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Combat Classics [DVD]

  • SKU: 8791006
  • Release Date: 05/06/2008
  • Rating: PG
  • 4.5 (2)
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Overview

Ratings & Reviews

Overall Customer Rating:
4.5
100% of customers would recommend this product to a friend (2 out of 2)

Synopsis

Blood on the Sun
In his first film in two years, James Cagney stars as Nick Condon, the American editor of a pre-WW2 Tokyo newspaper. When two of his best friends are horribly murdered, Condon suspects that the "peaceful" Japanese military government is up to no good. He dedicates himself to getting his hands on the "Tanka Plan," a Japanese blueprint for conquering the world, and bringing this document to the attention of the Free World. As a result, he is targeted for persecution by the corrupt Tokyo police and betrayed by a traitorous fellow journalist. On a pleasanter note, Condon makes the acquaintance of half-Chinese Iris Hilliard (Sylvia Sidney), who agrees to help him foil the Japanese High Command. As was customary in wartime films, virtually all the Japanese characters in Blood on the Sun are played by Chinese, Korean, and Caucasian actors; for example, Robert Armstrong is cast as Colonel Tojo, while Premiere Tenaka is enacted by John Emery. Having lapsed into the public domain, Blood on the Sun is available from several distributors and also exists in a computer-colorized version. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Battle of El Alamein
No relation to the 1953 El Alamein (beyond a common "real life" source), The Battle of El Alamein was a French-Italian coproduction, largely lensed in Spain. Set during the titular desert battle of 1942, the film departs from expectation by concentrating on the Axis point of view. Though they mistrust one another, the German and Italian troops are forced to work shoulder to shoulder to ward off the British. And talk about revisionist history: Rommel (Robert Hossein) is the hero of the piece, and Montgomery (Michael Rennie) is the villain! Battle of El Alamein would make a fascinating triple feature with Five Graves to Cairo (1943) and The Desert Fox (1953). Incidentally, the "Calvin Jackson Padgett" credited with the direction is really Giorgio Ferroni. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Lady from Chungking
Though cheaply produced in the time-honored tradition of PRC Productions, The Lady from Chungking was nothing if not timely. Anna May Wong heads the cast as Kwan Mei, the aristocratic leader of a band of Chinese partisans. Operating secretly, Kwan Mei's compatriots wage vicious guerilla warfare against the occupying Japanese troops. The oddly chosen supporting cast includes Harold Huber as a Japanese general and Mae Clarke as White Russian patriot; the nominal leading men, are pair of downed Flying Tigers pilots, are played by general-purpose actors Ric Vallin and Paul Bryar. The second of Anna May Wong's films for PRC, The Lady from Chungking was a distinct step down from the first, Bombs over Burma, which benefited from the directorial knowhow of Joseph H. Lewis. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Dawn Express
Originally titled Dawn Express, this PRC spy melodrama was hastily rechristened Nazi Spy Ring to keep abreast of current events. Michael Whalen stars as Robert Norton, a scientist who has developed a formula for synthetic gasoline. A group of Nazi spies try to intimidate Norton into parting with his formula, but he is not so easily frightened. The villains then contrive to have Norton suspected of being a Nazi himself so that he'll be more susceptible to their overtures. As one critic pointed out, the hero could have saved himself all this trouble if he'd reported the spies to the FBI in the first reel, but then the movie would have been over in 12 minutes. Nazi Spy Ring is so cheaply produced that the sets constantly threaten collapse -- and indeed, at one point a break-away door fails to break properly, provoking laughter in all the wrong places. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Warhead
A U.S. colonel in Israel is assigned to locate and disarm a nuclear warhead before it falls into the wrong hands., Rovi

The First of the Few
The First of the Few is a dramatization of the life of R.J. Mitchell, the aeronautical engineer who designed the Spitfire fighter plane, which saved England in the Battle of Britain. Produced, directed by, and starring Leslie Howard, with David Niven as a pilot friend of the engineer, the movie starts with the 1940 Battle of Britain and flashes back, as wing commander Geoffrey Crisp (Niven) recounts his friendship with Mitchell and the years from 1918 to 1937, across which he helped move aviation into the modern age -- starting with racing competitions after the First World War, Mitchell is depicted as a design visionary, perceiving both the possibility and then the desperate need for faster and better aircraft. The latter becomes a matter of national survival, and he sacrifices the last years of his life to perfecting the plane that makes him a legend. As with most biographical films of this era, the picture does take some liberties with fact -- Mitchell did not spend time watching and talking dreamily of birds in flight, and comparing them to the box-like bi-planes of the early 1920s; and he never visited Germany in the early Hitler years and, thus, never heard first-hand hints (or threats) about glider clubs masquerading as training units for military pilots, an event depicted here as his motivation for designing the Spitfire; and the man's own son felt that Robert Donat, rather than Leslie Howard, would have been a more accurate portrayal of Mitchell. But in the main the movie -- which was made with the approval of Mitchell's widow and son, who were present for much of the shooting -- gets the essentials correct, and is surprisingly suspenseful for a bio-pic of this type. As a result of the presence of David Niven in the cast, The First of the Few was picked up for distribution in the US by Samuel Goldwyn, who had Niven under contract, and distributed by RKO in an edited 88 minute version under the title Spitfire, by which it is best known in the United States. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi

