As nationalism and Neo-Nazi sentiments rise in the United States, it’s crucial that we look back on history. We need to remember the horrific, darkest days—when the world went black and, to quote the great Rod Serling, “some men decided to turn the Earth into a graveyard.” Forgetting is our downfall, and our ignorance; when we lose sight of the past, we are doomed to repeat it. Looking at history—and by extension, justice—through the lens of cinema helps us to remember the importance of standing up and fighting against fascism, and extinguishing cruel, intolerant, and harmful voices before they can become anything bigger. And, of course—who doesn’t love seeing a Nazi get their ass handed to them?
This May through June, the Somerville Theatre will emphasize and promote the importance of anti-fascism with their latest (and aptly titled) program, F*** THE NAZIS! Curated by creative director Ian Judge, this program will feature classic and modern films depicting the fight against National Socialism, from black-and-white epics to black comedies—including the slaughtering of Nazi zombies in the snow with a chainsaw and a hammer and sickle. The series will end with the premiere of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, which will hit screens on June 30.
“This series came together because of a few different things: The fact that in the new Indiana Jones movie, which we are opening after this series, Indy is still fighting the Nazis – even though the new one takes place mostly in 1969,” reads the statement from Somerville Theatre. “Then one night, flipping channels, I caught The Blues Brothers on TCM for the umpteenth time – and that scene with the Illinois Nazis being chased off the bridge – it is just so viscerally pleasing to watch. Nazis are perhaps the ultimate bad guys in movies and have been for almost as long as their flaccid little ethos has been around.”
The theater also addresses the encroaching presence of radical hate groups, such as the far-right neo-fascist Proud Boys, in Boston.
“You look at the news and see all these doofus neo-Nazis popping up now around the country, even in Boston, and you realize there’s still a bunch of brain-dead human turds who believe in that crap,” the statement continues. “It’s more prominent now than it has been in generations, and there is a scary corresponding rise in antisemitism following it. The shorthand in movies is that if you see a Nazi on screen, he’s the bad guy, but now you’ve got a growing pool of young idiots who would look at that Nazi and not think that way. So it’s time to remind everyone that there are few things more entertaining than watching a Nazi bastard get their just desserts on screen. These movies range from serious classic dramas to comedies to the utterly ridiculous, from the romance of Casablanca to the zombies of Dead Snow. And yeah, Jake and Elwood are there too, pushing those Illinois Nazis right off that bridge. Because F**K THE NAZIS!”
The Somerville Theatre’s statement couldn’t be more accurate. First, the cinema will first screen Casablanca, starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. The classic, known to be “passionately anti-Nazi,” was a hit with audiences back in the golden age of Hollywood, and remains a beloved flick to this day. Set in the capital city of Morocco, it details the story of nightclub owner and ex-pat Rick Blaine (Bogart), who bumps into his former lover, Ilsa Lund (Bergman). Lund, who is now married to a rebel and anti-Nazi activist, goes to Blaine in hopes that he can safely get them out of the Nazi-occupied country. Casablanca is a cinematic masterpiece and a must-see.
The Guns of Navarone will follow the screening of Casablanca. J. Lee Thompson’s enthralling war-adventure film features the great Gregory Peck. The film, set in 1943, follows a small commando team that’s sent to rescue Allied troops and eliminate German forces on the island of Navarone, Greece.
The Somerville will then screen Judgement at Nuremberg, featuring such Hollywood icons as Spencer Tracy, Montgomery Clift, Burt Lancaster, Judy Garland, and Marlene Dietrich. Dietrich, a German-born actress, who notably was of passionate political convictions and disgusted with Nazism, left Germany and renounced her citizenship when Hitler took power. She was a huge support to Allied troops, “known for her humanitarian efforts during World War II, housing German and French exiles, providing financial support and even advocating their American citizenship. For her work on improving morale on the front lines during the war, she received several honors from the United States and France.”
Judgment at Nuremberg focuses on four Nazi Germany-era judges who face a tribunal to be tried on charges of crimes against humanity. The black-and-white epic, which stands three hours and ten minutes long, is directed by Stanley Kramer and is considered one of the greatest films ever made; additionally, it was determined by the National Film Archive as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. The film’s emotive theme of justice—as well as its significant discussion of the Holocaust—is highly commendable, especially for the time in which it was shot.
