Turned Toward the Sun: The Extraordinary Life of Michael Burn, M.C.
directed by Greg Olliver
MVD Visual/ Secret Women Films
If you’re lucky, you’ll age into a sprightly oldster with a stack of stories, some true, some stretched, but all interesting. That’s the life of WW2 hero Michael Burn. He grew up in posh surroundings; his parents worked for Buckingham palace and had access to the King and Queen. Burns went to an excellent school and became a commando in the Big War. His troop went to destroy a massive dry dock in Saint-Nazaire France. They succeeded, and the attack helped turn the course of the war. But most of his fellow commandos were killed and he spent the rest of the war in Colditz Castle as a POW. While imprisoned, he received mail from Audrey Hepburn’s mother, and saved the future actress by mailing her cigarettes to sell. Another great story arises from his move to the castle: his guard fell asleep and Burn removed the bullets from his gun, only to return them when he was dropped off. Later he became a poet, moved to Wales, and other than a dalliance with double agent Guy Burgess, he spent a rather calm later life.
Director Olliver excels at drawing out Burn’s anecdotes, although he’s hard of hearing and near the end of his 98 year life when this was shot. The war stories are exciting and several surviving co-commandos add to his narration, but the long excursion in to his poetry are more calming than a good documentary requires. Olliver’s cinematography does a swell job of capturing the north Welsh country side, and extensive archival material filling the darker corners of Burn’s middle age and love life. The material here is grand, the battle descriptions lively and engaging, but over all, this project could easily be trimmed down to under an hour without losing any impact.