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Uneven anti-war epic
on 19 March 2011
The film follows a small platoon of American soldiers during WWII and its aftermath from 1942 to 1946 as they work their way through England, France, Italy and Germany. The film is fragmented, a series of episodes complete unto themselves, not surprising since the film is based on a collection of short stories though the book's soldiers have been changed from British to American. Directed by Carl Foreman, the film is a highly uneven, rather unsubtle, ponderous anti-war tract. Example: The execution of a deserter in the snow as Frank Sinatra croons Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas on the soundtrack. Slogging in at 2 1/2 hours, the original cut was closer to the 3 hour mark. In this case, be thankful for the cutting shears. Not that it isn't worth watching because there are some affecting as well as strong moments among the heavy handedness like the Sergeant (Eli Wallach) and a French widow (Jeanne Moreau) in a bombed out country house, an episode featuring Peter Fonda and a stray mutt and a sequence about two German sisters (Elke Sommer, Senta Berger) living off Russians and Americans in the Berlin Zone. Foreman intercuts his stories with actual WWII newsreels. The large cast includes Albert Finney, George Peppard, Romy Schneider, Melina Mercouri, George Hamilton, Vince Edwards, Maurice Ronet and Michael Callan.
The Sony DVD from Great Britain is, for the most part, a nice clean anamorphic wide screen (2.35) transfer. However, there is an annoying vertical line in the print for a few minutes during the Wallach and Moreau segment.