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92 of 96 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Original Band of Brothers
Of the dozen or so films that use the Battle of the Bulge as a backdrop, BATTLEGROUND stands out as one of the best. Starring Van Johnson and John Hodiac, look for other young and upcoming stars of screen and television tube such as Marshall Thompson, Ricardo Montalban, James Arness and Richard Jaeckel.

The date is December 1944. The place is Bastogne,...
Published on October 26, 2001 by Kevin R. Austra

versus
2.0 out of 5 stars Quite poorly done.
Many of us are familiar with the story of the heroic action of the 101st airborne division at Bastogne. This movie doesn't come close to depicting that story. As with most old war movies, the acting was poor and the depiction of the battle scenes was unrealistic.
Published 11 months ago by George W. Marsh


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92 of 96 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Original Band of Brothers, October 26, 2001
By 
Kevin R. Austra (Delaware Valley, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Battleground [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Of the dozen or so films that use the Battle of the Bulge as a backdrop, BATTLEGROUND stands out as one of the best. Starring Van Johnson and John Hodiac, look for other young and upcoming stars of screen and television tube such as Marshall Thompson, Ricardo Montalban, James Arness and Richard Jaeckel.

The date is December 1944. The place is Bastogne, Belgium. The Germans have just unleashed their last major offensive in the west and the US 101st Airborne is rushed in to stem the tide. The film focuses on one platoon of airborne troopers and their actions outside of Bastogne.

If you thought the Bastogne sets for HBO'S BAND OF BROTHER'S were fantastic, get a glimpse of the equally fantastic sets for BATTLEGROUND. The story is presented from the GI point of view, so there are few opportunities to see the German soldiers up close.

In terms of historical accuracy, BATTLEGROUND was so well researched that even the weather conditions are matched with historical fact -- specifically that it did not start snowing until the 21st of December.

This film was a bit of gamble by MGM in 1949. In the post World War II and pre Korean War years, audiences were generally tired of war films. Additionally, BATTLEGROUND was not a showcase for clean-shaven football hero-type soldiers. The characters in this story are a collection of brave, tired, freezing cold, grimy and hungry soldiers just trying to survive. Apparently the formula worked because the film was nominated for six Oscars and won two (Best Screenplay and Best Cinematography). Captured on black and white film stock, the picture is occasionally intercut with real combat footage.

