Posing as an actual WWII U.S. Army training film, "Military Intelligence and You!" is a black-and-white pastiche of actual exercises from the era (featuring some first-rank talent) and spoofy new sequences. Pic uses the retro propaganda guise to poke fun at the current administration's dubious intelligence in justifying the invasion of Iraq and so forth. That not-so-subtle subtext grows hamfisted at times, and the level of humor is often more snarky-silly than satirically deft.
Posing as an actual WWII U.S. Army training film, “Military Intelligence and You!” is a black-and-white pastiche of actual exercises from the era (featuring some first-rank talent) and spoofy new sequences. Pic uses the retro propaganda guise to poke fun at the current administration’s dubious intelligence in justifying the invasion of Iraq and so forth. That not-so-subtle subtext grows hamfisted at times, and the level of humor is often more snarky-silly than satirically deft. Still, package is an amusing novelty that should pick up some fans in current limited-theatrical and eventual DVD release.
Stepping behind the camera after working as a screenwriter on TV skeins “Strange Frequency” and “Without a Trace,” first-time director Dale Kutzera makes generous use of the many propaganda shorts Hollywood produced for the government during the war years. Among those starring in a movie long after their deaths are such major names as William Holden, Alan Ladd, Elisha Cook Jr. and (just briefly seen) Ronald Reagan.
Most heavily used original pic is 1944’s “Resisting Enemy Interrogation,” a cautionary feature with lesser-remembered thesps playing downed U.S. airmen and their Nazi captors. That pic was actually Oscar-nominated for documentary — a bit oddly, since the excerpts utilized here are all patently, even glossily staged.
These (now public-domain) clips are cleverly threaded together with new scenes at top-secret U.S. military HQ. Gen. Tasker (John Rixley Moore) is at wit’s end trying to track down a Nazi fighter base and stop the downing of Allied planes so that we may “safely rain down our bombs of liberty … spreading the Christian love of our secular democracy.”
Also rattling brains for an answer are mustachioed Maj. Mitch Dunning (Mackenzie Astin) and comely Lt. Monica Tasty (Elizabeth Bennett), who are an off-duty item. But that status comes under stealth attack with the arrival of brash Maj. Nick Reed (Patrick Muldoon), who not only has audacious — or maybe just reckless — ideas on how to thwart the Nazis, but also stirs still-smoldering embers in Lt. Tasty, with whom he had (natch) a torrid affair not long ago.
Shot on a single, sparsely dressed soundstage, these sequences more closely resemble late ’50s/early ’60s films (such has “Dr. Strangelove”) than ’40s screen imagery. But the weaving together of old and new footage still works as a diverting conceit.
More variable are the dialogue and voiceover narration Kutzera has penned. Ribbing of the present White House’s policies abroad sometimes just belabors the obvious, particularly in a climactic mock-patriotic speech for Maj. Reed. Latter bit also misfires because Muldoon is the one thesp here who seems out of synch with the parodic period style, missing a golden opportunity to send up another era’s square-jawed machismo.
Otherwise, perfs are appropriately deadpan exaggerations of retro archetypes. Tech and design aspects (including liberal use of Wagner for the Nazi scenes, of course) are polished.