Hell is for Heroes
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Steve McQueen delivers a powerful, gripping performance as a defiant loner whose skills as a soldier make him invaluable to his struggling platoon. In the heat of battle during World War II, McQueen and his fellow soldiers find themselves severely outnumbered as they hold off a Nazi advance along the Siegfried Line in France. Using only their ingenuity and bravery, they must bluff the Germans in order to buy some time... and save their lives. Don Siegel directs the explosive action led by an all-star cast, including Bobby Darin, Fess Parker, Harry Guardino, James Coburn, Nick Adams and Bob Newhart. If they can fool the enemy long enough for reinforcements to arrive, victory is theirs.
Don Siegel brings his tough worldview and crisp, no-nonsense direction to this quintessential World War II drama of an undermanned American platoon in France holding off a German advance through sheer bluff and bravery. Steve McQueen is curt and surly as the insubordinate loner whose tactical skills and soldiering savvy make him indispensable to his new unit. His reputation precedes him, but commander Fess Parker is in no position to be choosy when he learns that his tired platoon will not be shipping home as rumored, but tossed into a ragged new offensive. Harry Guardino costars as the soulful Sarge; James Coburn is the slow-talking, forever-tinkering mechanic; Bobby Darin is the scavenger with a small fortune in trinkets; and Nick Adams is the Polish orphan and unit mascot. Bob Newhart makes his feature debut as a hopelessly lost typing clerk drafted into the undermanned unit and re-creates his nightclub shtick making phony phone calls near a Nazi listening post in the pillbox. Like Pork Chop Hill, this film is less a patriotic flag waver than a "war is hell" drama that frames the battle not in its tactical importance (which is negligible) but in its cost in human life. McQueen's taciturn performance as a ruthlessly effective soldier and Siegel's tough, lean direction make it a modest classic of the genre. --Sean Axmaker
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A year before the release of "The Great Escape", Steve McQueen starred in a quite different role and kind of war movie.
A squad of G.I.'s, cut off from its lines has to convince the Germans that they actually are the main strike force and in order to do so they have to permanently keep them on their toes.
A bunch of brave but desperate soldiers with a limited armament and scarce ammunition holding in check a still well equipped and greatly outnumbering German Army? Unthinkable?
Watch this movie and learn.
These are all poor guys who, against their will and against all odds have to choose how to die. There's no right or wrong. Their heroic actions originate from the desperate hope to keep alive a little bit longer, even if just for an hour, a minute, a second...
This is also war. Sometimes you simply can't choose your destiny. You simply are and simply want to remain... alive.
It's a simple straight forward story that could very well be an ideal companion to two other movies of this kind: "The Men", starring Marlon Brando and "Attack!", starring Jack Palance.
It's the first time I have watched it on DVD and I was highly impressed by its quality. Unfortunately there are no extras, nor documentaries, whether of the movie or of that Historical period.
It would be nice if the Studios included some documentary footage referring to the various war movies made.
For instance, how would you like if 20th Century-Fox included some news or documentary reels on the actual attack on Pearl Harbor with "Tora! Tora! Tora!" for you to compare reality with recreated fiction?
Or further, wouldn't you love to have footage of the actual Battle of Midway with Universal's "Midway", or the battle at Kasserine Pass with "Patton" or "The Big Red One"?
Sometimes it's not enough to have trailers included, a bit history and culture, combined with entertainment wouldn't be so bad after all.
Pity, but still worth your hard earned money.