Battle of the Bulge (DVD)
Henry Fonda stars in this epic story of one of the deciding battles of World War II. By December, 1944 the Allies believe that the Nazi Army is on the brink of total collapse. But the Germans counterattack, pushing the American Army back in a bloody offensive. Now in a battle that could decide the outcome of the war, victory or defeat depends on fuel, without which the German tanks are powerless--and the fate of the world hangs on the outcome of one small, determined fight for a single fuel depot.
The German offensive in December 1944 became the basis for this all-star Hollywood take on the Battle of the Bulge. Henry Fonda is an officer who predicts the assault, Robert Ryan and Dana Andrews are Army brass skeptical of his intuitions, and Robert Shaw (his hair dyed yellow and his eyes glinting with malice) is a German officer leading the tank attack. Shaw is certainly the most compelling thing about the film, especially in his philosophical debates with ambivalent underling Hans Christian Blech. Elsewhere, the movie jumps around to sidebar stories (cowardly James MacArthur becomes a leader, wheeler-dealer Telly Savalas falls in love) while messing around with the historical facts of the battle. There are interesting episodes, such as the Malmedy massacre of American POWs and the Germans' use of English-speaking spies, but overall Battle of the Bulge
has the feeling of having been patched together from different scripts. On the physical level the movie comes up short, with the Spanish locations rarely suggesting the wintry misery of the battle, and the use of models and studio sets highly inadequate. A number of war films from this era are compelling on their own terms, but in the wake of Saving Private Ryan
and Band of Brothers
, this one looks antique. --Robert Horton