Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tanktober Film Festival: Osvobozhdenie (Liberation 1969-1971)

One great thing about Tanktober has been that it's given me the opportunity to discover some terrific Soviet and Russian movies. Chief among them so far has been Liberation (Osvobozhdenie), a five part, over six hour epic of the war on the Russian front from Kursk in 1943 to the fall of Berlin. The films were shot between 1969 and 1971, and were the most expensive war movies ever made in the USSR. I'm only half way through part 2 so far, but enjoying them immensely.

Compared to the sorts of movies being made in the west around the same time, Liberation really has to be seen to be believed. The sheer scale of the battle scenes of Kursk and the crossing of the Dnieper are extraordinary, with rows of Zis 3 guns and T-34/85s and SU-100s tearing across the fields. There are inevitable inaccuracies, such as the use of T34/85s at Kursk, but they have certainly made a big effort to make the films as realistic as possible, with some pretty convincing Tiger Is and less convincing Panthers based on IS-2s taking the field, although always in panzer grey.

One of the most interesting features is the propaganda in the film, and particularly the portrayal of Stalin. He gets a fairly sympathetic treatment, but is shown as largely deferring to his generals, with some of his decisions like that to treat Soviet POWs as traitors shown to be counterproductive. The Western allies are shown as dragging their heels somewhat with the second front, with some subtle distortions like the landings in Sicily being described as a response to Soviet success at Kursk.

Get hold of a copy if you can - Liberation really is very good.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Tanktober Miracle

Tanktober is a magical time of year. Today I realised just how special it is. On Monday I went to Hobbyco in Sydney on a whim, strode purposefully into the shop and said 'I would like to get a remote controlled tank, preferably a T34.' The chap behind the counter said 'turn around - that came in half an hour ago'. Sitting on top of a bunch of shipping boxes was this beauty. I handed over $50, and took my pet back on the bus to his new home. He has accompanied me to school, and I'm enjoying taking him for walks.

Today, my friend Sian decided she wanted the Tiger I in the same series so we could have a battle (the tanks have infra-red guns in them). I rang up Hobbyco to see if they had one. The bloke I spoke to claimed the shop had never sold such a tank as the one that was sitting on my lap being patted while I spoke to him. Sian and I went to investigate instead of facing the horror of exam marking. Even in person Hobbyco claimed no knowledge that such a thing ever existed. 'No, we don't have those. We have some for $200 but they're smaller. We're not even sure tanks even exist. What's a tank? Who are you people? What do you want from us? Take some Lego and go, for god's sake, just go!' and so on.

Eventually it turns out that my tank was something a rep from the distributor had added to a shipment because it came from a shop that had closed down, and they don't even make these anymore, and certainly wouldn't for $50 if they did.

Or so they said.

But we know what really happened, don't we? The god of tanks has smiled on Tanktober, and given me this wonderful blessing.

Stal! Stal! Stal!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Many, Many Tanks

Whew! This week in Tanktober I finished my Company + Platoon of T-26s for Battle Group Barbarossa. That's a total of 20 tanks along with a OT-26 flame thrower tank thrown in.

The T-26 (1933)s are from Minairons, the ones with the 1939 turret and the OT-26 are from Zvezda.

Now some BT-7s, I think...

Looking Good in Tanktober

Yeah baby!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Tanktober, Los!

It has been a busy week in Tanktober...

Firstly, I think we can agree that I'm looking pretty stylish.

The Tanktober film festival (aka me on the sofa while the kids are going to sleep)rolls on with a look at Beyyi Tigr (The White Tiger) (2012, dir. Karen Shakhnazarov).

This is a very interesting and odd film. During WWII, a Soviet tank driver is burned in his tank during a battle with a ghostly white German Tiger tank. He survives, miraculously, without a mark on him, but having lost his memory. With no name or past, he instead becomes something of a Tank Whisperer. Tanks speak to him, and he prays to the god of tanks. He is his instrument to bring vengeance against the White Tiger, a tank perhaps even without a crew, that appears in battle to wreak havoc on the Soviet tank men, and which even the Germans speak of in hushed tones. For the tank spotters amongst us, the movie features the (unconvincing below the turret) Tiger, T34-76s and 85s, ISU-152s, SU-100s, BT7s, Pz IVs and even a couple of Lend Lease Matilda IIs and M3 Lees. For the contemplative amongst us the film offers a metaphor for the forces called into being through violence that Thucydides might have appreciated, and which probably resonates more deeply with an appreciation of the Russian fascination with and fetishisation of their tanks of the Great Patriotic War.

But on to cake! The highlight of the week has without a doubt been my wonderful colleague Sian's decision to humour me by making some tank cupcakes. She arrived at school with these yesterday, and I think you'll agree that they are an amazing example of Blitzkrieg baking.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

I Hate Google+

Apologies if you have attempted to comment on my blog over the last week and have been unsuccessful. I briefly enabled Google+ Comments until I realised that it meant that only visitors with Google+ would be able to comment. I then attempted to disable Google+ Comments and cocked it up, leaving the Blog in some Kafkaesque limbo where Google+ was disabled but still controlling my Comments. I've just managed to sort it out, but I think it means that if you do have Google+ and have commented on my blog your comment has now been lost. Normal programming should now have resumed. A pox on Google+. I suggest the read the fine print more carefully than I did should you be considering linking your blog to it.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

T-26s for Tanktober

Today I finished off my first 12 T-26s for Battle Group Barbarossa. That still leaves me 5 short of a Company, and I have about another 8 in the assembly line. I haven't done much with extra stowage etc. Partly because I'm painting about 20 of the things, but looking at photos from 1941 they don't often seem to have carried much extra gear, so I don't think they look too bad.

Kits are a mix of Zvezda T-26 (1939)s and Minairons T-26 (1936)s.