Alongside films like THE LONGEST DAY, this film is one of the best about GIs during World War Two. There are some old "colorized" versions floating around out there. Try to avoid those in preference for the original high-contrast black and white version.
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41 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best War Film From the G.I. Perspective., September 25, 2001
This review is from: Battleground [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Of all the films to emerge from World War II, "Battleground" best portrays basic survival from an infantryman's perspective. Even the battle scenes illustrate the closed-in battlefield and confusion experienced by the individual G.I. For example, the scene of the pre-dawn attack by German infantry when the American private takes the initiative to fire his M-1 rifle into the darkness at sounds rather than a visible target, thus spurring the other men in his squad to begin firing accurately portrays the confusion and fear oftentimes emminating from the foxhole. Several times in the film, the theme of officers and NCOs removing badges of rank in order to not expose themselves to enemy snipers is not often shown in other films of this genre. Even Captain Miller (Tom Hanks) in "Saving Private Ryan" boldly wore his Captain's bars on his helmet throughout the entire film (as did also his platoon Sergeant wear his stripes on the outside of his combat jacket). The ethnic and social make-up of the squad is another significant theme in the movie. The hillbilly from Appalacia, the Spanish-American from L.A., the intellectual journalist, the city boy, farm hand, or the all-star collegiate quarterback, all accurately displays the "citizen soldier" that traces its American military heritage back to colonial militia of the pre-revolutionary war era. All in all, this movie is not about the "Battered Bastards of Bastogne." Rather, it is about the common G.I. who fought in Europe in WWII. The themes throughout this film could represent any unit in any of the battles the encompassed the struggle in the ETO. It is for these reasons, this film has withstood the test of time and deserves to be called a classic.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic War Film!, July 27, 2000
By 
Barron Laycock "Labradorman" (Temple, New Hampshire United States) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Battleground [VHS] (VHS Tape)
I remember seeing this movie in classic black and white when I was only seven or eight, and I was impressed by its accurate and poignant portrayal of men in combat then. It wear well, after all these years, for this early star-studded take on the Battle of the Bulge seen through the prism of a platoon of young and inexperienced soldiers still inspires and moves the viewer with an authentic, sincere and gripping look at the reality of men in battle. Van Johnson leads the stellar cast of Hollywood notables trudging through the bleak and battle-torn landscape of wintry France as they dig in for the brutal exchanges with the Wehrmacht in Hitler's final bold gamble to turn the tide of war by counterattacking the Allies with a dozen divisions and 1,400 tanks in the dead of winter. In a battle that served to show the surprised world just how formidable and ferocious the American army could be, the soldiers beat back and defeat the vastly larger, better equipped, and more experienced German attackers.
This is not the typical gung-ho Hollywood take on battle, but is rather a thoughtfully scripted look at the range of emotions and experiences of a group of young men faced with the brutalizing and surreal situation of day-to-day life in combat. The range of emotions and degree of camaraderie shared by the men belies any attempt to oversimplify, and a few scenes in particular bring home to the viewer the stark truths of such an experience. Still, it is a rousing film, and one finds himself cheering quietly as most of the soldiers triumph and survive the experience of exposure to the elements as well as the enemy. The sets are not elaborate, but are appropriately (and accurately) bleak and dismal, and don't offer much in the way of distraction from the action and dialogue on the screen. The movie won several Oscars, and was a huge commercial success despite its grisly subject. This is a wonderful, thoughtful, and fairly accurate depiction of life on the ground during the time period of the Battle of the Bulge, and one I think you will enjoy seeing again and again. Enjoy!
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still the classic World War II movies about American G.I.s, February 1, 2004
By 
Amazon Customer (The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Battleground [VHS] (VHS Tape)
The first twenty minutes of "Saving Private Ryan" raised the bar on the realism of war film in terms of the portrayal of the violent hell of combat. But in terms of showing us in a movie what it was like to be combat troops in World War II, the standard still remains the 1949 film "Battleground," directed by William Wellman (and I say this having loved "Band of Brothers"). The film won Oscars in 1950 for Robert Pirosh's script and Paul Vogel's black & white cinematography, and was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (James Whitmore), and Best Editing (John D. Dunning).
The setting for "Battleground" is the besieged city of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge and focuses on I Company of the 101st Airborne. Pirosh had based the story on his own experiences during the battle, which including the details like Private Kippton (Douglas Fowley) always losing his false teeth and Private Rodriguez (Ricardo Montalban), who came from L.A. and had never seen snow before he got to Belgium. The situation was pretty simple: the Germans have Bastogne surrounded and the 101st is short on food and ammunition. Sgt. Kinnie (Whitmore) and the men of I Company have there sector to control, so they sit in the freezing cold, waiting for the Germans to attack and praying for the cloud cover to lift so they can get air support and supplies.
I am sure I am not the other kid from my generation who learned to do the cadence call of "Sound off," not knowing that it came from older kids who had seen this movie. This is a movie full of memorable scenes: Private Holley (Van Johnson) trying to make eggs, a checkpoint exchange that shows the importance of knowing baseball terminology like "Texas Leaguer," and a befuddled German officer trying to understand if General McAulliffe's infamous reply of "Nuts" to the demand for the 101st's surrender is a negative or an affirmative response.
