When a reader (who has become a friend) praised 49th Parallel, a World War II propaganda film he had seen on cable, I added it to my Netflix queue. Now that I’ve watched it, I agree with my friend’s assessment. Not only does it hold up quite well, but it begs to be remade.
This film tells the story of six members of a German U-Boat crew stranded in northern Canada after the Canadian Air Force has destroyed their submarine. As they try to make their way to the still neutral United States, they face resistance from a great variety of Canadians, even from a German religious community where they thought they might find welcome.
The filmmakers don’t soft pedal their portrayal of the Nazis, showing them to be the inhuman barbarians that they were, particularly the leader of the band, Eric Portman‘s Lieutenant Hirth.Â The screenwriters didn’t mince words either. Upon learning that the guests he was entertaining were Nazis, Leslie Howard‘s Philip Armstrong Scott, an effete writer trying to escape the war by studying Indians in the Canadian wilderness, quips, “I’m entertaining gangsters.
Later, he adds, “So, that’s who are you are, Nazis, well that explains everything, your arrogance, your stupidity, your bad manners.” And after he stares down a Nazi who has stolen his gun, suffering only one bullet wound before his fellow Canadians capture his rival, Howard wonders, “One armed superman against one unarmed decadent democrat; I wonder how Dr. Goebbels will explain that.”
It’s high time we remake this film, but not about Nazis trying to cross Canada, but with Al Qaeda trying to make it across the US. We’ll have our band of terrorists slip across the Mexican border into the Southwest, end up in Los Angeles where they try to fly to New York to meet up with a cell there for an attack on the Big Apple.
But, an attentive TSA agent prevents them for boarding the plane, so they have to make their way by land across the country. Maybe an ACLU attorney who sees the TSA agent doing his duty and she accuses him of racial profiling. She offers to help the supposedly innocent foreigners, but they refuse her assistance because of her gender.
We could have a few liberals trying to explain away the terrorists’ belligerence, only to find themselves taken hostage, but saved by a gay man (or woman) with an illegally concealed handgun.Â (Hey, I’m imagining this story, so there’s going to a be a noble homo in it.)
Or, maybe it’s a gay man fluent in Arabic. He’s unemployed, having been kicked out of the Army because of an e-mail he had sent to his boyfriend. This guy overhears their conversation, learns the details of their plot, but needs to make himself believed. This way, we could make a point near and dear to Hollywood hearts (one of the few such points in the national interest) while still making an anti-terrorist film.
As I watched the film, it struck me Hollywood doesn’t make anti-Al Qaeda movies, the way it churned out anti-Nazi films at the time 49th Parallel was produced.
I highly recommend this flick. Add it to your Netflix queue or rent it from you local video store. And let’s see if we can get people in this town to remake the film, adapting it to the current geopoltical situation and current cultural norms.