Home Video Reviews
As winter approaches at the end of 1944, the German Army is on the run and the U.S. military is planning their Christmas dinners while mopping up the stragglers. Only intelligence officer Lt. Col. Daniel Kiley (Henry Fonda) disagrees with the Big Brass, suspecting that the Allied Forces are being set up for a sneak attack. Naturally he is correct and a German division, headed by Nazi warrior Col. Martin Hessler (Robert Shaw), smashes into the American line with his new, unstoppable, Tiger 2 tanks.
The success of The Longest Day (1962) started this trend for World War II movies with all-star casts that would continue until A Bridge Too Far (1977) crashed and burned at the box office fifteen years later. BTOB was a hit on release, if not a big hit, and only with audiences. Critics by and large blasted the movie and a 21st Century viewing finds they had some good reasons. The movie does drag badly in its first third with lots of talking and no action. Obvious back projection, particularly behind Robert Shaw sticking out of the top of his tank, help eliminate suspension of disbelief. Cliches abound as well with George Montgomery as a lantern-jawed Sgt. Rock-type putting some backbone in a green lieutenant played by James MacArthur, Telly Savalas as another sergeant with a personal score to settle with those Germans, etc., etc.
However, on the plus side, the battle scenes are huge, impressive and beautifully photographed by Jack Hildyard. The final tank battle is probably the best tank battle ever filmed even if it is set in the rolling hills of a semi-desert area and not in Belgium's dense Ardennes Forest where the action actually took place. In addition, the movie has been restored to its original 170-minute roadshow length with long-cut scenes that flesh out characters plus overture, intermission and exit music sections. Also, there are two black-and-white documentaries about the making of the movie and a long original trailer.
Lovers of military movies will still have a fine time with this DVD. Just wait for the spouse to leave, set up the big screen, turn on the subwoofer, and crank the volume until the Panzer tanks shake the pictures off the wall.
For more information about Battle of the Bulge, visit Warner Video. To order Battle of the Bulge, go to TCM Shopping.
by Brian Cady