As World War II veterans fade away, the impulse grows to honor these heroes while we can. That impulse suffuses but also subverts Victory Remembered, a one-hour homage to bravery and international cooperation hiding inside a meandering two-hour exercise. Too much in love with his material, producer and director Les Owen sabotages his subject with redundancy and digression, excusable only on grounds of noble intent. Owen’s topic is the First Special Service Force (FSSF), an all-volunteer commando unit German foes have nicknamed the “Black Devils”—more famously known as The Devil’s Brigade——for their burnt-cork camouflage and facility with stilettos. These tough, valorous Canadian and American troops left blood, dead buddies, and liberated Italian and French civilians across southern Europe.
The film’s brightest presence is Eugene Gutierrez (right), a Texas-born radioman and one of the few surviving Black Devils healthy enough to participate in a tour the filmmakers chronicled; he also makes a post-credits cameo well worth the wait. Victory’s most telling line comes from a Frenchman listening as a commando’s heir describes monuments the old man built to the FSSF around his native Nice. “Make it quick,” says Raymond Gatti. “Because I’m 93.”
Michael Dolan is the editor of World War II’s sister publication, American History.