FF63 - The Bridge Over the River Kwai

Intro by John Roderick

Now here we go! A war movie by which war movies as a genre are measured. This is why we do this show, why I sit through RoboCop with only a comparative minimum of whingeing, so that more often than not we can luxuriate in the cooling water of the River Kwai. It is not giving too much away to reveal that we praise this movie, but even if you have seen it a dozen times there are always new avenues of surprise. An inquisitive and open minded viewer will find a great buffet of challenging ideas upon which to feast.

The World War II films we have covered thus far have scarcely troubled the China Burma India theater. This territory of the war spanned all of Southern Asia. The allied armies were building an extensive network of supply lines to reinforce the second front of Chiang Kai-Shek’s forces and China while the Japanese threatened Australia and pushed construction of their Burma railway through the jungles of Thailand and what is now Myanmar toward India. The Commonwealth nations were fighting to preserve their colonial empire as the Japanese tried to protect their flank and extend their Co-Prosperity Sphere of Influence.

Our story has two main threats: The lesser of the two concerns William Holden's Commander Shears, an American enlisted man impersonating an officer to gain favorable treatment at a Japanese prison camp. He escapes soon after Alec Guinness as Lieutenant Colonel Nicholson arrives at the camp at the head of a large group of British POWs. Nicholson, appalled by conditions, wages a pitched battle of wills with Japanese colonel Saito, the cruel and feckless commander of the camp. Saito is using slave labor to build a railroad bridge over the titular River Kwai. Nicholson objects to Saito's Geneva Convention defying treatment of British officers and spends much of the first act defiantly locked in a hot box. Eventually Saito relents and Nicholson quickly asserts himself as the general contractor.

He has a distinctly British theory that meaningful and disciplined work will help his men survive the ordeal of this camp and the war. So he sets them about building this bridge which, although it directly benefits the enemy, will serve as a monument to British engineering and ingenuity. Nicholson takes great pride in the work, all while Saito's distinctly Japanese shame builds to a crescendo. Meanwhile, Shears, caught impersonating an officer in Sailon, is forced in an again distinctly British way into joining a commando unit led by Jack Hawkins with a mandate to destroy the bridge. Shears, in a distinctly American way, is difficult to work with, shirks responsibility, and in a distinctly William Holden way, is a disagreeable whiner, yet rises to the task and acts heroically in a pinch.

In war, men are motivated by loyalty to a cause, or to their country, or to their fellows, or to themselves, and often a combination. Nicholson, Saito and Shears each pursue their own interests at the expense of their duty to their fellows and then they pursue their duty at the expense of the interests of their country, such that the climax of the film leaves one unsure whether to laugh or cry. And if laugh, then at whom? And if cry, then for whom? Was it all futile? Or in the end, was something accomplished? Maybe something grand? It's a classic! And it's really good! I would make the case that it's also a true pork chop movie, except the baby oil on the soldiers appears to be actual sweat. It is director David Lean's 1957 masterpiece. I'm getting worse, you know! Sometimes I think I'm Admiral Hosey. Today on Friendly Fire: The Bridge on the River Kwai.

MaxFunDrive, Version 1

B: Friendly Fire is a listener-supported podcast and this is the MaxFun drive. It is the time of year when we need your support! Come out and support Friendly Fire with a monthly contribution to the cost of producing this show.

A: Support us the way we have supported you week after week with either a war film or a film that is definitely not a war film, like the ones I chose.

J: (singing) It's the most wonderful time of the year! (speaking) Everybody loves a public radio fundraising drive. In fact, I think we can all agree that it is the best of all media and now we have one for you.

B: I like how John is reading this pledge-break material in the style of a captured airman sending a video back from North Korea.

J: Please! Stop the imperialism and let the North Korean people live in peace! Blink Blink Blink Blink Blink Blink Blink Blink. (- - … - - .)

B: The MaxFun drive is all about adding new and upgrading donors, so it is really not about how much you donate but that you donate.

J: Gee, Ben! Tell us more!

B: Well, we are going to talk about all the fun gifts and things.

J: What's an upgrading donor?

B: That would be somebody who is already contributing to our show on a monthly basis increasing their monthly nut.

J: But why would you? Why not just keep getting the show for free without paying for it? Why not just keep sucking off the tit of the great creators and just live in a world of free milk?

