Published on July 23rd, 2010 | by Chris5
The Battle of the Bulge, December 1944. Movies have tried and failed (the aptly named but poorly executed Battle of the Bulge) and succeeded (Band of Brothers, countless others).... But few manage to combine the two into a wildly excellent, yet kind of disappointing picture such as Battleground.
What do I mean? Well, let's get the good out of the way right now.
The 101st Airborne is sent to the lines just prior to the German's infamous push into the Ardennes. They're stranded, cut off, surrounded, without supplies and with dwindling morale and personnel. Yet the manage to persevere, and (as we know) manage to hold the line until the weather breaks and air support can resume.
In this respect Battleground is one of the most frank and grueling pictures depicting what it must have been like, for its time that is. It actually reminded me of the couple of Band of Brothers episodes set in the Ardennes. Slightly (OK considerably) less graphic in language and injury, but with the same amount of tension, fear, desperation and courage going on. Everything about it, even the triumphant march back off the line at the end, should make you proud of these guys. And it does.
But. (here it comes) It's like some higher-up mucketymuck at the studio got a hold of the script and said, "This is too serious. Add some corny gags and jokes. Really corny ones." And they did. Gack, what a nightmare. It's like someone superimposed I Love Lucy over the top of Bastogne at times.
Screen icon Van Johnson seems to carry the bulk of these, much to his character's detriment. What could have been a very well done study of the guy thrust into the crap, put in charge, and ultimately (yet forcefully) overcoming his fears.... well, its kinda ruined by the silly gags. All of them. From the false-teeth-clicking (way overdone) to the Arnez-ish "oh noes!" by Johnson.... ack. Keep an eye out, though, for a few "racey" bits and gags that I'm surprised passed the censor types, mainly based around the French girl Denise (Darcel) and Holley.
There are a few familiar faces, such as the late Van Johnson, Richard Jaeckal (Dirty Dozen), a very young Ricardo Montalbon, and a suitably grisly James Whitmore, but mostly unfamiliar ones, at least to me.
A true near-classic, mired by gags, Battleground still carries a lot of weight. It also took 2 Oscars in 1950 for best B/W Cinematography and Writing(!) believe it or not.
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Battleground (DVD)This hard-hitting drama follows a company of war-weary World War II infantrymen trapped behind German lines during the Battle of the Bulge. Homesick and shivering in snow-covered foxholes, the soldiers endure misery, agony and grief with irrepressible humor and dauntless mockery...
DVD InformationBinding: DVD
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audience Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Original Release Date:
- Van Johnson
- John Hodiak
- Ricardo Montalban
- George Murphy
- Marshall Thompson
- Factory sealed DVD
Summary: Battleground is one of the most frank and grueling pictures depicting what it must have been like