SOE/Resistance DVDs

As SOE is not well represented in film, this section also includes some more general “resistance” titles. Although I've added links to Amazon and other retailers, these are only pointers (one or two titles seem only to be available as imports in non-European region formats).
Recommended titles are marked with a rosette rosette icon


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Against The Wind
This Ealing Studios' take on SOE tells the story of a fictional team of saboteurs sent to Belgium. The first and perhaps only movie to feature the use of tyre-bursting dung (SOE's censors reviewed it, but chose not to cut out this trade secret). Cast includes a very young Gordon Jackson and Simone Signoret. Released in 1948, directed by Charles Crichton.

image of Army of Crime DVD coverRecommended book rosette

The Army of Crime [French with subtitles]
The story of French-Armenian poet Missak Manouchian, whose communist network became subject of the infamous Nazi "red poster" plastered across Paris in 1944. Released in 2009 and directed by Robert Guédiguian.

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Lucie Aubrac [French with subtitles]
Biopic of resisters Lucie and Raymond Aubrac. Released in 1997, directed by Claude Berri.

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La Bataille du Rail [French with subtitles]
René Clément's semi-documentary portrayal of resistance on the French railways. Released in 1946 (b/w).

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Carve Her Name With Pride
Biopic of Violette Szabo starring Virginia McKenna and Paul Scofield, and directed by Lewis Gilbert. Released in 1958 (b/w).

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Charlotte Gray
Adaptation of Sebastian Faulks' novel, starring Cate Blanchett as a secret agent in Occupied France. A fifty-minute documentary, "The Real Charlotte Grays" included as an extra, features interviews with several agents. Released in 2001.

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Female Agents [French with subtitles]
Inspired by romantic tales of SOE derring-do, this depiction of women agents in France is more fiction than fact. Starring Sophie Moreau and Julie Depardieu. Released in 2008.

image of Flame and Citron DVD coverRecommended book rosette

Flame and Citron [Danish with subtitles]
Based on the lives of two famous members of the Holger Danske resistance group in Copenhagen. Directed by Ole Christian Madsen and starring Mads Mikkelsen. Released in 2008.

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The Heroes of Telemark
1965 Hollywood portrayal of the Norwegian mission to sabotage the Nazi nuclear programme. Starring Kirk Douglas and Richard Harris, directed by Anthony Mann.

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Ill Met by Moonlight
Powell and Pressburger's adaptation of the book by W Stanley Moss, who with Patrick Leigh Fermor kidnapped German General Kreipe on Crete in 1944. Starring Dirk Bogarde and Marius Goring. Released in 1957 (b/w).

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Is Paris Burning?
Sprawling big-budget epic retelling the liberation of Paris, released in 1966 (b/w).

image of Lacombe,Lucien DVD coverRecommended book rosette

Lacombe, Lucien [French with subtitles]
Filmed in the Lot in south-western France, Louis Malle's fictional but resonant depiction of a disaffected young man's stumble into collaboration after being rejected by the Resistance. Released in 1974.

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A Man Escaped [French with subtitles]
Robert Bresson's minutely observed yet thrilling reconstruction of French resister André Devigny's daring escape from Lyon's Fort Montluc prison. First released in 1956 (b/w).

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Max Manus - Man of War [Norwegian with subtitles]
Biopic of Norwegian resister and SOE agent Max Manus. Released in 2008.

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Ni Liv (Nine Lives) [Norwegian with subtitles]
Oscar-nominated dramatisation of Jan Baalsrud's heroic escape from Occupied Norway after a disastrous sabotage mission. Released in 1958 (b/w). (See also David Howarth's book We Die Alone)

image of Now It Can Be Told DVD coverRecommended book rosette

Now It Can Be Told - Imperial War Museum Official Collection
Despite the wooden acting and clunky script, this public information film (released in February 1947 under the title "School for Danger") remains a valuable contemporary record of SOE's work, featuring real-life locations and several veteran F Section agents (two of them, Harry Rée and Jacqueline Nearne, play lead roles) (b/w).

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Odette
Anna Neagle stars as French agent Odette Sansom, with Trevor Howard as Peter Churchill and Peter Ustinov as Alex Rabinovitch. Maurice Buckmaster plays himself, and Peter Churchill makes a cameo appearance (b/w).

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Plenty
Meryl Steep in the adaptation of David Hare's play about a former SOE agent unable to adjust to post-war life. Released in 1985.

Secret Army [The Complete BBC Series 1]
A staple of late 1970s British TV, Secret Army  was a very popular drama about a Belgian escape line, inspired by Andrée de Jongh's Comète line. Series 2, Series 3 and a complete box set were also released.

The Secret War: The Complete Original 1977 Series DVD
Six-part BBC/Imperial War Museum co-production about scientific intelligence and the technological battles in radar, codebreaking etc. Based on R.V. Jones's book Most Secret War.

Secret War [Volume 1]
A 3-DVD box set of the Secret War TV documentary series first shown in 2012 (not the 1970s series of the same name). Volume II has also been released. Confusingly, another Secret War Collection 4-DVD set is also available.

image of Self Made Hero DVD coverRecommended book rosette

A Self Made Hero [French with subtitles]
A hapless dreamer reinvents himself by posing as a resistance hero. A comedy with a darker message about France's fêted imposters and resistance myths. Directed by Jacques Audiard, released in 1996.

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Soldier of Orange [Dutch with subtitles]
Adaptation of Dutch SOE agent Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema's book. Starring Rutger Hauer and Susan Penhaligon, directed by Paul Verhoeven. Released in 1977.

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The Sorrow and the Pity [French with subtitles]
Released in 1969 (and not shown on French TV until 1981), this important two-part documentary concentrates on the testimony of former resisters and collaborators living in Clermont-Ferrand during the Occupation, but includes footage of Maurice Buckmaster and a short interview with SOE agent Denis Rake (b/w).

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The Train
A railway inspector in the resistance attempts to prevent priceless works of art being transported to Germany. Starring Burt Lancaster and Paul Scofield, directed by John Frankenheimer. Released in 1964 (b/w).

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Wish Me Luck
First broadcast in the late 1980s, Wish Me Luck was a British TV drama based around the lives of SOE's women agents in France. This collection includes all three series.

©2009-16 Nigel Perrin