I’ve joked before about how bad ALL THIS AND WORLD WAR II (1976) is. In fact, it’s one of the landmarks by which I judge other bad movies. Sometimes the director is credited as Tony Palmer (best known as the co-director of Frank Zappa’s 200 MOTELS), sometimes it’s credited to Susan Winslow (whose only other directing credit was a documentary about water almost two decades later). The fact they can’t pin down who is ultimately responsible should be clue number one.
The premise is simple–a telling of the entire World War II told through newsreel and old film footage, and put to the music of The Beatles. That’s where problem number one comes in–it’s a complex story to tell in less than an hour and a half. The result of trying to squeeze that much history in is that things get glossed over or even ignored. The concentration camps get virtually ignored, while we are treated to footage of women trying to peek under the kilts of Scottish soldiers. The minute or so dedicated to the Japanese Internment played over “Let It Be” is a vague afterthought. Hitler himself is portrayed as a bumbling fool, more a silly man than a psychopathic monster. His minute gets “Fool on a Hill”. The American soldiers swoop in and save the day, with as much ease as playing a basketball game.
This movie lasted two weeks in the theaters and, in its original form, never saw an official home video release. The soundtrack is a different story. Yes, the music was Beatles songs, but sung by none of the Beatles themselves. Elton John, The Bee Gees, Peter Gabriel, Helen Reddy, Tina Turner, Frankie Valli and a host of other popular (or previously popular) recording artists were used. The soundtrack album outsold the actual movie, and both the album and individual songs spent weeks on UK and US charts.
In 2016, Tony Palmer re-edited the movie, replaced about half the songs, and added modern political references, and re-released it as THE BEATLES AND WORLD WAR II under Gonzo Distribution with little to no fanfare. The biggest complaint seems to be getting rid of so many original songs (the best part of the original) while keeping the bad history treatment.
For your own morbid curiosity, here’s a YouTube link to the original:
Question of the night–what’s your favorite cover song?