Hitchcock arguably only made three proper “horror” movies (Psycho, Frenzy and The Birds — all produced well after the war ended) but oh well…
The British Army Film Unit cameramen who shot the liberation of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945 used to joke about the reaction of Alfred Hitchcock to the horrific footage they filmed. When Hitchcock first saw the footage, the legendary British director was reportedly so traumatised that he stayed away from Pinewood Studios for a week. Hitchcock may have been the king of horror movies but he was utterly appalled by “the real thing”.
Both the original film about the camps and the new documentary will be shown on British TV in early 2015 to mark the 70th anniversary of the “liberation” of Europe. (…)
Billy Wilder, who directed Death Mills (1945), an American film about the German atrocities, was forthright about why he did not want atrocity footage to be seen in later years.
Wilder questioned whether it had worked in “re-educating” the German civilian population about what their leaders had been doing in their name.
“They [the Germans] couldn’t cope with it. He [Wilder] told me people just left the screening or closed their eyes. They didn’t want to see,” Wilder’s friend Volker Schlöndorff recalled in a 2011 interview. “They found out it was almost unbearable to see these documents and almost indecent for the victims or the people related to the victims.”
As Toby Haggith acknowledges, the film is “much more candid” than any of the other documentaries about the camps. Haggith also describes it as “brilliant” and “sophisticated”.
The Trevor Howard voiceover narration in Memory of the Camps is strangely reminiscent of the one that director Carol Reed himself read over the opening of The Third Man (in which Howard co-starred.) It has the same sardonic understatement as it describes the devastation wreaked by the war. In the new version, the words will remain (but have now been recorded by a contemporary actor.)