Overlord (1975 film)

Overlord is a 1975 black-and-white film written and directed by Stuart Cooper. Set around the D-Day invasion ('Operation Overlord'), Overlord is a war film about a young soldier's meditations on being part of the war machinery, and his premonitions of death. The film was entered into the 25th Berlin International Film Festival, where it won the Silver Bear - Special Jury Prize.[2]

Directed byStuart Cooper
Produced byJames Quinn
Written byStuart Cooper
Christopher Hudson
StarringBrian Stirner
Davyd Harries
Music byPaul Glass
CinematographyJohn Alcott
Edited byJonathan Gili
Release date
  • 1975 (1975)
Running time
84 minutes [1]
CountryUnited Kingdom


Beginning with a premonition of his death, the film follows a young everyman through his call up to the East Yorkshire Regiment, his training, his meeting a young girl, his journey to France, and his death on D-Day at Sword. Director Cooper also includes footage of the London Blitz and bombing of Europe to emphasise the events leading up to the invasion and the comparatively short distance between England and France.




Stuart Cooper had originally intended to make a documentary film about the Overlord Embroidery tapestry.[4] As he researched the events of the Normandy landings at the Imperial War Museum he decided on making a film of a young man's journey from call up to coffin.

About half of Overlord is contemporary footage shot for the film, and about half of it is archival footage from British training missions and the invasion itself. Cooper and his cinematographer, John Alcott, tried to create a consistent look when filming the contemporary footage and to this end they employed old Kodak film stock and World War II-era original German 1930s military camera lenses.

The film originally failed to get US theatrical distribution and was only shown there in select screenings and on television (including a run on California's Z Channel which was highlighted on the acclaimed 2004 TV documentary film Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession).[5] [6] In 2006, the film saw its first US release through Janus Films and in early 2008 a re-mastered edition was re-released in cinemas (on 1 February, with a launch at the Institute of Contemporary Arts) and on DVD (on 3 March) in the UK.

It was released as part of the Criterion Collection in 2007.[7][8]

Presenting a screening of the film at the 2009 Sydney Film Festival, director Stuart Cooper said that the Imperial War Museum allowed him access to millions of feet of their film including original nitrate negatives. Cooper was also granted access to diaries of soldiers who were present at the landing that he incorporated into the screenplay. Parts of the film were shot at Aldershot.


On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film received an approval rating of 90% based on 20 reviews, with an average rating of 8.04/10.[9]

On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 88 out of 100 based on 8 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[10] Roger Ebert gave the film a full four stars upon its re-release, and argued that it "combines its newsreel and fictional footage so effectively that it has a greater impact than all fiction, or all documentary, could have achieved."[11]

Jonathan Rosenbaum, on the other hand, said the film was "an interesting failure" criticizing the sincere yet cliched story integrating with a remarkable selection of newsreels. [12]


  1. MUBI
  2. "Berlinale 1975: Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Retrieved 11 July 2010.
  3. TCM.com
  4. Cooper, Stuart (18 January 2008). "A camera instead of a rifle". Guardian. Retrieved 16 August 2009.
  5. "Z Channel: Overlord". YouTube. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
  6. "Film Montage from "Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession" (2004)". YouTube. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
  7. The Criterion Collection: Overlord by Stuart Cooper
  8. Amazon listing
  9. "Overlord (1975)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  10. "Overlord [re-release] Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  11. Ebert, Roger (1 June 2006). "Overlord Movie Review & Film Summary (2006)". Retrieved 1 September 2016.
  12. Chicago Reader
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