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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Remembering the Great War
by Betty Jo Tucker

Mark Bussler, one of my favorite documentary filmmakers, wins my admiration again with World War 1 – American Legacy. How I wish this DVD had been available when I was teaching World History to high school students! Because of its marvelous period music and eye-popping images, Bussler’s cinematic presentation of important information about World War I and its impact on America would certainly have kept students wide awake -- instead of snoozing through my dry lectures.      

In describing his latest documentary, Bussler says, “World War 1 – American Legacy is an exciting film about Americans in the Great War and the legacy they have left behind. Driven by David Carradine’s powerful narration, this documentary is shot and edited in high definition and illustrated with rare, contemporary artwork and photographs from authentic American, British, French and German sources. It also features Great War monuments and a vast collection of period music. Overall, it looks and sounds unlike any other Great War documentary.” 

I’m pleased Bussler (EXPO; Horses of Gettysburg) decided to turn his expert filmmaker’s eye on WW 1. Because the horrors of this first modern war were so immense, it was referred to as the “War to end all wars.” It’s hard to believe people actually thought no country would be stupid enough to go to war again! However, as shown dramatically in World War 1 – American Legacy, the war was also responsible for key developments in such areas as technology, literature, music and social equality. Like Bussler, I think Americans need to be reminded about the importance of World War 1 in shaping our culture.      

Throughout World War 1 – American Legacy, Bussler and writer Brian Connelly manage to incorporate fascinating stories of many people who served in WW 1, including Father Duffy of the Fighting 69th, Charles Whittlesey of The Lost Battalion and pilots Victor Chapman and Quentin Roosevelt (Theodore Roosevelt’s son). They also show how noted writers like E. E. Cummings, Ernest Hemingway, Joyce Kilmer and Alan Seeger were inspired by the Great War. 

The story of poet Alan Seeger seems the most poignant to me. In fact, I’m ashamed at not having thought of him since memorizing his “I Have a Rendezvous with Death” for a high school declamation contest long ago. Seeger joined the French Foreign Legion to fight with the Allies against the Germans when he was 22 years old. The U.S. hadn’t entered the war yet, so that was his only way to support the Allied cause. While fighting at the front, Seeger wrote powerful poetry, but his work didn’t get published until after his death. When mortally wounded by enemy machine-gun fire, he continued to cheer on his fellow soldiers. Ironically, Seeger met his rendezvous on the battlefield as predicted in these haunting closing lines of his most famous poem:

“…I’ve a rendezvous with Death

At midnight in some flaming town,

When Spring trips north again this year,

And I to my pledged word am true,

I shall not fail that rendezvous.”

Sadly, 14 million other people also met appointments with death as a result of World War 1. And, from 1914 to 1918, this bloody struggle devastated entire countries. Will World War 1 – American Legacy help us realize the cost and futility of modern warfare? I sincerely hope so.

(Released by Inecom Entertainment; not rated by MPAA. For more information, click here to visit the official website.)

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