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The Bridge at Remagen

The Bridge at Remagen(1969)

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teaser The Bridge at Remagen (1969)

The taking of a bridge provides the basis for The Bridge at Remagen (1969), an action-packed World War II drama. It's 1945 and the Germans are in retreat.  They hold just one last bridge across the Rhine River ­ at Remagen.  It's vital to the Germans, because they have 50,000 soldiers on the wrong side of the Rhine.  It's also important to the Americans, as capture of the bridge would allow a much quicker end to the war.  Therein lies the drama as both sides prepare to destroy the bridge for strategic reasons.

The Bridge at Remagen was strongly influenced by the war epic, The Longest Day (1962) and has a similar narrative structure which crosscuts between the opposing forces as their actions lead to the final confrontation. Director John Guillermin overcame the deficiencies of a somewhat shallow script (the Germans are presented as little more than stereotypes) by concentrating on solid, fast-paced action sequences. Hal Needham, who later found fame directing Burt Reynolds in hits like Smokey and the Bandit (1977), supervised the fine stunt work; and Stanley Cortez's sharp photography adds grit to the terse battle scenes. The sound effects are ear splitting, but if you like explosions, there are lots of them. A solid casts also helps provide strong characterizations: George Segal (who would soon transition to romantic comedies) is surprisingly good as a tough and uncompromising platoon leader and Ben Gazzara projects a roguish charm as his sidekick. But it's Bradford Dillman, as the ambitious and insidious Major Barnes, who makes the strongest impression as an officer willing to achieve victory at any cost, even if it means sacrificing some troops.

The Czechoslovakian locations are authentic for the most part.  In fact, the last stage of filming was interrupted by the August 1968 Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia (brief history lesson: then leader Alexander Duncek was trying to democratize the Czech government, but had his plans suppressed by the Russian government).  The cast and crew were evacuated in a convoy of 28 taxis and the film was completed in Austria and Italy. In a funny postscript after the invasion, communist newspapers and politicians alleged that the film was a CIA project!

Producer: Julian Ludwig (associate producer) (as Julian J. Ludwig), Theodore Strauss (associate producer), David L. Wolper
Director: John Guillermin
Screenplay: Roger O. Hirson (story) (as Roger Hirson), Richard Yates, William Roberts
Production Design: Alfred Sweeney Jr.
Cinematography: Stanley Cortez
Film Editing: William T. Cartwright, Harry V. Knapp, Marshall Neilan Jr.
Original Music: Elmer Bernstein
Cast: George Segal (Lieutenant Phil Hartman), Robert Vaughn (Major Paul Kreuger), Ben Gazzara (Sergeant Angelo), Bradford Dillman (Major Barnes), E.G. Marshall (Brigadier General Shinner).
C-117m. Letterboxed.

by Michael Toole

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