d. Stuart Cooper
Criterion Collection #382
File Overlord in the category of "great movies from other countries that didn't get a fair shake in the United States." Either they weren't distributed at all- a common experience, or they weren't appreciated at the time, were poorly marketed, etc. You don't normally think that an English language World War II picture shot by Stanley Kubrick's cinematographer a decade before Full Metal Jacket came out would fall into any of those categories, but Overlord wasn't even released in the United States in 1975. Chalk it up to bad timing? The "fall of Saigon," when North Vietnamese forces overran our Southern allies, was April 1975, so I would wager American audiences didn't want to hear about war at that period- let alone the people who buy films for American distribution.
Overlord is an elegant combination of documentary footage of World War II combined with a narrative about a young soldier who faces his premonitions of death as he prepares to be a part of the D-Day invasion. Criterion Collection re-released their edition in May of this year, and Kent Jones wrote an insightful essay to accompany the product page. He posits that the animating spirit of the narrative portion about the young soldier facing death recalls the World War I era work of Ford Madox Ford. A kind of matter of factness and stoicism that have to do with understanding the world is not fair but that there is nothing you can do.
Jones also discusses the incredible amount of documentary footage that Cooper had access to via the British government. Apparently, Overlord started as a simple documentary using that footage, and Copper then convinced people to let him make a larger film. It's an interesting mixture, easy to watch and worth a look if you