What Took So Long?

How about this — honesty in showbiz! The press handout starts with: “Before you see the Tom Cruise Hollywood blockbuster [‘Valkyrie’]…” the History Channel advised us to view their “Valkyrie: The Plot To Kill Hitler.” So I did last night when the special made its first two-hour airing.

I wasn’t alone, 1.5 million other viewers also tuned in, putting the special 36% above the average of the web’s better offerings. And it will air again next month, closer to the Dec. 26 opening day of the Tom Cruise-UA starrer. The theatrical feature has long been in development-production, but the tv’er began the road to reality 12-18 months ago, said History’s senior vice-president of programming and development David McKillop. And he said no one at the History Channel has seen any of the Cruise-controlled feature’s footage. But of course the tv’er is now out in the open for the feature folk to see.

And open it is — maybe too open, early-on, delaying the meat of the show: the nail-biting final chapter recounting the attempted assassination of Adolph Hitler by officers led by Col. Claus von Stauffenberg (played by Cruise in the feature). Following the opening sequences showing the animal-like annihilation of Jews by Hitler and his soul-less fellow countrymen, it seems unreal that the attempted assassination took so long to come about. But their trial by fellow officers and countrymen points up the unending murderous hate of their countrymen. The plotters’ slow-hanging death only points out samples of the torture to which they subjected their death-camp millions. It leaves a never-to-be forgotten reminder.

The tv’er goes beyond the now-too-painfully familiar footage of mass murder and includes personal, warm stories of the principals involved in the attempted Hitler finale. Stauffenberg’s military career included service in the African campaign during which he suffered the loss of a hand and an eye — although later scenes in the doc do not illustrate him with the eye patch which has become such a visual attraction for the photos released of Cruise as the Colonel. Also making the piece totally personal are scenes of Stauffenberg, his murdered wife and four children. Can these sequences also be glimpses of Cruise in the feature? “Showing real-life family members of the subject is part of our [History Channel]’s technique,” McKillop said, emphasizing their many awards. The interviews make the courtroom sequences of 60 years ago real — and the deaths chilling.

Among those interviewed for the documentary is Chris McQuarrie, producer-screenwriter of the feature film. Thanks, History Channel, for the invitation — but I’ll also see Tom Cruise and “Valkyrie.” 

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  1. EWK says:

    Just to clarify one point: The July 20, 1944 assasaination attempt was only one of at least 19 other plots to kill Hitler. One of the plots initiated by the then-Chief of the Army General Staff, Ludwig Beck, occured prior to the start of World War II, so those claiming the German Army only opposed Hitler when it became evident that the war was lost are simply mistaken. And, incidentally, it wasn’t only the German Army opposed to Hitler. One ordinary German named Georg Elser planted a time bomb in a pillar behind the podium of the Burgerbrau Keller beer hall in Munich where Hitler was scheduled to speak on November 12, 1939 to commemorate the 1923 “Beer Hall Putsch”. Perhaps having some sixth sense about danger, Hitler left the hall after giving only a 12 minute speech instead of his usual one hour stem-winder. Only a few minutes after Hitler left, the bomb exploded, burying the spot where Hitler was standing in 10 feet of concrete rubble, and it would most certainly have killed Hitler. So maybe a good lesson here is don’t interchangably use the words “German” and “Nazi” because they were not the same. The sad truth is, simply, that a gang of criminals were able to get their hands on the reins of state of the most industrially- advanced and culturally-rich nation of Europe and everyone suffered — most of all the Jews and the ordinary German, Russian and Polish citizens.

  2. Allen McQuarrie says:

    As a child during World War II, I asked my father if we were going to win the war. “Yes,” he replied, as if it were a done deal. As it turned out the victory was no easy feat for America and our allies. History tells us how fortunate we were to have gotten a few big breaks along the way, including the assassination attempts against Hitler.
    And now, my son Chris and his friend Nathan Alexander under the able direction of Bryan Singer, Chris’ childhood friend, bring us this formidable story enacted by an extremely talented group of actors lead by Tom Cruise. It is a breathtaking and heroic tale of a brave enterprise worth seeing on the big screen by all generations.

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