March 5, 2018  (Web Review)

SAS: Rogue Warriors

(2016) 180 min. DVD: $24.99 ($54.99 w/PPR). PBS Video ( SDH captioned. ISBN: 978-1-5317-0309-7.

Reviewer rating: 3.5/4

The British Special Air Service (SAS) was born in the dark early days of WWII, when troops faced long odds against Rommel’s Panzer division in North Africa. A rebellious, low-level British officer named David Stirling conceived an audacious plan for small-scale raiding parties that would think and act independently, staging hit-and-run attacks behind German lines to destroy airplanes and equipment. Hosted by historian Ben Macintyre, filmmaker Matthew Whiteman’s three-part PBS-aired documentary series tells the story of the little-known outfit that sported the motto “he who dares wins,” following the SAS from the Africa campaign, through Italy and France, and on to V-E day. At the time, British military thinking was marked by stuffy traditionalism and the SAS, scorned as a “band of vagabonds,” was initially controversial, particularly after a disastrous first parachute drop. After early confusion, the Germans scrambled to counter the ragtag but effective squad. The men knew they could “get the chop” at any time, and could expect no mercy if captured. Indeed, Stirling was eventually taken prisoner and spent the rest of the war in a POW camp. The action was swift and brutal on both sides, as when the hard-drinking Irish SAS member Paddy Mayne ignored official policy and executed German soldiers after a surprise raid. In late 1943, the SAS moved to the equally bloody European theatre, with some witnessing heavy action in Italy as well as the Holocaust’s true horrors at a liberated death camp. Macintyre reviews recently opened British archives and draws on archival filmed interviews with surviving SAS members, including Stirling. Likely to appeal to WWII buffs, this is recommended. Aud: P. (S. Rees)