Battle of the Bulge [Blu-ray]
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Battle of the Bulge (BD)]]>
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
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Top customer reviews
I was surprised and grateful to see many scenes in this version that hardly ever showed up on TV Broadcasts and were not on my particular VHS Version. One extended scene that stands out is more footage of the English Speaking German Soldiers preparing for their sabotage mission on U.S. Troops in the Ardennes Forrest, which should have never been cut out in the first place. In particular, the part where the German Colonel Hessler is surrounded by them at a German Headquarters and he really thinks they are Americans. There are other scenes like this added back in to this version but again, this one stands out.
Speaking of Col. Hessler as played by Robert Shaw, he may be an Irishman in real life but he is totally convincing as the German Villain in this story and a real treat to watch... There are many good supporting cast members in this one who went on to even greater fame in the 1970's such as Charles Bronson and Telly Savalas. However, during the 60's both of these guys tended to show up in ensemble cast WWII Productions as I recall. Henry Fonda is OK in the nominal lead role although many others could have played his part with equal, if not better chops in this particular vehicle.
There are definitely some historical inaccuracies in this one but what the hey, it is Hollywood afterall... A fine score accompanies the film and along with "The Great Escape", this ranks as one of my favorite all-time WWII Movies and you can't go wrong at $5.00 in adding this to your collection.
Oh yeah, there's one more thing; the big tank battle towards the end. It's supposed to be in the thick and impenetrable Ardennes forest in the middle of winter? Well there are two things missing; trees and snow. It looks like they were fighting on a pool table.
The movie itself, however, grows more unbelievable as it proceeds. The producer and director make an attempt through the beginning and middle of the film to give one the feel of the brutal winter that settled into Belgium and France during the 5-6 weeks over which the battle raged, with patches of snow scattered here and there, and with a generalized chilly haze filling the air. But by the film's end, we're clearly off shooting in the arid Cascade Mountain Range in Washington state, with sunshine beaming gloriously. We're not anywhere near the Ardennes, and winter is but a distant memory. The final apocryphal battle between the massed tanks of both sides in the movie (there were tank battles during the Bulge, but no final, decisive one) takes place on a vast and barren plain that would have cost a pre-CGI fortune to decorate with snow, fake or real, so we get no snow to speak of...and no trees, either.
There are other cases of artistic license being taken in this film that are rather odd. The idea that the Bulge was a 50-hour gambit on the part of the Germans to charge to Antwerp is a misrepresentation of history. The plan actually called for the Germans to get halfway to Antwerp in 4 days (96 hours), with the expectation that the second half of the push would be a bit tougher. If this movie is your only reference point for what happened during The Bulge, you'll believe that the whole thing was over in a little over two days.
The film is correct in asserting that the Germans were low on fuel, but it fails to mention that the Germans did capture any number of large Allied fuel dumps during the initial days of the battle that allowed them to refuel and continue advancing. Allied infantry actually did a good job holding up the German advance, while blowing numerous fuel dumps in advance of the German tanks that forced the Germans to alter course and advance on secondary targets to find fuel.
The film includes a scene that is presumably based on the infamous Malmady Massacre of Dec 17, 1944, wherein German SS troops summarily executed 84 American POWs. The film does not, however, include any mention of the Chenogne Massacre of New Year's Day, 1945, wherein American troops summarily executed some 60 German POWs in retaliation for the massacre at Malmady. To the victor belongs the cinematic spoils, I guess.
Still, an enjoyable film on many levels. Just realize that this is no *Band of Brothers,* but rather, a 1960s Hollywood take on WWII, which means that nuance and historical accuracy will be in short supply (the film had its American premiere on Dec 16, 1965, 21 years to the day that the actual Battle began).
BTW - you may notice that the "victory" music on the soundtrack sounds suspiciously like the Finale from the Fifth Symphony of Dmitri Shostakovich. I don't know that the similarity was unintended.