For me the key moment in the film comes when I Company finally receives supplies dropped from C-47s. These guys have been freezing and pretty much starving for a week, and when they open up crates of SPAM and K-Rations, they are clearly disappointed. It is not until they find ammunition that they finally get excited. The montage of defeating the Germans is superfluous at that point, because the look in the eyes of these guys captures the moment even better.
In terms of realism I do have one slight knock on this film, in that I Company is atypical because they had winter coats (compare with the Bastogne episode of "Bad of Brothers"), but that is rather secondary to the point of this film, which is to celebrate the citizen soldier. As Holley explains to a major, "PFC" means "praying for civilian." Even when the Chaplain (Leon Ames) answers the big question, as to why these guys had to leave their families and jobs to fight in Europe, in has less to do with fascist ideology and more with the idea that the Germans were bullies throwing their weight around and killing a lot of people.
Still, "Battleground" comes down to the guys in I Company, Jarvess (John Hodiak), "Pop" (George Murphy), Layton (Marshall Thompson), Spudler (Jerome Courtland), Standiferd (Don Taylor), Hansan (Herbert Anderson), Bettis (Richard Jaeckel), Doc (Thomas E. Breen), and Sgt. Walowizc (Bruce Cowling). There is a tendency to make fun of the idea of the melting pot nature of these units, but we are talking diversity in terms of ethnicity more than racial lines and is certainly in keeping with everything I have read about the 101st. The humor in the trenches is a lot grimmer than you hear in most of these movies, an advantage of being made several years after the war ended (compare it with Wellman's 1945 film "Story of G.I. Joe").
This film is more about the psychology of war, putting up with the weather, the lack of supplies, the Germans trying to get them to surrender and showing up dressed in American uniforms, and keeping up morale than it is about actual fighting. That makes it rather unique in terms of movies about World War II in general or the Battle of the Bulge in particular. "Battleground" remains one of the classic films about grunts in the army.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Does Justice to the Bastards of Bastogne, June 1, 2000
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This review is from: Battleground [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Although overly dramatic at times, Battleground warrants attention as a legitimate WWII film centering on the plight of a 101st Airborne platoon during the strategic battle at Bastogne. Nominated for six Oscars and winner of two (Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography), Battleground captures the physical and emotional hardships endured by combat footsoldiers facing extreme adverse conditions. The dialogue exchanges among the grunts draws the viewer into a soldier's world of fear, survival, and death. Van Johnson and John Hodiak are given top billing, but it is James Whitmore as the tobacco spitting platoon leader Kip who steals every scene he is in. Whitmore walks, talks, and looks like a seasoned veteran of numerous tours of duty. Director William Wellman intersperses actual WWII footage, but he could have improved some of the fabricated battle scenery. For instance the snow used in certain sets is unconvincing. To Wellman's credit the carbine shots, grenade explosions, and the mortar volleys are authenticated with gritty realism. Wellman should also be lauded for the emotionalism in which he draws from his characters. The platoon soldiers are not faceless battle weary men; instead each one is given the latitude to express his individuality. The scene where a soldier takes a drag from a cigarette and immediately experiences blurred vision hints at drug use on the front lines. Wellman had the courage to include this frame and surprisingly it slipped past the scrutiny of the Breen Commission. Remember this was 1946, Mr. Breen and the Motion Picture Production Code were extemely conscious of material that might be deemed Un-American to the movie going public. Other scenes where Holly (Van Johnson) desires sex with the French girl are sugar coated and poorly orchestrated. Battleground was definitely a forerunner for films such as Hamburger Hill and Saving Private Ryan which depict the comradeship among soldiers engaged in the horrors of battle.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Collection of the best, March 9, 2003
By 
T O'Brien (Chicago, Il United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Battleground [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Battleground is a true classic about WWII made only a few years after the war. It boasts an all-star cast of Van Johnson, Marshall Thompson, John Hodiak, James Whitmore, Don Taylor, Ricardo Montalban and many other notable faces. The story follows members of the 101st Division before and during the battle of the Bulge, especially the seige of Bastogne. All the performances are great. The movie gives an excellent idea of what being a soldier is actually like. These men aren't gung-ho soldiers bent on killing. They are just hoping to survive the war. Excellent movie, not to be missed.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best American War Movie of the 20th Century, May 30, 2000
This review is from: Battleground [VHS] (VHS Tape)
This is one of the two WWII movies that Steven Spielberg studied (the other was "A Walk in the Sun")before making "Saving Private Ryan". Dore Schary's script, William Welman's direction, and the performances of Van Johnson, Marshall Thompson, and an outstanding supporting cast (check out how YOUNG James Arness is!) succeed in capturing on film the quintessential portrait of Americans in combat. There are no heroics here, just heroes --- the cynical, homesick, scared, cold, dirty, profane, tired GIs --- who do their duty and make their sacrifices not for glory, but for each other.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As good as it gets, August 30, 2004
This review is from: Battleground (DVD)
If you like war movies for more than just shoot em up, special effects, and theater command decisions, then this is the movie for you. This is the soldiers tale of the Seige of Bastogne. Unlike other well made WWII movies, Battleground focuses on on platton in the 101st Airborne, or the screaming eagles. From Rodriquez cheering joyfully at his first experience with snow to Holly and his encounters with a young french woman, this it what the war was like to the everyday soldier. They didn't know what was going on, where there were headed or, whether or not they would be alive the next day. This is one of the greatest war movies of all time because it makes you feel like just one of the buck privates fighting for freedom. You know how much you care for them when at the end, the sun comes out, and you are right there cheering on the much needed air support. "Hey, how've you been!!!!"
