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Victory Through Unity!,
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This review is from: Red Ball Express [DVD] (DVD)
This impressive little production packs a lot of punch for such a small budget and short running time! No work by the talented director Budd Boetticher should be overlooked lightly! This one is certainly not a much seen war movie. I am glad that Simply Media have rescued it from the dusty vaults and given it a much deserved DVD release. The film is based on the sterling work carried out by the real Red Ball Express in World War Two. These were the convoys that supplied Patton’s Third Army with vital arms and fuel after the D Day landings. As the army advanced towards Paris, supply lines became stretched and a special military road was established for the convoys. The convoys faced dangerous journeys with pockets of resistance, in addition to the constant tiring and arduous work.
Boetticher recognised the vital role that these convoys contributed to the war effort. People often forget the men behind the sharp point of the spear, but without fuel and ammunition nothing could be achieved! Jeff Chandler plays the leader of a platoon who has a history with his second in command played by Alex Nicol. There is also some racial tension between the black and white soldiers. To become an effective unit all these differences need to be quickly resolved in the furnace of war.
Most startling of all is the honest way this film deals with racial issues. Boetticher was aware that 75% of the Red Ball Express was comprised of African Americans. Although this figure is not represented fully in the film, there is a healthy contingent to give the film a genuine veracity. It was a tough dirty job deliberately given to these men who were discriminated against during the war. It is sad to note that they received more respect from Europeans than their own in those less enlightened times. Way ahead of its time this film does not gloss over these issues!
Boetticher always had the happy knack of getting hold of decent actors, and he did so again with this one. Jeff Chandler was a convincing leading actor, who was ably supported by Charles Drake, Alex Nicol and Hugh O’Brien. The stand out performer, as he was so often, was Sidney Poitier in an early role requiring him to show he could act. He duly obliged! The theme is all about victory through unity here, and that is a good enough one for me! This theme is explored intelligently, especially in its open minded approach to racial unity. I was surprised to find out that this black and white film was made as early as 1952 as its enlightened approach gives it a real freshness. Boetticher, who was better known for his very fine westerns, has crafted yet another fine movie that has something worthwhile to say. Recommended viewing!