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The Battle of the Bulge was released in 1965 and is a Typical, of the period, Hollywood take / remake of the facts of a very Bloody and pivotal few days at the end of December 1944 in war torn Europe. The cast list is reasonably strong but not spectacular. The big names being Henry Fonda, Robert Shaw, Robert Ryan, and in slightly lesser roles, Charles Bronson and Telly Savalas, to name but two.
The basic premise of the film is that the Germans mount a last ditch counter attack, through the Ardennes region of Belgium with the intention of reaching the Port of Antwerp, thus splitting the advancing allied front and prolonging the war. This would gain them enough time to allow their Secret weapons to come into operation, which would decimate the allies, thereby allowing a negotiated peace - that's the quick brief anyway.
The attack starts on 16/12/1944 and peters out around 10 days later. That much is fact, unfortunately not too much else in the film is that accurate, with the odd exception - Sounds familiar from Hollywood doesn't it? - Memphis Belle, Enigma.............
Anyway to the Film.
A few plus points.
Good battle scenes, no CGI or excessive special effects, just lots of Tanks and Men.
Great sub plot of the "Battle weary" NCO looking after a "Green" Lieutenant - something's never change! They ran the Army then and they run it now...
Good music score.
A few negative points
Historical accuracy is dreadful - in truth, apart from one scene which I will mention a little later.
Too many faults with using the wrong type of Kit and equipment.
Ridiculous sub plot with Telly Savalas as a "Black Marketeer" - not that this sort of thing didn't happen, but the whole thing is handled very badly.
There are just two scenes which I wish to dwell on in a little more detail.
The first is quite early on in the picture when Robert Shaw, who plays a Colonel in charge of the Panzers (Tanks), meets his new charge of young Tank commanders. He enters an underground room where the commanders, all very smart in their Black uniforms looking every inch the Archetypal "Master race, are all stood at Attention around the outer walls. He slowly walks along their ranks and is very disparaging of them; he actually calls them "Boys"... One of the "Boys", a particularly nasty looking "Type" starts to sing - "The Panzer march", everybody else joins in! And the whole room throngs to this particularly "Aryan" sounding song. This scene still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up every time I see it. The sheer Fanaticism and single mindedness of the Nazis, even down to the "Boys", comes over so strongly in this scene that all I want to do is pick up my "Tommy gun" and mow the lot of them down..
The second scene appears much later on in the film and is just as strong as the first and makes me feel just the same if not worse. This is the one scene in the film which is really close to reality and once again shows the sheer brutality and Fanaticism of the Nazis, in this case the SS. A group of just over a hundred American POWs are taken into a field, ostensibly for a "smoko", and are ruthlessly machine gunned, in cold blood by their SS captors. This actually happened on Dec 17 1944 at Malmedy, and is known as the Malmedy Massacre. 90 POWs were murdered here, thankfully a few survived and were able to help ensure that the event was not forgotten and that the perpetrators were caught and executed. This scene is extremely powerful and evocative and extremely important.
In my opinion the two scenes detailed above save the film from being a total disaster, and they alone are reason enough to buy it. The rest of the film is passable at best, giving a flavour of what actually happened in those 10 days or so , but as stated earlier in this review, don't believe all you see on the screen, even though it is, to use the time honoured phrase " Fact based".........
Battle of the Bulge is a not a film dedicated to all those people joining gyms this month instead it is an epic World War II film about one of the last great land battles to take place in Europe and the Germans last meaningful offensive in a desperate attempt to reverse the tide of the war.
The film which was released in 1965 boasts an excellent cast for the time with Henry Fonda in the lead role of Colonel Kiley and Robert Ryan as General Grey. Perhaps the best performance thought comes from Robert Shaw who plays the german panzer leader Colonel Hessler, his is a commanding performance perfectly capturing the war obsessed Colonel who is totally devoted to his mission. Telly Savalas also stars as Sgt Guffy whose tank is used as a means for carrying his black market goods around as he looks to profit from the war.
Visually this is a spectacular film, the battle scenes are really realistic and do not really rely on special effects so there is a large cast of extras, the plot moves along at a fast pace and there are some strong performances in the film.
What I also liked is the fact that there area number of sub plots in the film which tell individual stories along the way such as Guffy and his exploits as well as a few other characters who are not central to the main story but their involvement in the battle are shown which made it more interesting especially as it focused on both sides in the battle.
This film is shown a lot of TV, I watched it again the other day but if you do want to buy it then it is on Amazon for £4.28.
The Battle of the Bulge is a cracking World War 2 film. Quite faithfully recreating an epic historical turning point in the war, with a counter attack by the Germans using tanks to get through the thin Allied lines in France. Ultimately, this strategy fails through lack of fuel for the tanks. Lots of action and tank battles in this film. The film has an all star cast of Henry Fonda, Robert Shaw and Robert Ryan. Telly Savalas and Charles Bronson have good character roles and act these out very well. The film highlights some poor military decisions by the Allied commanders e.g. thinking the Germans were a spent force after D day (big mistake) and ignoring their own military intelligence. While this film is very dated now and does not have the usual computer generated action graphics etc. it still captures the history and excitement (like any good film) of the epic struggle. The film aslo has one of my personal main ingredients for a good film i.e. a very good story line with a beginning, a middle and an ending.
Overall, a cracking good film and I would recommend it to war film buffs like myself.
There are a number of excellent war films that are repeated over and over again on television and this is one of those films. The film is set during the Second World War in December 1944 when the allied forces were advancing across Europe and most people believed that the war would soon be over. However, some of the German Army senior commanders still wanted to fight on, and believed that a new offensive could split the allied forces in Central Europe and allow the German’s to regroup and fight back. Like a lot of Second World War films it can now be difficult to tell the truth from fiction and the two are merged together for the purpose of the film. In this film we see a number of actors who became very famous for playing army roles including Henry Fonda (who plays Lt. Colonel Kiley), Robert Ryan (who plays General Grey), Dana Andrews (who plays Colonel Pritchard) and Robert Shaw (who plays Colonel Hessler). The two other well known actors who feature in this film are Charles Bronson (who plays Major Wolenski) and Telly Savalas (who plays Sgt. Guffy). Colonel Hessler leads a crack brigade of Tiger tanks against the American forces in a surprise attack. There are then huge battle scenes between the Germans and the Americans, with many tank battles. As this film was made in 1965 the film makers did not have the luxury of computer generated images and the large battle scenes really did have huge numbers of men and a significant number of tanks. Although there was the use of some trick photography, you can only imagine the enormous logistical challenge that this film must have been for its makers. There are hundreds of explosions during the battles and although many men are killed the film is not at all gory, and all of the men seem to die without ever bleeding. These type of “clean” deaths were very common in films made around this era. What is interesting in this film is that the scenario is shown from bo
th the German and the American sides. We can see how the war was as much a battle of minds, strategy and intelligence, as it was actual fighting in the field. The film is very well made and at times it is easy to forget that this is just a film, as it seems more like a documentary with “real” footage. The acting is very good throughout and the characters are portrayed in a totally convincing way. Robert Shaw is superb as the obsessed panzer commander, Colonel Hessler and you are given an insight into how some of the German officers may have thought at that time and why the end of the war was protracted. Entwined within the main story are a few sub-plots, which give more of an individual viewpoint of the war. (I won’t name the characters as this may spoil the film a bit). These include a hero, a profiteer and a guy who just wants to go home to see his sons. If you are interested in Second World War films then this is one of the best. It is filmed in colour and the special effects teams and stunt actors have done a superb job in giving this film a very realistic feel. This is a war film that I can highly recommend.