The Marines Are Coming
Perhaps Mascot Pictures' The Marines are Coming would have been more credible had it been made 10 years earlier. Stars William Haines, Esther Ralston and Conrad Nagel are game, but all three are a bit long in tooth for their characters. In a throwback to his silent films, Haines plays a wise-guy marine, while Nagel is his more-serious best friend. Both men vie for the attentions of cute blonde Ralston, but South-of-the-Border tootsie Armida complicates matters. Everything is resolved after an exciting battle between the U.S. Marines and a gang of Mexican bandits. William Haines retired from films after The Marines are Coming, going on to a highly successful career as a Hollywood interior decorator. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Kansas Pacific
Walter Wanger's first production for Allied Artists, Kansas Pacific is more slick and polished than the usual budget western. Set just before the Civil War, the film concerts Kansas Pacific railroad's westward expansion, a project stymied by the sabotage activities of Southern sympathizers. Military officer John Nelson (Sterling Hayden) is assigned to make sure the railroad goes through. The film offers excellent performances from such usually stereotyped players as Barton MacLane, Harry Shannon, Douglas Fowley and James Griffith. Kansas Pacific's leading lady is Eve Miller, best known as Kirk Douglas' vis-a-vis in The Big Trees. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

This Is the Army
The splashy, star-studded This is the Army is based on the Irving Berlin Broadway musical of the same name, which in turn was a reworking of Berlin's WW1 "barracks musical" Yip Yip Yaphank. In both instances, the cast was largely comprised of genuine servicemen, many of them either recently returned from fighting or on the verge of heading off to war. The Hollywood-imposed storyline concerns Jerry Jones (George Murphy), a member of the original 1918 Yip Yip Yaphank cast. His showbiz career curtailed by a leg injury, Jerry becomes a producer during the postwar era. When the US enters WW2, Jerry gathers together several other cast members from the 1918 Berlin musical to help him stage a new all-serviceman show, titled (what else?) This is the Army. The show-within-a-show framework is able to accommodate a romantic subplot, involving Jerry's son Johnny (Ronald Reagan, later a political comrade-in-arms of George Murphy) and Eileen Dibble (Joan Leslie), the daughter of Yip Yip Yaphank alumnus Eddie Dibble (Charles Butterworth). Some of the best moments in This is the Army are from the Broadway production itself, though the lengthy Alfred Lunt-Lynn Fontanne imitation and incessant "gay" jokes may have been too smart for the room in 1943. Guest stars include boxer Joe Louis, Kate Smith (singing "God Bless America", naturally) and Irving Berlin himself, who steals the show with his plaintive rendition of "Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning". All profits for the stage and film version of This is the Army went to the Army Emergency Relief Fund, which also controlled the rights to the film. Long withheld from TV distribution, the film finally hit the small screen when it lapsed into Public Domain in the mid-1970s. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Special Forces
Hell in Normandy is a mosaic of stock footage, haphazardly staged action sequences and subpar English-language dubbing. The film is set during World War II in the days just prior to the D-Day invasion. A special parachute unit is sent out to destroy a German flame thrower installation on Omaha Beach. Heading the operation are Peter Lee Lawrence and TV's onetime "Wild Bill Hickok", Guy Madison. The color photography in Hell in Normandy elevates its entertainment value ever so slightly. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Way Ahead
The Immortal Battalion has a bit of a convoluted history. It started life as a training film, The New Lot, which ran 44 minutes. When Winston Churchill approached David Niven about creating a film that would do for the British Army what In Which We Serve had done for the Royal Navy, he contacted Carol Reed and suggested expanding The New Lot. The result, written by Eric Ambler and Peter Ustinov, was the acclaimed The Way Ahead. For its U.S. release, Way Ahead was edited to a shorter length and retitled The Immortal Battalion. In either of its feature length forms, the film is concerned with the training of a bunch of raw recruits into a capable and efficient fighting regiment. Niven stars as Jim Perry, a lieutenant and former ordinary guy who finds that he must learn to take a tough line in order to make his wildly diverse crew come together and understand the importance both of the war and of their place in it. Although it takes time and constant effort on the part of Perry and his sergeant, the eight men eventually overcome their different backgrounds and feelings, and transform themselves into a unit which performs its tasks with admirable skill and dexterity, preparing them for their battle against the Desert Fox in Africa. Told in a semi-documentary style, Battalion also features the screen debut of Trevor Howard. ~ Craig Butler, Rovi