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Does Justice to the Bastards of Bastogne, May 29, 2000
By 
This review is from: Battleground [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Although overtly dramatic at times, Battleground warrants attention as a legitimate WWII film that centers on the plight of a 101st Airborne platoon during the strategic battle at Bastogne. Nominated for six Oscars and winner of two (Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography) Battleground captures the hardships endured by combat footsoldiers facing extreme physical conditions during times of war. The dialogue exchanges among the grunts draws the viewer into a soldier's world of fear, survival, and death. Van Johnson and John Hodiak are given top billing, but it is James Whitmore as the tobacco spitting platoon leader Kip who steals every scene he is in. Whitmore walks, talks, and looks every bit the part of a seasoned veteran of numerous tours of duty. Director William Wellman intersperses actual WWII footage throughout the film, but he could have improved the realism of some of the fabricated battle scenes. The snow in certain scenes for instance looks unconvincing. To Wellman's credit the shots fired from the soldier's carbines, grenade explosions, and mortar volleys are authenticated with gritty realism. Wellman should also be lauded for the emotionalism he draws from his cast of characters. The platoon soldiers are not faceless battle weary men, instead each man is given the latitude to express his individuality throughout the film. The scene where a soldier takes a drag from a cigarette and then immediately experiences blurred vision hints at drug use among some WWII soldiers. This revelation would be unheard of during the censor minded times of the Breen Commission, yet Wellman deftly slips the frame past the scrutiny of the Motion Picture Production Code. Other scenes where Holly (Van Johnson) desires sex with the French woman are sugar coated and poorly orchestrated. For a film released in 1946, Battleground was definitely a forerunner for future films such as Saving Private Ryan and Hamburger Hill, which depicted the comradeship and loyalty among soldiers engaged in the horror of battle.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still the classic World War II movies about American G.I.'s, January 29, 2004
By 
Amazon Customer (The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)    (COMMUNITY FORUM 04)   
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Battleground [VHS] (VHS Tape)
The first twenty minutes of "Saving Private Ryan" raised the bar on the realism of war film in terms of the portrayal of the violent hell of combat. But in terms of showing us in a movie what it was like to be combat troops in World War II, the standard still remains the 1949 film "Battleground," directed by William Wellman (and I say this having loved "Band of Brothers"). The film won Oscars in 1950 for Robert Pirosh's script and Paul Vogel's black & white cinematography, and was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (James Whitmore), and Best Editing (John D. Dunning).
The setting for "Battleground" is the besieged city of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge and focuses on I Company of the 101st Airborne. Pirosh had based the story on his own experiences during the battle, which including the details like Private Kippton (Douglas Fowley) always losing his false teeth and Private Rodriguez (Ricardo Montalban), who came from L.A. and had never seen snow before he got to Belgium. The situation was pretty simple: the Germans have Bastogne surrounded and the 101st is short on food and ammunition. Sgt. Kinnie (Whitmore) and the men of I Company have there sector to control, so they sit in the freezing cold, waiting for the Germans to attack and praying for the cloud cover to lift so they can get air support and supplies.
I am sure I am not the other kid from my generation who learned to do the cadence call of "Sound off," not knowing that it came from older kids who had seen this movie. This is a movie full of memorable scenes: Private Holley (Van Johnson) trying to make eggs, a checkpoint exchange that shows the importance of knowing baseball terminology like "Texas Leaguer," and a befuddled German officer trying to understand if General McAulliffe's infamous reply of "Nuts" to the demand for the 101st's surrender is a negative or an affirmative response.
For me the key moment in the film comes when I Company finally receives supplies dropped from C-47s. These guys have been freezing and pretty much starving for a week, and when they open up crates of SPAM and K-Rations, they are clearly disappointed. It is not until they find ammunition that they finally get excited. The montage of defeating the Germans is superfluous at that point, because the look in the eyes of these guys captures the moment even better.
In terms of realism I do have one slight knock on this film, in that I Company is atypical because they had winter coats (compare with the Bastogne episode of "Bad of Brothers"), but that is rather secondary to the point of this film, which is to celebrate the citizen soldier. As Holley explains to a major, "PFC" means "praying for civilian." Even when the Chaplain (Leon Ames) answers the big question, as to why these guys had to leave their families and jobs to fight in Europe, in has less to do with fascist ideology and more with the idea that the Germans were bullies throwing their weight around and killing a lot of people.
Still, "Battleground" comes down to the guys in I Company, Jarvess (John Hodiak), "Pop" (George Murphy), Layton (Marshall Thompson), Spudler (Jerome Courtland), Standiferd (Don Taylor), Hansan (Herbert Anderson), Bettis (Richard Jaeckel), Doc (Thomas E. Breen), and Sgt. Walowizc (Bruce Cowling). There is a tendency to make fun of the idea of the melting pot nature of these units, but we are talking diversity in terms of ethnicity more than racial lines and is certainly in keeping with everything I have read about the 101st. The humor in the trenches is a lot grimmer than you hear in most of these movies, an advantage of being made several years after the war ended (compare it with Wellman's 1945 film "Story of G.I. Joe").
This film is more about the psychology of war, putting up with the weather, the lack of supplies, the Germans trying to get them to surrender and showing up dressed in American uniforms, and keeping up morale than it is about actual fighting. That makes it rather unique in terms of movies about World War II in general or the Battle of the Bulge in particular. "Battleground" remains one of the classic films about grunts in the army.
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Battleground
Battleground by William A. Wellman (DVD - 2004)
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