Parallax Film Productions Inc. is putting out some pretty amazing programming.
The Vancouver-based production company first jumped onto my radar with Battle Castle, an excellent series that recreated castles and showed how they were used for war. I’ve written about Hell Below, which documents the claustrophobic life for those working in U-boats during the Second World War. Now Parallax is back with Season 2 of Hitler’s Last Stand.
Currently broadcast Tuesday nights on Smithsonian Channel Canada, Hitler’s Last Stand tells the stories of Second World War battles post-D-Day, when German forces were being pushed back by the Allies but were still fighting.
“These aren’t the stories about the generals,” says Maija Leivo, executive producer. “These are the stories of these guys who had these unimaginable missions. They were the ones who had to take that hill, cross that river or build the bridge under fire.”
In the first hour-long episode of Season 2, “Lost Battalion,” (available to stream on Smithsonian’s website) an American regiment on D-Day plus 62 drives for the coast to liberate the French port city of Saint-Malo, and encounter Nazi resistance and every road blocked. Even when the 3rd Battalion does break through, within hours, they find the roadblock retaken by Nazi forces and the group surrounded. It’s a harrowing story brought to life not only by the fact it’s all true—and explained by historians, experts and stock footage—but because of the stellar wardrobe, makeup, filming and, yes, tanks.
“We try, as much as we can, to as much filming in-camera as possible,” says Ian Herring, Parallax’s founder. “We do a little CGI for some explosions, but for the most part those are real explosions.” Herring is constantly on the lookout for items from the Second World War that he can purchase and use for filming, scooping up clothing, vehicles and the aforementioned tank when he can. Having a bonafide tank roll through your shot gives immediate realism to the shoot, but it’s not without a glitch or two. Herring remembers a first-season tank its owner had trouble keeping running.
“We shot for 35 days in Season 1 and got his tank running on the last one,” he recalls with a laugh. When Herring needed a German tank, he found one in Plymouth, England. It was brought to Vancouver via the Panama Canal and landed in Seattle, where it was loaded onto a flatbed truck and driven up to Vancouver.
“We got to the Canadian border and the customs people there said, ‘Tank? What the heck? Carry on.’ And we shot the last week of production using a German tank.”
Hitler’s Last Stand airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Smithsonian Channel Canada. You can watch past episodes via Smithsonian Channel Canada’s website.
Images courtesy of Parallax Film Productions Inc.