It Happened Here

This speculative 1966 feature by Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo exemplifies English independent filmmaking at its most resourceful and intransigent. Paralleling Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, which imagined what North America might have become had Hitler won, the film portrays what England might have been like in 1944 had it been invaded and occupied by Germany four years earlier. Fanatically dedicated to period detail and refusing to fall back on stock footage, Brownlow started the film in 1956 at age 18, some time before enlisting military scholar Mollo as a full collaborator and a full decade before the film was finally released. Their decision to use real English fascists and proto-Nazis to express the views of their 1944 counterparts on Jews and euthanasia led to the film’s most interesting sequence being suppressed in the 60s, and it took Brownlow over 30 years to regain the rights to the film so he could restore it, making this the Chicago premiere of the film’s full and original version. As narrative it can be dry and unemphatic (most of the actors are nonprofessionals), but as speculation it’s highly convincing and endlessly fascinating. The beautiful black-and-white cinematography is by Peter Suschitzky, who went on to work for John Boorman, Ken Russell, George Lucas, Tim Burton, and most recently David Cronenberg. 96 min. (JR)

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