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Combat - Season 1, Campaign 1
DVD | Box Set
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One of the television's most popular series, the groundbreaking Combat!! offers a gritty, unflinching look at American soldiers battling in Europe during World War II, confronting imposing odds and demonstrating remarkable levels of ingenuity and courage.
Hailed as one of the best episodic television series about World War II, ABC's Combat! arrives on DVD with its first 16 episodes in a heavily annotated four-disc set that's sure to please its longtime fans. The men of King Company's second platoon (a.k.a. King Two) are the focus of this gritty and realistic series; led by Lt. Gil Hanley (Rick Jason) and Sgt. Chip Saunders (Vic Morrow in an Emmy-nominated performance), King Two fought its way across France for five seasons, beginning in 1962 with the 16 episodes gathered here. The storyline kicks off shortly after D-Day and carries the platoon up to the liberation of Paris, which concluded the season (the second half of season 1 is featured in a separate four-disc set). Cast members rotated in and out of service (Tom Lowell's Pvt. Billy Nelson is apparently killed in "The Celebrity," yet returns to the platoon shortly thereafter), but viewers could count on each episode to deliver both solid action and dramatic direction from the likes of Robert Altman and Burt Kennedy, as well as excellent turns by guest actors as Tom Skerritt and Harry Dean Stanton.
Image's Combat! Season One: Campaign One establishes a watermark for other studios and distributors to follow with their own vintage television DVD sets. Commentary tracks by Robert Altman, first assistant director Michael Caffey, and actor Tom Lowell are featured on three episodes, while several other key participants, including actor Pierre Jalbert (Caje), directors Richard Donner and Ted Post, and Combat! episode guide author Jo Davidmeyer are featured in interviews for the featurette "Memories of Combat!." Davidmeyer also provides interesting factoids about each episode in the scene selection menus. A gallery of production photos rounds out the uniformly excellent supplemental features. Image's comprehensive boxed set is a must-have for devotees of the series and WWII drama in general. --Paul Gaita
- 16 episodes on four discs
- Photo gallery
- Memories of Combat!
- Notes, oddities, and bloopers
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The cast was in a constant flux also. Vic Morrow (Sgt. Saunders) & Rick Jason (Lt. Hanley) were constants. Season one had a little more focus on Hanley than in subsequent seasons. It was the supporting cast that had less stability & yet gave them more opportunity to be the main focus in an episode. Shecky Greene (Pvt. Braddock) was a comedian of some renown in 1962. He was only in 8 episodes total & was the major focus of two episodes. He managed to opt out of his contract before the completion of the first season. In those days ABC has less money to spend that its competitors so they weren't able to pay as much in salary. Greene claimed it cost him money every time he had to do an episode.
We barely see Jack Hogan (Pvt. Kirby) or Dick Peabody (Pvt. Littlejohn). Pierre Jalbert (Caje) is a little more visible. His French speaking skills were what kept him in the series. His character background was he was a Cajun from south Louisiana. In reality he was French-Canadian. He was actually a film editor that got hired as a member of the squad because of his French speaking ability, also his English wasn't heavily accented. Fletcher Fist (Pvt. Brockmeyer) figured heavily in the first season because he spoke German fluently.
The set opens with the episode "A Day in June" which is a flashback to June 6, 1944. We see Hanley was just a sergeant who would later receive a battle field commission. It's a good selection to be shown as first episode though it wasn't originally that way. Combat! would get more focused in season two & become the series that most of us are familiar with. It's fun to see the differences of season one though.There are bonus features that include audio-only commentaries during selected episodes; notes, oddities & bloopers are revealed in notes for most episodes; a photo gallery & a documentary, "Memories of Combat!" that has some cast members, guest stars & directors.
This is the first DVD set of the series I have watched and the episodes are rather disjointed, as is pointed out in the interview which is included in the set. We don't really get to know the soldiers in the squad because Producer Robert Altman wanted a more anthology-like feel to the program than it had later, after he left. The episodes I liked best were those that dealt with realistic situations, especially like those of a new man trying to be accepted by the battle-hardened veterans, and there are a few like that in this set. There is also a good, nail-biting episode about a British bomb-defuser. There were also numerous episodes that were simply not realistic and were either played for comedy (one where Shecky Greene's Pvt. Braddock character is mistaken for a Colonel when he is captured by the Germans), or simple action/adventure like the one where Lt. Hanley is sent on a daring mission with a commando (J D Cannon) to rescue a scientist from inside Occcupied France, or another where he is captured by a German General (Albert Paulsen) who uses him to escape the Gestapo who are trying to arrest him for being involved in the Bomb Plot that tried to kill Hitler. As a special bonus also get to see Ted Knight (in his pre-"Ted Baxter" days) play a minor role as a German officer whose comedic talents are already seen as he is trying to listen to his commanding officer and hold an unruly cat at the same time.
Still, in spite of the uneven quality of the different stories, a clear message comes through most of the episodes, that is we repeatedly see the dedication of men who felt they had to carry out their mission, even at the cost of their lives, yet these were not "supermen"-just ordinary fellows put into extraordinary situations. This is enough to get me hooked to the series.
What made this series stand out that they were able top bring the character of the average fighting man to the small screen. This was pointed out to me by my dad who was in the European Theater as a front line soldier and others I have talked to that were also there verify the realism. The stories are well-written and do not glorify war.
The cast was also superb with Vic Morrow as Sgt. Saunders, Rick Jason as Lt. Hanley and Pierre Jalbert, Dick Peabody and Jack Hogan being the squad mainstays over the years.
The Gallent Men was also a good WWII series but only lasted one year. I think it was because it failed to have a strong chracter for viewers to identify with like Saunders and because of the little things, such as, my dad noticed on The Gallant Men that when they took their helmets off their hair was perfectly combed. When Saunders takes his off it looks tangled and messed.
If you don't like this series, fine, but cutting it down as being typical super-American soldiers/yak yak yak/ is way off beam. This is a great TV series with outstanding writing, acting and production standards that just don't exist anymore in contemporary TV for me.
The episode quality is excellent.
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