Judgment will be paired with The Train, the 1964 war film directed by John Frankenheimer. The Train, starring Burt Lancaster, follows French resistance fighter and railway inspector Paul Labiche, who is determined to stop the Nazis from escaping Allied forces in Paris with thousands of stolen pieces of art. The Train addresses this disturbing part of history with justice, grace, and poignancy.
The Blues Brothers, Kelly’s Heroes, and Dead Snow follow these striking epics. Each of these three films brings a rag-tag, badass, comedic, “let’s kick some Nazi ass” element to this anti-fascist lineup. The Blues Brothers, starring Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, features a fantastic scene involving Nazis being thrown off a bridge into the depths below. Kelly’s Heroes has an all-star cast of Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland, and Don Rickles. Eastwood is the formidable Kelly, leading his wacky group of American troops as they sneak across Axis lines to find gold.
Dead Snow is one of the most satisfying films on the lineup. The absurdist Norwegian comedy-horror, released in 2009, was directed by Tommy Wirkola. Snow follows a crew of friends who face a zombie attack deep in the snowy, frigid mountains of Norway. Not only are the zombies ravenous for human flesh but to make matters worse, they’re Nazis. The Nazi zombies are long (un)dead after the villagers rose up and drove them into the wilderness decades prior. Now, decaying, they come back with a vengeance, but they’re no match for a bunch of anti-fascist Norwegian students. The horror offers plenty of clever kills and riotous Nazi executions—no patch of snow goes unsplattered in this one.
To finish off Somerville’s lineup, Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds will be screened in 35mm. Basterds is a masterful piece of cinema, bursting with comedy, bloodshed, and justice. The film features some of the industry’s finest, including Christoph Waltz, Brad Pitt, Diane Kruger, Michael Fassbender, Mélanie Laurent, Daniel Brühl, and August Diehl.
Basterds tells the intertwining stories of the French-born Jewish cinema owner, Shosanna Dreyfus (Laurent), who escaped the killing of her family by the Nazis, and the Basterds, a crew of American soldiers who have one goal: kill Nazis. Both parties (unbeknownst to each other) plan to slaughter Hitler and his inner circle, consisting of Joseph Goebbels, Herman Göring, Heinrich Himmler, and Martin Bormann, and end the war.
Both Shoshanna and the Basterds slam the hammer of justice upon the Reich, sending fear throughout the Wehrmacht. One of the most famous instances of such justice is executed by Hostel director (and Newton, Massachusetts native) Eli Roth, in his memorable and riotous role of Boston-accented Donny “The Bear Jew” Donnowitz. Donnowitz is known to “beat German soldiers to death with a club”, which, according to Lieutenant Aldo Raine (a hammy, brilliant Pitt), is “more fun than going to the movies”. Basterds serves up a just, poetic closing for Somerville’s program. It’s one of the most fun films to see on the big screen. Shoshanna’s final scene in Basterds is haunting, gripping, and heroic—and, well, downright iconic.
F*** THE NAZIS is a striking, powerful program that reminds us of three things: cinema helps us remember the significance of our past, recognizing fascism and fighting against it is our duty as human beings, and, finally, it’s damn good fun to see Nazis get what’s coming to them.
Somerville Theatre’s F*** THE NAZIS! program begins on May 24.
Wednesday, 5/24: CASABLANCA (1942), 102 min, in 35mm
Wednesday, 5/24: THE GUNS OF NAVARONE (1961) 157 min, in 4K
Wednesday, 5/31: JUDGEMENT AT NUREMBERG (1961) 190 min, in 35mm
Wednesday, 5/31: THE TRAIN (1964) 133 min, in 35mm
Wednesday, 6/7: THE BLUES BROTHERS (1980), 133 min, in 35mm
Wednesday, 6/14: KELLY’S HEROES (1970), 144 min, in 35mm
Wednesday, 6/14: DEAD SNOW (2009), 91 min
Wednesday, 6/21: INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (2009), 152 min, in 35mm
Buy tickets to all showtimes here!