Plot Summary: An all-star cast led by Henry Fonda is featured in the epic dramatization of one of the most important battles of World War II.
Also starring: Robert Shaw
Supporting actors: Robert Ryan, Dana Andrews, Pier Angeli, Barbara Werle, George Montgomery, Ty Hardin, Charles Bronson, Hans Christian Blech, Werner Peters, James MacArthur, Telly Savalas
Directed by: Ken Annakin
Studio: Warner Bros.
Serious Jest: (Worth Watching) This movie is cheesy and hokey at times, and, according to its IMDB trivia page, former U.S. President (and Supreme Allied Commander in Europe during WW2) Dwight D. Eisenhower bashed the film in a press conference soon after its release, due to its glaring historical inaccuracies. However, it’s decently entertaining throughout, including some pretty impressive tank battles, especially for 1966; and I’m willing to cut this flick some slack on the historical inaccuracies because it openly disclaimed, “To encompass the whole of the heroic contributions of all the participants, places, names and characters, have been generalized and action has been synthesized in order to convey the spirit and essence of the battle.” Also, some interesting themes surrounding war are covered, including:
The struggle between Shaw’s character, Col. Hessler, and Peters’s character, Gen. Kohler, is reminiscent of the reported relationship that General Erwin Rommel, widely regarded as a military genius, had with Adolf Hitler. Hitler’s constant involvement and interference with his top generals’ strategies, despite his inferior military competence, is often said to have played a large part in the Axis losing the war.
The metamorphosis of MacArthur’s character, Lt. Weaver, from a cowardly, clueless butter bar to a courageous, confident leader reminds me of how I was taught in the Marines that even the bravest people freeze up sometimes. For example, there is an often-told, but unconfirmed, story about retired Marine Major General Ray “E-Tool” Smith, a highly-decorated hero who accomplished many valiant feats, freezing up in a battle just a few weeks before earning his nickname by dispatching several North Vietnamese soldiers with his military shovel (called an e-tool).
The importance of every man being trained as a rifleman, which the Marine Corps ensures (that’s why we don’t have Jessica Lynch situations). The best line in this film is Bronson telling the cooks, “Lunch is over! Grab your rifles!”