It was somewhat unusual, although not at all surprising in the end, to see a grim-faced member of the British Parliament stand up in the House and denounce an American film.
Britain, he declared in a tone of sombre anger, had been stabbed in the back.
The memories of hundreds, no, thousands of good men had been besmirched by some quite awful Yank film studio which decided (again) that Uncle Sam alone had won World War 2. Accompanied by a low rumble of voices chorusing 'hear hear', he went so far as to demand that the film be withdrawn from British cinemas, and I could not have agreed more.
The MP was demanding that a certain American submarine, manned by a group of characterless character actors and former pop stars, be depth-charged by HMS Common Sense and sunk to the bottom of the Atlantic forever. The criminal dollop of celluloid lies and deception he was talking about was the film U571 which had just opened in British cinemas.
The film (it would be pushing the boundaries of credibility to call it a story) is all about how the daring crew of an American sub come across a German U-boat which just happens to have an "enigma" code machine aboard.
"Holy Cheeseburgers and fries, dudes, this means we can crack Fritzs secret codes and win the ball game. We're gunna save the world again, dammit."
Piffle. Rot. Lies. Conceit. Arrogance. Fantasy. Treachery. Have I left anything out? Oh yeah, b******s.
Let's cut to the chase here. The Americans did not board a German submarine and seize an example of the enigma coding machine, thereby breaking crucial German codes to shorten the war by months and months. The British got the thing. It's another example of how American filmmakers abandon the history books to build a gung-ho film which will make their like-minded populace happy and make lots of money.
There's no stopping them, of course. Once Gregory Peck caught sight of the Guns of Navarone on that high cliff1 there was no stopping him. Mind you, at least he took a few Brits along with him.The Green Berets - now there was a classic example of:
'Leave it to us, we'll do the job'.
Some people may whine and ask;
'But it's only a film, what harm can it do?'
Considerable, actually. Because the sad fact is we live in an era where not enough books get read; where not enough history is taught or encouraged to he pursued; where films and anything else on a screen for that matter are deemed 'the way it is'.
Unremarkable people who take offence at what their characters got up to on the telly screen last week accost stars of soapies in the street. A recent documentary about Gilligan's Island told of the studio receiving hundreds (yes hundreds) of letters every week from people all over America who demanded 'those poor people' be rescued. They were serious, and they were the generation who helped spawn the current crop of intellectually vacant screenwatchers who believe almost all they see.
They are the residents of Doltland, where the people turn to Rikki Lake or Sally Jessy Raphael for advice, and where a comedy show is only a comedy if it has a laughter track, otherwise they wouldn't know when to join in.
And they go through life believing, and passing on, the falsehoods learnt through television and the big screen, and they all feel even more dangerously invincible because, in their eyes, their country did it all. So I'm taking one back from the American filmmakers with a script called Tally Ho and Bombs Away Chaps.
Here's the scenario, playmates, and it should go down big time in Tinseltown.
The familiar silhouette and drone of an RAF Avro Lancaster bomber fills the screen. At the controls are Squadron Leader "Nobby" Kneesup-Motherbrown and co-pilot "Biffo" Boofington.
'Target in sight sir,"
the co-pilot declares.
the pilot responds.
"King and country and all that. Today is the beginning of the end. Today we begin the aerial assault on the Japanese mainland."
The RAF, once again, is about to bring a halt to the misery of war. Meanwhile, on Iwo Jima, a group of weary but victorious khaki-clad soldiers from the King's own regiment raise the Union Jack - a scene caught on film for eternity by a young British drummer boy who bravely carried a box brownie into battle.
Thank God for the Tommies. There you go, Mr Hollywood - see if you can sell that baby.