#87) The Battle of San Pietro (1945)
Directed & Written by John Huston
Class of 1991
This film is also available on the National Film Preservation Foundation website.
After being enlisted in the army during World War II, John Huston was put to work making documentaries for the Signal Corps. Following the success of his Oscar nominated “Report from the Aleutians”, Huston was sent to film the Allied Forces’ Italian Campaign in San Pietro. What Huston produced (after some laborious editing at the behest of the Army) is an unflinching look at war and its aftermath. The bulk of the film was staged after the fact and Huston’s anti-war sentiments were all but eliminated, but “The Battle of San Pietro” still manages to create some jaw-dropping moments during a major turning point in the war. Despite its neutering, this film does not shy away from such sobering visuals as the fresh corpses of soldiers being carted away, or the comune of San Pietro Infine reduced to rubble and ruins. “The Battle of San Pietro” was the first World War II documentary to be included in the National Film Registry, and its frank visuals are still a tough act to follow.
Read more about the film and its history in this essay from the NFR by documentary historian Ed Carter.