October 7, 2019  (Web Review)

WWII’s Great Escapes: The Freedom Trails—Pyrenees

(2019) 60 min. DVD: $39.95 ($150 w/PPR). DRA. Film Ideas (www.filmideas.com).

Reviewer rating: 2.5/4

Part of a four-episode series broadcast on Britain’s Channel 4, Pyrenees traces the route used by downed Allied pilots in World War II while escaping from Nazi-occupied France. The pilots’ odyssey began with their recovery by members of the French Underground, who spirited them to Paris and then by train to the Pyrenees, where they needed to climb the mountain range that would bring them to safety in neutral Spain and, ultimately, the British colony at Gibraltar. Several surviving pilots are interviewed here, recounting their adventures with a serene calmness that belies the extraordinary danger they faced. One of the main problems they encountered was trying to blend in with the local French population without giving away that they did not speak the language (one anecdote involving an American airman accidentally responding to a mild courtesy in his native tongue is both hilarious and harrowing). The production falters somewhat from the heavy-handed presence of onscreen host Monty Halls—identified as an “explorer and former Royal Marine”—who engages in constant posing and nonstop chatter. But the film does cover a fascinating and little-known chapter of World War II history, and should therefore be considered a strong optional purchase. [Note: the other titles in The Freedom Trails series are Rossano, Slovenia, and Sulmona.] Aud: C, P. (P. Hall)