Sunday, February 24, 2013

Classic film, stunning book

I was in the kitchen this morning working on biscuits and gravy, when DH whistled, and said "It's beginning." As he was on the computer, I assumed something unpleasant was in the news, but no, this was actually something pleasant. A true classic film was just starting, rolling through the opening credits, in letterbox format no less! The Bridge On the River Kwai, with Sir Alec Guinness, and William Holden, Jack Hawkins and Sessue Hayakawa. A movie I have long loved--less as an historical account and more as a fascinating character study. Based off of Pierre Boulle's fine book, it is nonetheless a work of fiction wrapped around an historic series of events, namely the use of forced labor to build a rail line in Japanese-held south east Asia.

As I was listening to the opening sounds of the film, I realized I was hearing dialog I had never ever noted before, despite countless viewings of this film. Oh, the dialog was there, it just never registered before now. For since I last saw the film, I had read and obtained a rare-in-the-US book, Banzai You Bastards, by Jack Edwards.

A year or two ago, I had read a copy of that book, borrowed through Interlibrary Loan. There are very few copies in public libraries in the US, according to ILL, and mine was loaned from Montana, IIRC. It was a autographed copy, signed to a couple ladies--I have no idea how they came into contact with Jack Edwards, but they apparently bought a copy of his book and brought it back to the US. It is the autobiography of Edwards' life as a Japanese POW in the copper mines of Tiawan.

I read it. I gave it to DH to read before it had to go back. We both agreed it deserved a place in our library at home, if I could but find a copy cheaply enough*. It was apparently only published overseas, and distributed primarily in Asia and in the British Commonwealth countries. If any of you ever get a chance to read a copy, I urge you to do so, even if it will not be a "pleasant" experience. It's not a 'happy book'. It is blunt and brutal and depicts explicit and cruel behaviors of the Japanese guards toward their prisoners. "Speedo! Speedo! Hammero! Hammero!" is a phrase and refrain throughout Edwards' book. It translates very roughly as "(work) faster, faster, or I will beat you with my stick!"

Listening to the film this morning, suddenly I heard the Japanese guard (actors) yelling "Speedo! Speedo!" at the British prisoners. I had never noted that before. I have not listened closely to the whole film again to see if "Hammero!" occurs anywhere in it, but after reading Edwards' book, I have no doubt that the actual prisoners who had to build that railway heard it.

I leave you with the trailer from the film. I urge you to find a copy of the book, and read it.

*I eventually found a US copy at a good price. As it would turn out,it was the SAME copy we had borrowed through ILL. The holding library apparently decided to remainder it, and I was lucky enough to purchase it.


  1. We used to have a cockatiel that whistled the song. It is a great show

  2. Fantastic movie -- they don't make them like that any more.

  3. Oh I would love to read this book and the film I remember watching I love history it can teach us a lot. B


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