“ Genre: War & Western - War / Theatrical Release: 1958 / Parental Guidance / Director: Lewis Gilbert / Actors: Virginia McKenna, Paul Scofield, Jack Warner, Denise Grey, Alain Saury ... / DVD released 2007-01-22 at Network / Features of the DVD: Black & White, PAL „
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Review of 'Carve Her Name With Pride' DVD
First released to cinemas in 1958 and on DVD in 2007. The DVD has a run time of 115 minutes and carries a PG certificate. The DVD is filmed in black and white and there are no special features or extras included.
Cast, Producers, Writers and Directors
Actors: Virginia McKenna, Paul Scofield, Jack Warner, Denise Grey, Alain Saury
Directors: Lewis Gilbert
Writers: Lewis Gilbert, Leo Marks, R.J. Minney, Vernon Harris
Producers: Daniel M. Angel, Earl St. John, Hugh Perceval
Carve Her Name With Pride is a dramatic story. It follows the true story of War heroine Violette Szabo. Violette, a fluent French speaker, who after the death of her husband, volunteered during the Second World War to be parachuted into France as a secret agent to re-organise the shattered French resistance movement.
Her mission is fraught with danger and although she manages to parachute in successfully and obtain supplies for the Normandy Front, Violette is eventually captured by the German forces and handed over to the Gestapo. She is subjected to a grueling and barbaric interrogation. The torture is intense and prolonged, but Violette does not betray her comrades, which infuriates the Gestapo. Violette is deported to Germany on grounds of espionage and imprisoned in Ravensbruck concentration camp. Only thoughts of her little daughter, at home in England with her grandparents, keep Violette going.
A box of tissues will probably be required for the end of this movie, I will not say more for fear of spoiling the DVD for others.
Availability and Price
'Carve Her Name With Pride' DVD is available from various online retailers. A quick search produced the following prices and sources. Obviously this search was done today (27/10/09) and I make no guarantee that these prices will be applicable on other dates.
My Thoughts and Conclusion
Released in 1958 this film was one of the many post war dramas that hit British cinema screens. The war may have been over, but stories of heroes and heroines were popular with film makers and audiences alike. The role of Violette Szabo is taken by Virginia McKenna who plays the part with sensitivity and I feel respect for the family of Violette and her dangerous role as a secret agent in war torn France.
Carve Her Name With Pride is well worth watching as it is not only a true story but an unusual slant on the typical war film. The subject matter is uncomfortable viewing at times yet it is in no way gratuitous and there are no horrific scenes of torture, yet you are in no doubt about what is happening.
Violette Szabo was clearly a very brave young woman who believed in what she was doing. She took risks that I cannot Imagine myself or any other woman ever wishing to take, especially as she was the mother of a young daughter. It is true that the film is a little dated compared to modern films and being filmed in black and white may put some viewers off, but I feel as a glimpse into the real world of people during the second world war, Carve Her Name With Pride deserves to be called a classic.
Thank you for reading.
©brittle1906 October 2009
N.B. My review may be found on other review sites under the same user name, brittle1906.
Violette is an ordinary woman working on a cosmetic stand in London during the war. Her mother is French and has brought Violette up to speak the language fluently - this comes in handy when she meets and falls in love with Etienne Szabo, a French soldier. Sadly, after Violette has a baby girl, Etienne is killed in battle. Then Violette is approached by the Government and asked to become a spy for the British war effort, largely because of her fluent French. To honour her husband's name, Violette agrees, and is soon sent out on a series of missions, during which she is captured by the Germans. Will she ever return home to her daughter? And will her training enable her to keep quiet about British official secrets?
I have always had an interest in films that portray women during the war - I think their efforts to keep the country running is sadly underestimated, and some, like Violette Szabo, put themselves on the front line. This is a true story, Violette Szabo really did exist, and thoroughly deserves to be immortalised in this wonderful film, which is all the better for being true. Made in 1958, it is in black and white, which will limit its interest - this is a great shame though because this is a superb story backed up by superb performances from the main actors.
Virginia McKenna plays Violette Szabo. She is an actress I am not all that familiar with, although she is alive and has been on the television as late as 2005. I thought she gave an amazing performance. At the beginning of the film, she comes over as being a young girl with few responsibilities. Then we see her fall in love, have a baby and lose her husband in a very short space of time. Suddenly grown-up, she then throws herself into the war effort with great aplomb, and although she may not have been the best agent out there, she shows great bravery. McKenna portrays all this with the greatest of ease. Compared to many actresses in films of the period who have that cut-glass British accent and killer hair-dos, she is very natural - we get to see her in various states, and not always very attractive. She completely drew me into the film, I think because of this - her 'ordinariness' made her seem that much more approchable. This is a truly great performance, and although she doesn't seem to have won an award for it, I think she should have.
The story is about Szabo and McKenna's brilliant performance does overshadow everyone else. There are a couple secondary roles worth a mention though. Paul Scofield plays Tony Fraser, the man that Violette falls in love with after her husband's death - we don't get to see enough of him, but when he is on screen, he fills it. Jack Warner (Dixon of Dock Green) is also good as Mr Bushell, Violette's father, although it is perhaps Denise Grey as Mrs Bushell who gives the most moving performance. All work well together to ensure that the film is great because of the performances and not just because of the story.
This is a film about the War, and as such, is obviously full of scenes that people would rather not know about. Towards the end, we see Violette tortured and put in a prisoner of war camp, and although this gives rise to her most outstanding scenes, it is not always pleasant to watch. Other characters are starved, beaten and tortured and it really is quite traumatic to watch. My grandfather was held in a prisoner of war camp for three years, and so I found it particularly painful and moving to watch. Despite this, there is only a PG rating on the film. I suppose it is not particularly graphic, but I would still be concerned about letting young children watch. Then again, these things did happen and it can do no harm to make later generations aware.
There is a strong patriotic thread running through the film that some people may not like - it was obviously made partly to instil patrotism in the generation too young to be involved in the War. If you're not one for believing in fighting for your country and doing your duty, then it may not be your type of film. Personally I think it is an excellent example of the attitude of many British citizens (and those of other nationalities of course) during the War, and, agree with it or not, the War did happen. Most importantly, Violette Szabo deserves to have her name immortalised - she was just an ordinary woman, yet did great things for the war effort.
This film has only been released on DVD in the last couple of years; as one of my Grandmother's favourite films, I was delighted when we could finally get hold of a copy. The quality of the film is perfectly adequate, although obviously not HD standard. There is just one extra - a trailer. However, there is a special edition of the DVD available, which includes an audio commentary by Virginia McKenna.
I adore this film. I have watched it a few times over the years, yet each time I see it, I find something knew to think about. It is the sort of film that sends shivers down your spine and preys on your mind for days afterwards. Even if black and white films aren't your thing, I would recommend making an exception for this one. Highly recommended.
The DVD is available from play.com for £6.99, both for the classic edition (my version) and the special edition.
Running time: 113 minutes