B: I mean you could do that, but I think that you would run up against a problem where we have to stop doing the show because it is not financially viable.

J: Yeah. What do you have to say about that, Adam?

A: It is like if you want the show or not. That is really the value proposition we are offering here.

J: Tough talk.

A: We will be back at you a little later to tell you all about the great rewards you can get for supporting shows like Friendly Fire. If John hasn't escaped his cage.

B: I have never seen a man gnaw through bamboo like that!

A: He will be helping us tell you about all of that.

J: Bamboo is good roughage!

A: So go to [maximumfun.org/donate] right now! Get it done! Get it over with! And we'll be back at you a little later.

MaxFunDrive, Version 2

B: Whether or not you like our discussion of war films, cinematography, history, the cultural milieu in which films were released and what they mean about the way societies think about themselves…

A: … the ways in which Ben and I are wrong and John is right.

J: That is my favorite part of the show!

B: All these insights cost money to record and put into and edit a 60-90 minute episode every week. We have lots of cost to cover and fortunately our listeners come out in droves and support our show and help us cover the cost of those. Right now it is the MaxFunDrive, which means it is the best time of year to become a new or upgrading member of Friendly Fire and Maximum Fun.

J: Let’s talk turkey here for a second: We are not just trying to cover our costs here. This isn’t a thing where we are running a small church at the edge of a town and we are just trying to get enough bread to feed our parishioners, no!

A: Church on the Edge of Town is my favorite Bruce Springsteen record!

B: We are trying to cover our costs, we pay Rob to produce and edit the program,…

J: No, we are trying to earn money!

B: … we pay John so that he can feed his family, we pay Adam so that he can earn his wife’s respect, …

J: Well, there is not enough money in the world!

B: … we pay me so that I can give all my money away to local Antifa organizations.

J: Yeah, that is right! So that you can sign up for more wokeness-seminars.

A: The first one is free, John!

J: No, I need your money! No, I don’t need your money, I want your money! No, I don’t want your money, I have earned your money!

A: We all have!

J: And Ben and Adam, too! Sort of. Less so, but also

A: To a lesser extend Ben and me, but in totality we all have and you know it, listener of Friendly Fire!

B: If you do make a point of listening to this show every week, you know that it is worth something to you, so go over to maximumfun.org/donate and become a member now or upgrade your membership now, one of the two

J: Yeah, do that! If you are already donating, donate more! Come on! You know you have been getting away with murder, and most of you have been getting away with murder!

A: You may be the rare breed that signs up new and also upgrades at the same time, that is a move! Do that!

B: You will count as two things!

J: Sign up and then immediately come back an hour later and upgrade.

B: That is what Ben would do! Ben is the teacher’s pet, he would most definitely do both.

J: I don’t mean to Stockholm-syndrome our listeners and make them feel good about feeling bad…

A: That’s what your records are for!

J: But a lot of podcasts are out there, doing Patreons or other kinds of fundraising things, but we are part of a magical network called the MaximumFun network that is staffed by our friends and has lots of magical podcasts on it, and this is the way that this podcast network earns money, not just for us, but for everybody, and it is a choice. We could be out doing it another way, but we want to be on MaxFun and we want you to support us here so it is an extra step of going to the MaxFun website and learning how to do it…

B: But it is not harder than Patreon! If you are already familiar with that or supporting a public radio station, it is that!

J: I’m confident that only 35% of our listeners had to learn how to use a computer in order to hear this show. The other 65% already knew how to use computers.

A: If you don’t know how to use computers, go down to your local community college or library and sign up for a correspondence course!

J: That is how I did it!

B: … and you completed at least half of that!

J: When Ben and Adam said: ”Let’s do a podcast”, I said ”Ah, another community college class?”

B: I know exactly where you stopped taking the course: It is when you came to the email section, but not up until the Reply All section.

A: John dropped out at the part where you had to set up a computer.

J: It is when the teacher and I started dating and it started to be awkward for me to always be teacher’s pet in the class.

A: Boy, that is one thing Ben and you have in common that I did not expect, but you have very different ways to get to ”teacher’s pet”, huh!

B: We will be back a little later to tell you about all the great pledge gifts, but right now just head to [maximumfun.org/donate] on the device you are currently using to listen to this, and support Friendly Fire!

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