Enemy at the Door Series 1
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ENEMY AT THE DOOR was a British television series with a short life, but one that is long remembered. The groundbreaking 1978 series portrayed the fear and confusion felt by the Channel Islands during the Nazi occupation in WWII. Using archival footage and a 1940s cinematographic style, the drama utilizes both harsh realism and stylized filmmaking techniques. The gifted cast includes Alfred Burke and Simon Cadell.
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The German characters need a more "German" accent to make them more true to life. That being said, The series is quite interesting and does seem to show what the people of the Channel Islands would have gone through... For a WW2 buff,this series is very factual and realistic. For the "Just for entertainment" viewer, it probably dosen't have enough action.
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The first few episodes well establish the main characters, the struggle between the nationalities, as well as the sentiments of the individuals involved. Many island locals have mixed feelings about the need for assisting in any way with the occupation force. Some must walk the fine line between helping the Nazi command and looking out for the needs of the island's inhabitants during the occupation. A young rich local, Peter Porteous (Richard Heffer), leans on the defiant side of the line. Island doctor, Philip Martel (Branard Horsfall), reluctantly takes a role on the local committee to work with the enemy command in hopes it will advance fair treatment for the Guernsey population. His daughter, Clair (Emily Richard) is much less sympathetic and agreeable. Leading the German officers is Maj. Richter (Alfred Burke), who desires compliance but hopes it to be a less than combative existence for both sides. But he must follow orders. The complications of both sides trying to make an unwanted situation work is what makes this series so compelling.
Each episode is like a stand-alone story about living on this occupied island, amidst the fears of war, yet having to learn to live with and under an enemy force. Stories surrounding the lives of local persons, such as the librarian, young girls swayed by even enemy uniforms, a barber, and others, creates both exciting and heartbreaking plots about the loves, interaction, hateful attacks, plus attempts at normalcy in a time when "normal" has no lasting definition.
This series is a real eye-opener to those of us who have never had to experience war, let alone living under the occupation of an enemy force. This is definitely not your normal WWII drama. It can leave you hating the German force in one episode and feeling some compassion for the Nazi officers in the next. There is enough connection by main characters to tie together all of the episodes, but viewers are not compelled to force the watching of all 13 at one sitting. Fear not, there is no need to study-up on the British/German WWII activity prior to watching. This set of episodes has more to do with local living, and interaction between people during war, than it does with the military war itself.
Some captioning to assist with the British accents would have been occasionally helpful but is not a lasting problem. My wife and I were surprised to find this historical drama quite addicting. Very believable situations and human reaction make "Enemy at the Door" a recommended viewing.
The series deals with the British Channel Islands that were invaded and occupied by the Nazi German army in June, 1940: Germany thought they would be a good jumping-off point for its planned invasion of the British Isles themselves. We now know that invasion was never to come, as, in the Battle of Britain, the Brits managed to inflict substantial enough losses on the vaunted German air force, the Luftwaffe, as to disable it from supporting such an invasion. Still, the Channel Islands, although they then became a forgotten backwater of the war, were occupied for five years, almost until the end of the war, and British and Germans had to manage to live together.
Alfred Burke ("Public Eye") stars as Major Reichter, Commanding officer of the occupying forces; Bernard Horsfell( On Her Majesty's Secret Service); stars as Doctor Philip Martel, who unwillingly finds himself on the committee which must liaise with the Germans. Emily Richard (Empire of the Sun), plays Clare Martel, the doctor's daughter; Anthony Stewart Head, (TV's Buffy The Vampire Slayer - Collector's Set (40 discs)), makes his acting debut as Clive Martel, the doctor's son; Antonia Pemberton plays Olive, the doctor's wife. John Malcolm plays Oberleutnant Kluge, a German policeman from Hamburg, performing similar duties for the occupation forces; Simon Cadell plays Haupsturmfuhrer Reinecke, a sneering, villainous cad of an SS Officer. Richard Heffer plays Peter Porteous, scion of the island's largest land-owning family. Guest stars include John Nettles (Midsomer Murders: Set 12); Alun Armstrong (New Tricks : Complete BBC Series 1 ); Joss Ackland, and James Maxwell.
The overwhelming impression the series left on me is that it is surprisingly revisionist in outlook. This may be somewhat due to the fact that Burke is a more skilled actor than is Horsfall, and is more capable of giving his character an inner life; still, the German major, and the cop, come across as men struggling to do the best they can in difficult circumstances: the doctor and his wife come across as stick figures. Furthermore, the younger generation, the doctor's son and daughter; the landowner Porteous; and a lawyer's daughter, are portrayed as disastrously reckless and feckless. They cost lives, and among their own people, too. The script sometimes veers into melodrama, and unlikely coincidences abound. Still, the series benefits from the typically lush British production values of the period; location photography is lovely; interiors, transport and clothing are recreated with care; there are extras aplenty; and I imagine the history of one of the least-known stories of the war is as accurate as the makers could get it. For enthusiasts of either World War II, or British drama, it's a good addition to the DVD shelf.
"Enemy at the Door" explores all of that through an interesting handful of characters. This is an ensemble cast, headed by the earnest and responsible medical man, Doctor Philip Martel, his wife and outspoken daughter Clare, his neighbor, the wheel-chair bound Mrs. Porteous and her son Peter, the most inept but well-intentioned spy of World War II. In opposition - sometimes, and sometimes more like an ally - is the head of the civil occupation authority, Major Richter. Major Richter is a decent man, with his own sense of honor but with the responsibility of keeping the island firmly under control, and no hesitation in doing what he sees as his duty. He is assisted in this by the commander of German troops on the island, Major Friedel. Neither Friedel nor Richter are particularly dedicated Nazis, or is Lt. Kluge of the Army Field Police. Kluge is a policeman, first and foremost, and the other two are career old soldiers, united first by their responsibilities and in their detestation of the fourth member of the local German command, Hauptsturmfuhrer Reinicke of the SS.
Series one opens with the imminent arrival of the Germans, and through a story arc of 13 episodes follows the island community for roughly the next two years. Doctor Martel, his family and his friends, patients and neighbors adjust painfully to having gone in the space of a week from a relatively free, open and democratic society to one of incomprehensible restrictions and limitations. What is the proper response, given the circumstances of occupation, to a demand to have HG Wells' books removed from the public library? To having one's automobile confiscated, or one's tenants removed from a comfortable farmhouse to an unsanitary, tumble-down cottage? What about turning to the black market, when shortages of food, medicine and coal begin to bite - or worse, threaten lives? How far, exactly, should one go, in order to keep a modicum of peace and protect one's family and community? How far to go in pursuing those who break various laws enacted by the occupation authority - and what happens when first one young Guernsey woman and then another have romantic interludes with German soldiers? (Both romances end badly, and not just for the woman involved) How far can resistance go - before it boomerangs, harming just those whom it is intended to inspire... and yet, to not resist in the face of monstrous evil is almost as soul-killing. How - and where do we stand? That is the question posed in almost every episode of "Enemy at the Door" and it soon becomes very clear that the answer is not simple or easily arrived at. Perhaps the best assessment is that of one of my own characters in the Adelsverein: The Sowing - Book Two of the Adelsverein Trilogy:
"We are not as like to each, indistinguishable as ants in a nest. Men of honor may yet take different roads for good and honest reasons ... In the end, what matters is that an honorable man does in fact act with honor. He does not sit and do nothing at all."
look forward to viewing the secord set in the hope that all the character issues, etc. will be resolved.