gotham (yes, I like Gotham). And I still haven’t started Narcos.

        Honestly it might have been better for me if Jessica Jones premiered a month or so from now, when TWD goes on break and Leftovers is done. But I’ll probably start it soon anyway, hoping it’s even close to as good as Daredevil.

        1. Well, you can just watch Jessica Jones in a month, dude, it’ll be waiting for you. But yeah, I’m really hoping for more on the level of Daredevil.

          MitHC has been really good so far. Really high production values, moderately sophisticated writing, good acting. I’m interested in seeing where it goes, because it can actually go anywhere.

  7. I’d like to see someone make an adaptation of Bring The Jubilee.

    Bring the Jubilee by Ward Moore is a 1953 novel of alternate history, with elements of steampunk[citation needed] (a word not coined until the 1980s). The point of divergence occurs in July 1863 when the Confederate States of America wins the Battle of Gettysburg and subsequently declares victory in the “War of Southern Independence” on July 4, 1864, after the surrender of the United States of America. The novel takes place in the impoverished rump United States in the mid-20th century as war looms between the Confederacy and its rival, the German Union. History takes an unexpected turn when the protagonist Hodge Backmaker, a historian, decides to travel back in time to witness the moment when the South won the war.[1]

    1. That’s a very good book, though I don’t really buy the alternate timeline as a plausible history. (Then again, there are elements of Dick’s timeline that don’t make a ton of sense either.)

      1. I’ve read a few things that have talked about the general implausibility of the “Hitler Wins” genre. Short of giving him the Bomb (or some more exotic technology), few historians can make a case for the Third Reich even managing to retreat to Germany’s original borders and continuing to exist, much less worldwide conquest.

        1. I want to see an alt-history of what would happen if Hitler had got his hands on the Ark of the Covenant and/or the Holy Grail.

        2. Japan doesnt bomb Pearl Harbor and US remains out of war could lead to Germany surviving.

          1. That’s one of the paths. Although the “Hitler Wins” is usually about Nazi world domination. I’m trying to find the article I read, but either I can’t remember enough about it or it’s not online.

          2. Probably not.

            Any of the big three would have ultimately won the war, at least after October 1940.

            1. The Russians would have been wiped out had it not been for American equipment, and still would have lost to the US and British in the end.

          3. Also, Hitler doesn’t get greedy and launch Barbarossa, while at the same time someone in the German High Command says, “Hey, are we sure this Enigma thing doesn’t need to be changed up a bit more frequently, like evar!?”

      2. Next you are going to call Turtledove’s The Guns of the South implausible.

        1. South African peckerwood terrorist groups have just as much a chance of developing a working time machine as anyone else!

          1. They stole it.

        2. Turtledove’s Worldwar series is a very good alt-WWII tale.

  8. Germans conquered Britain during World War II.

    You know, I didn’t realize that in this series the war was ongoing. Couldn’t they have made this series more true to life by calling it The Man in the Eiffel Tower?

  9. Roll it over the top dude.

  10. Thanks for bringing “It Happened Here” to my awareness. Watching it now. Interesting opening (after seemingly endless credits) on how those pesky Americans are meddling in the affairs of Germany after their liberation of the British Isles 🙂

    1. The film credits do not mention Dick at all. They credit that it was adapted from a Kevin Brownlow story.

      1. The film credits do not mention Dick at all. They credit that it was adapted from a Kevin Brownlow story.

        The movie was first conceived in the ’50s, long before Dick’s book came out.

        1. Ah, misread your paragraph about your favorites.

    2. Interesting shot at 22:59, three Asians in German uniforms sort of echoes back to the six Koreans captured (and liberated) from the Atlantic Wall defenses on D-Day.

    3. At 44:00 odd that cigarette smoking was allowed in movie theaters, with Hitler’s anti-smoking edicts.

    4. 55:00 very interesting discussion about “waste tissue” that needs to be gotten rid of.

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