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Author, film researcher and member of the Swedish Military History Commission.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Invasion of Lapland 1959

Swedish science fiction pioneer and blue beret veteran Bertil Jernberg has passed away. I will always remember meeting him. Perhaps he even inspired Chewbacca in "Star Wars"?

I learnt from today´s morning paper (Dagens Nyheter) that Bertil Jernberg recently died, at 78. I will always cherish having met that remarkable movie pioneer. I guess I was 16 or 17 when I got to visit him and examine i.a. his collection of dioramas depicting WWII and his own service as a blue beret during the Congo Crisis of the 1960´s:



I reckon Jernberg will be most remembered for a now mostly hilarious science fiction movie he produced back in 1959, the first ever Swedish sci-fi movie (although it was really Swedish-American). It is still easily available on the net and on DVD as "Horror in the Midnight Sun, "Terror in the Midnight Sun", or "Invasion of the Animal People" (in Swedish it is only known as "Space Invasion of Lapland"). Here follows a trailer focusing on the largest alien in the movie, who IMHO has quite a lot in common with the later "Star Wars" wookiee Chewbacca (who also is oversized, but of course not that oversized):



The movie was shown already at the time in the United States. I suppose that the young George Lucas didn´t miss it. I know he has stated "Chewie" was inspired by a dog, but if one has seen "Terror in the Midnight Sun", well...

By the way, the movie was shot in Abisko, the area in Swedish Lapland where I work every summer/fall as a guide. It also features Swedish Army rangers and the Swedish Air Force in WWII era uniforms.

Bertil Jernberg too in later years realized his sci-fi was more of a comedy than anything else. But he also produced some remarkable documentaries that he really ought to be remembered more for, such as films for the UN peace keepers and a documentary about the amazing relocation of the Abu Simbel temples.

Some years after I met Bertil Jernberg I called him when I needed some movie props. He had a whole lot of military vehicles, uniforms and other stuff that he rented to the movie industry. For a modest sum he let me have seven uniforms from the era of king Charles XII. I needed them to stage a ceremony in 1991, together with my future wife Ann-Sofie and other fellow students. Our 18th century "reenactment" commemorated a group of prisoners-of-war, mostly from Russia, who 275 years earlier were brought to the island where we were studying the Russian language - at the Brahe School (est. 1636). During the ceremony seven Swedish 18th century soldiers held the flags of the seven nations that had prisoners on the island, Visingsö. The site was the "Russian cemetery" of Visingsö.

Shortly after the historic peace ceremony we left the school to further study Russian on the home turf of the prisoners, at a language institute in Moscow.

For making that ceremony so perfect I am still very grateful to Bertil Jernberg, and my wife. Just hours before the ceremony she made the Russian flag that we needed so much and that I had been unable to produce...

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