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With: Alfred Drake, Muriel Smith, Gary Merrill, Saul Levitt (narrators)
Written by: Leo Hurwitz
Directed by: Leo Hurwitz
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 64
Date: 08/14/2018

Strange Victory (1948)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Just Can't Win

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This poetic, essay-like documentary was released in 1948, but remains — crushingly — relevant in 2018. Director Leo Hurwitz combined harrowing footage of WWII and its aftermath with footage of civilians at home, carefully demonstrating how the ideas of hatred and separation that led to the war continue in America after its victory. Or, as the narrator puts it, the ideas of the losers are active among the winners. Strange Victory is a uniquely thoughtful, forward-thinking film, unafraid to point out the basic flaws of racism and cultural discrimination. True to form, the film's enemies, rather than listening to its arguments and responding intelligently, simply tried to shut it down, labeling it "communist" and blacklisting its maker. In the film, Hurwitz crosses images of worried-looking folks on the street with brutal images of destruction, then moves on to a moment of hope: the end of the war. He focuses on babies being born, all equal in their cribs, but notes their differences, and the ways that society will strive to keep them apart and to keep some of them down. He ends with the argument that hope is still in short supply and that the true victory is yet to be won. And, with hatred and racism rampant in the American mainstream today, that argument is still valid.

Milestone Film & Video has given Strange Victory a restoration and Blu-ray release, with an almost flawless black-and-white picture transfer and a sharp soundtrack. Extras include Hurwitz's 1964 epilogue to the film, a 1992 interview with Hurwitz, a Barney Rosset interview on the film, and six Hurwitz short films from the 1930s.

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