I wanted to start making some historically inspired fake movies. I found this weird story from a hundred years ago and I thought I could give it the Hollywood treatment. Try to guess what’s made up. And yes, I did steal the title from Hitchcock, but it’s a good title.
Based on a True Story is shown on the screen. Then spinning newspapers enter. The first headline announces the death of Archduke Ferdinand. The next few announce the start of war. The last headline is from 1917 and asks when the US will join their brothers in the fight.
Bill Hickman is reading the paper as his wife Tessie cooks breakfast. Bill refers to the paper and says to Tessie that its just a matter of time until they declare war. He gets a sheepish grin and says, “hey, it’ll be great for business.” Tessie playfully hits him. He laughs then gets serious. He says this is the great war, the last war, and America has a duty to do all it can to end the fighting once and for all. He says he is doing his small part. His company just finalized its contract to produce ammunition for the Russians. He says that whether people like it or not, the US is becoming a player in the war, and their will be consequences.
A man (Schulz) sits in a dark corner of a bar. He sips dark beer. Another man (Krause) approaches and begins to say something in German but Schulz cuts him off stands up and nods for him to follow. They take the an employee entrance to an underground casino. There are a lot of unseemly looking characters, real “bad dudes.” They find a booth in the back where a man (Friedrich) is looking around nervously. He looks relieved to see them and greets them warmly.
Schulz nods at Krause and in a strong German accents says “Here is the man I was telling you about. He was an explosives expert in the Austrian army. He has been helping me do reconnaissance.” He pulls out a yellow folder and puts it on the table. Friedrich looks panicked. “Relax, this place would have shut down years ago if there were any snitches.”
The three examine the contents of the folder. There are photos and blueprints of an ammunitions factory in New Jersey. There is a lot of security, a tall wall and guard booths. Krause explains that they would need a tank or a squadron of soldiers to take out the defenses and shut them down. Friedrich says that maybe they should just forget it, that it’s not worth dying for. Schultz looks really annoyed. He says that Friedrich needs to get his head in the game. This all just confirms his suspicion and just calls for a different method. They will win using brains not brawn.
Bill Hickman is in his office. As he examines documents he picks up his phone. “Hey beautiful, can you ring my secretary.” We cut to Tessie who is the switch operator.
“You know you can ring her directly right… or just yell.”
“But I like hearing your voice.”
“You are the worst boss I ever had…”
“Oh you love it.”
“… maybe I do, but you should really stop doing this, my job is pretty important.”
“I know, that’s why I hired you. Speaking of which, that’s actually why I have to talk to Edna. This Russian deal is really spreading us thin, I’m going to have to hire a lot more people.”
“Sorry, I’ll just ring her directly. See you at home!”
Schulz, Krause and Friedrich are talking in hush tones in an apartment. There is a newspaper that they are all examining. “Way too risky,” says Friedrich. “Come on, this is perfect! Krause?” “You are right, this is the only way.” We cut to a close up of the paper, it’s the help wanted section with the ad for the munitions factory circled.
Bill greets Schulz for the interview. He asks about his previous employment and the like which Schulz gamely answers. He then says that everything looks good, but he just wants to make sure Schultz is capable of doing all the work. He starts to explain the responsibilities, that it’s actually a supervisory position where he will be managing multiple workers, and they will continue expanding so he will be needed to help in the interview process. At that Schultz smirks. “I’m sorry, does that not appeal to you?” “Oh, that’s perfect.”
“Absolutely not. No, Krause should do it. I’m out,” says Friedrich. “It’s perfect, I’ll be there to help you along. Your English is better. It has to be you.” Krause agrees.
It’s Friedrich’s interview. He is a nervous wreck but Schultz is there with Bill and is able to keep things on track, and after the fact is able to convince Bill that he is a man they need. Bill reluctantly agrees.
It’s a few weeks later and Friedrich explains what his job entails to the other two. He is one of a bunch of people who clean finished ammunition. They use rags and gasoline as cleaning solutions. Krause is overjoyed. He says if they play their cards right it might even look like an accident and they won’t be in any danger.
Bill and Tessie are having breakfast again. He reminds her that he is going to be late to the office as they finish up.
Sweat is running down Friedrich’s face. He keeps looking around at the other employees. He not so subtly takes out a small device that Krause created and places it in the small gasoline plate in front of him. He steps back as it explodes. Sparks are sent everywhere which starts to catch the other work stations on fire. There is a stampede as the workers flee. One of the workers grabs the phone. He yells for the operator to call the fire department, there is a huge fire and it is spreading.
Tessie is terrified. She can barely get out the address when talking with the authorities. She hangs up and grabs her coat to walk out the door but pauses. She looks back at the switch board. She takes a breath and walks back. She begins dialing the different buildings in the complex and telling them to evacuate.
Bill is approaching building when a fire truck flys by him. He sees smoke in the distance goes pale and hits the gas. There is a stream of people rushing away from the blaze. The fire department are holding a parameter but aren’t trying to put it out. Bill tries to get by but is stopped. “That’s my factory, is everyone out.” “Looks like everyone made it out. Some brave soul saved countless lives. The operator warned the whole complex.” “Tessie! Where is she. Did she get out?!” The fireman looks grave. There is an explosion.
People are watching the huge prolonged explosions from their fire escapes in Manhattan. A little girl in a tenement house sheds a single tear as she views the spectacle. We cut to people all over Manhattan from different backgrounds and ethnicities reach to the explosions until ending at a mental institution. The patients in the institution are overcome. They believe it’s the end of the world. It’s pandemonium. The staff think fast and give ice-cream to the inmates to calm them down. They convince them that the war is over and it’s just celebratory fireworks.
It’s weeks later. Bill is talking with the police. A police man says they are all sorry for his loss, but he can help avenge her. He puts pictures of Schultz and Friedrich in front of him.
Friedrich is pacing back and forth in his tiny apartment. He keeps muttering about how they’ve all left him. There is a knock at his door. He freezes. The door is kicked in. Friedrich climbs out his window and slides down a cloth line before dropping onto an overhang. He slides off and starts to run, the police close behind.
Friedrich is small and is able to dart through the crowd. The police reach a clearing and look around. They have lost him. The camera zooms out slowly as the credits begin to play.