A review of the 1942 film “Went The Day Well?”

“Went the day well?

We died and never knew.

But, well or ill,

Freedom, we died for you.”

This week, a friend persuaded me to join him in seeing a British wartime film at the BFI Southbank cinema in London.

“Went The Day Well?” is a British black and white film of 1942 which is an oddity in so many respects. The strange title comes from a short epitaph written about the First World War which appears at the very beginning of the film and the plot was based on a short story by the author Graham Greene entitled “The Lieutenant Died Last”.

We see a takeover of an English village called Bramley End (it was actually shot in part in Turville in Buckinghamshire) by German paratroopers pretending to be English soldiers preparing for an imminent large-scale invasion. In fact, the underlying message of the movie – beware of fifth columnists and strangers – was essentially redundant by this stage of the war since a German invasion was no longer anywhere near likely.

Nevertheless, I guess for a wartime audience it provided an interesting and entertaining storyline which presented the plucky British at their communal best. However, the actors playing the Germans have such perfect English accents and their characters lack basic combat skills, while the action sequences are weak when they are not silly. A similar tale was represented much better by the 1976 film “The Eagle Has Landed”.


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