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World War II drama that shows the battles - on and off the field - that a general must fight in order to win the war. General Casey of the US Forces in England must fight congressional representatives and his own chain of command to be allowed to complete an important mission. He must get his men's planes out, during a small window of fair weather, in order to prevent the Germans from making more military jet planes. Although the general knows the success of his plan could decide whether the Germans get the upper hand in the war, it could also mean suicide for his men. Adapted from the William Wister Haines stage hit.
Command Decision (1949) takes on the kind of questions that Hollywood could never have raised during the war--questions about the cruel responsibilities of command, including the responsibility to spend a great many lives to save thousands more in the future. In 1943, from an American airbase in the English countryside, a campaign of daylight bombardment is being waged against aircraft factories in Germany. For much of the way to their targets and back, the bombers are bereft of fighter escort and at the mercy of the Luftwaffe. The mortality rate is shocking--but perhaps, for reasons that are not widely known, necessary. Clark Gable (himself an air war veteran) plays the commandant who has to call the next day's target, and the film never leaves command HQ; the closest we get to combat is a scene of an untrained crewman trying to land a crippled plane. Command Decision is earnest but outshone by the similarly focused Twelve O'Clock High. The main problem is that it's based on--and essentially remains--a play, static in setting and schematic in its arguments. Still, those arguments should be heard. --Richard T. Jameson
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The real drama here is the tension between BGen. Dennis, played excellently by Clark Gable, and his CO, MGen. Kane, also excellently portrayed by Water Pidgeon. Dennis, privy to knowledge of a new German jet fighter which will make the Allied air forces obsolete, is determined to destroy its factories at any cost before the Germans can deploy their new weapon. And the cost is high, losing upwards of a thousand men over three days of daylight precision bombing over the German interior. His immediate superior, Kane, who's fighting a political war with the other service branches and second guessers back home, as well as the Germans, is appalled by the incredible losses Dennis has incurred, and worries the high casualty rate will cause the Joint Chiefs to cancel the daylight precision bombing campaign.
The cast is very ably supported by Brian Donlevy, Van Johnson, John Hodiak and a very young Cameron Mitchell. I think this is a better film than Twelve O'Clock High because there's less melodrama and more serious examination of the burdens of command and the necessity of all US generals to placate and pacify a variety of interests back home.
My copy was in the original black & white format, just as the film makers intended. Don't spend another rainy week-end watching old classic films without a DVD of your very own!
No, Amazon doesn't pay me to compose these reviews. I do so on my own, for the fun of it!
Love the movie, of the two thirds I’ve seen.
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IMPORTANT PRECISION: this is a Region 1 NTSC DVD - it will NOT play on standard European Region 2 PAL equipement.
1943, England. We are at the beginning of the really serious American effort in the air war against Third Reich. At that time the long range fighters were not yet available to the allies and therefore the bombers had to go over the Reich unescorted - and as result the whole year 1943 was a time of terrible, heart-breaking losses amongst USAAF crews. In the very first scene we learn that American Eighth Air Force just lost a record 48 bombers shot, which also means the loss of 480 men, when attacking just one undisclosed industrial target (that actually is a reference to the very real and extremely tragic Schweinfurt Raid on 17 April 1943). Those numbers cause of course a shock amongst the brass and even more, a major political tremor. And then the film begins...
Another person reviewing this film (bkoganbing from Buffalo, NY, on IMDB site) described it as the "analysis of political process of a military decision" - and even if I usually try to avoid borrowing from other reviewers, here I simply have no choice, because that phrase is just THE perfect summary of this most excellent film.
In "Command decision" we can see three generals, three congressmen, two journalists and a lot of subaltern officers involved in a dramatic debate about planning and executing an important bombing campaign. The debate however is also about the consequences this campaign will have for all involved, beginning with aircrews who will risk their lives and ending with politicians who will have to answer for the success or failure and the price attached to either before public opinion...
Quite logically the main characters are the three generals:
- Major General Kane (Walter Pidgeon), is the highest ranking person involved as he is the main military co-ordinator and commander of the whole American air effort against Germany; being the number one he is also the main target for all the trouble and therefore, other than being just a military leader, he is also politically savvy - in fact maybe even a little bit too much... Walter Pidegon played this character PERFECTLY!
- Brigadier General "Casey" Dennis (Clark Gable), is at the beginning of the film the main front line commander (and therefore subaltern to Kane), as it is his 5th Bomb Division which essentially carries the missions against Germany; with American losses getting higher and higher, Dennis, a man initially considered as having a brilliant future, finds himself in fact in deep, deep trouble... Gable is absolutely grandiose in this role - not the least because he knew the topic; indeed, during World War II he joined USAAF and flew five actual bombing missions in a B-17 over Germany...
- Brigadier General Clifton Garnet (Brian Donlevy), a friend and West Point classmate of Dennis but also very much involved in politics, is at the beginning a kind of wild card, as he just arrived from USA and we learned that he was send to England by Pentagon with some mission which initially is a secret... I will not say more here, but he ultimately is maybe the most important and most interesting character in the film and Brian Donlevy played it splendidly...
About the rest of the film I will not say much, but it is important to precise one thing - exactly as the splendid "Twelve o'clock high", this is an adaptation of a theatre play and therefore this is a war movie without any fighting. The writer of the play "Command decision", William Wister Haines, based it on his war time experiences (he was an intelligence officer). The play proved to be a great hit both with critics and with public and was showed on Broadway in 1947 and 1948, before being finally adapted to cinema in 1948. Also exactly as "Twelve o'clock high" this film shows the mysteries, tragedies, miseries and splendour of leadership - and also the loneliness of those whose destiny it is to lead...
I really don't want to give too much about this film, as you really REALLY want to discover it by yourself, so even if I could still go and go and go about it, I will shut up and finish here. It is A MASTERPIECE! To buy, watch, love, keep, re-watch and never forget! ENJOY!
This is a top/down film.....it Samuel Fuller did it, it would have been the rear gunner-s point of view ...heh, Gable could have done that too, since he flew missions over Europe ...Very good film.
Can you E.mail me telling me how to remove them? So far I have been unsuccesful.
Why do so many of dvd's from Amazon are programmed with subtitles showing?
An early response would be appreciated.
U.S. day bombing.
Lots dead, crucial target, so
Politics or stats?
A war film without the violence.
J F Cole