Mansfield Fox

Law student. Yankees fan. Massive fraggle. Just living the American dream.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Good Bad Movie Premises, Part III

I'm actually not sure this would be a bad movie. It's also a trilogy. The general idea is for an alternate-history epic that spins a counterfactual success in Operation: Market Garden produces Allied victory, and then Allied catastrophe. (The original nucleus of this idea can be found here.)
The Great Crusade: Victory
The movie follows groups of soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division and the British XXX Corps through the last year of the war. It opens with the Anglo-American victory at Arnhem in the Netherlands. With Allied forces on the German side of the Rhine, Eisenhower accedes to his subordinate Montgomery: the British Field Marshal will form a massive force to push across the North German Plain in a drive to Berlin and the Nazi leadership. The army moves into Germany facing little resistance until counterattacked by a massive German army at Minden on the Weser River. The Allies face almost certain defeat until saved by the last-minute arrival of Patton's 3rd Army. The Allies push on into Berlin, which they take at enormous cost, in late autumn 1944. The movie ends with the German High Command's surrender, and scenes of rejoicing in the streets of American cities as FDR declares "Victory in Europe".

The Great Crusade: Rising
The movie opens in February 1945 with the American protagonists from Victory in the PX of their camp in Kassel. They're now part of an occupation force, working to rebuild a shattered Germany, but they fear they'll soon be redeployed to the Pacific to fight on the Empire of Japan. A scrambled signal comes on the radio: it's former SS Obergruppenfuhrer Ernst Kalternbrunner, proclaiming "armed resistance against the Anglo-Saxon powers" as "the sacred duty of all true Germans". The men dismiss this as nothing more than bravado, until the next day the American HQ in Heidelberg is wiped out in a car-bomb attack.* We watch the SS insurgency grow, hundreds of thousands strong. There are daily bombings and shootings. Eisenhower is assassinated. Much of Bavaria becomes a "no-go" zone for Allied soldiers. Desperate for manpower, the United States stalls its efforts in the Pacific to redeploy tens of thousands of Marines are redeployed to Europe. As the situation grows more dire, new American president Truman comes under fire from domestic critics, lead by Charles Lindbergh and John Dos Passos, blast the Administration for its apparent lack of a plan "to win the peace in Europe". In mid-August, as the president contemplates an attack on the insurgent-held city of Nuremburg, ominous news arrives: a squadron of B-29s has been shot down over Japan, apparently by experimental Japanese jet-fighters flying more than 200 kph faster than their fastest American counterparts. The Allies have no defense against such superweapons; the plan to bomb Japan into submission from the air must be called off. The film climaxes with the American assault on Nuremburg, which retakes the city but fails to capture Kaltenbrunner or most of the insurgents, who melt into the civilian population. It ends on a still darker note: the launch of a fleet of Japanese intercontinental bombers, headed for the West Coast, armed with the biological weapons developed by the secretive Unit 731: bubonic plague, anthrax, cholera, typhoid.

The Great Crusade: Operation Arrow
The film opens in a civil defense facility outside of San Francisco. Japanese bombers are spotted on the radar; scrambled fighters are unable to down any. Curiously, no damage is reported in the city; the Japanese mission appears to have failed. In Germany, an officer with the 394th Regiment Intelligence and Reconnaissance platoon (introduced as a minor character in Rising) begins to suspect that the SS insurgency is being aided by communist infiltrators from Soviet-occupied Slovakia and Poland. He attempts to warn his superiors of the plan he believes he's discovered - a Soviet scheme to assassinate a visiting Churchill - but is blocked. The Western powers must maintain good relations with the Soviets, who are fighting in Korea to establish a launching point for Operation: Arrow, the combined English-Russian-American amphibious invasion of Japan. Shortly before our heroes board the Trans-Siberian Railroad, bound for Vladivostok and the Japanese front, they learn the horrible news: massive outbreaks of plague and anthrax on the West Coast, millions dead and dying, with the Japanese claiming responsibility. The movie's final hour covers Operation: Arrow itself, a massive and bloody effort five times larger than D-Day, in which all the major characters from the trilogy are killed.
This is just a rough plot sketch; there'd obviously have to be a lot of fleshing out of the characters and their relationships, or the picture would just be a massive self-important spectacle. But that ain't my gig: I'm just the idea man.

Anyway, I think these movies could be pretty good. They could deal with classic themes (heroism, self-sacrifice), while also speaking to concerns specific to our time: the problems involved in defeating an insurgency, the fear of weapons of mass destruction, the trials of war seemingly without end.

*Yes, I know this is an anachronism. It's my alternate history, dadgumit!