One of Our Aircraft Is Missing
This subtle, unadorned British war drama was the second collaboration between "The Archers," Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. Six British bomber crewmen are obliged to bail out over Holland. To escape detection from the Nazis, the crewmen accept the hospitality of several Hollanders, all dedicated to the freedom-fighting activities of the Underground. The film is constructed along the lines of the earlier Powell-Pressburger film The Invaders, except that the escapees are British rather than German and their Dutch contacts are willing rather than reluctant co-conspirators. The six male stars are Godfrey Tearle, Eric Portman, Hugh Williams, Bernard Miles, Hugh Burden, and Emrys Jones; among those who aid them in their flight to freedom are Googie Withers, Joyce Redman, and Peter Ustinov. The austere photography by Ronald Neame is complemented by the to-the-point editing of future director David Lean. Adding to the verisimilitude of One of Our Aircraft is Missing is the utter absence of a musical score. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Pacific Inferno
With 1985's Pacific Inferno action star Jim Brown made a triumphant return to movies. Or did he? If you read the copyright date carefully, you'll discover that this US-Philippine coproduction was actually shot in 1977. The plot has us believe that General Douglas MacArthur ordered that $16 million in silver be sent to the bottom of Manila Bay before the Philippines were overtaken by the Japanese in 1942. Navy divers Brown and Ric Van Nutter are among several POWs ordered to retrieve the money. Brown is all for escaping, but the duplicitous Van Nutter plans to abscond with the booty. Thus, Brown is alone in his efforts to round up local guerillas to help his fellow divers get away. Among the resistance fighters is buxom Wilma Reading, whose role consists of falling out of her blouse at the slightest provocation. Less attractive is "special guest star" Richard Jaeckel, who plays a soldier of fortune named Dealer. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Outpost in Morocco
While under contract to Warner Bros., George Raft turned down picture after picture as being "unimportant" and thus unworthy of his talents. Among his turned-down projects were such minor items as High Sierra and Casablanca. By 1949, however, Raft's star had eclipsed, and he was obliged to accept whatever came along. Outpost in Morocco wasn't exactly a "B" picture -- it was expensively filmed on location -- but neither was it in the same league as Raft's earlier vehicles. Cast as Capt. Paul Gerard, a foreign-legion officer, Raft finds himself on the horns of a dilemma. He must protect his garrison from the rebel hordes of a native Emir (Eduard Franz) -- who happens to be the father of Cara (Marie Windsor), the woman Gerard loves. Akim Tamiroff easily steals the show as Gerard's slovenly second-in-command. The film truly comes to life only during the battle scenes, which utilize the services of hundreds of genuine Legionnaires and Moroccan cavalrymen. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Submarine Alert
The plot of the Pine-Thomas adventure quickie Submarine Alert is more than a little beholden to Hitchcock's The 39 Steps. Richard Arlen plays FBI radio engineer Lee Deerhold, who turns bitter and vindictive when he is abruptly fired. Actually, his termination was engineered by his FBI superiors, so that Deerhold will be susceptible to a job offer from a gang of Nazi saboteurs. When Deerhold finally gets wise to what's going on, he finds himself being hotly pursued by practically everyone else in the picture. The better-than-average cast includes Wendy Barrie as undercover agent Ann Patterson, Nils Asther as a mysterious doctor, and Abner Biberman, Marc Lawrence and Dwight Frye as various villains. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Battle of Blood Island
Short on action and slow in developing, this drama is set during World War II on a small island in the Pacific. Two GI's are holed up inside a cave, the only survivors of a failed offensive on the island. One day they witness a mass suicide among the Japanese soldiers who control the area, and so they realize that the war has ended. As they open up to each other, one of them loses his temper unexpectedly and bursts forth with an anti-Semitic tirade against his supposed buddy. That unexplained outburst mortifies him as much or more than it does his companion, and he takes a shocking punitive action against himself. Meanwhile, the two men need to be rescued soon because the island is scheduled for an atomic bomb test. ~ Eleanor Mannikka, Rovi

Commandos
A combined force of Italian and American commandos are ordered to attack and take over an air base in North Africa with only two days to do it. The Italian film, dubbed into English, is also known as Sullivan's Marauders. ~ John Bush, Rovi

Gung Ho!
Accepted in 1943 as standard wartime propaganda, Gung Ho can be seen today as an outrageous exercise in raging machismo. Randolph Scott plays Thorwald, a marine colonel assigned to assemble a crack squadron of fearless jungle fighters for the all-important raid on Japanese-held Makim Island (which in real life was recaptured only a few weeks before the film's release). Thorwald seems determine to select the dregs of the earth for this mission: most of his squadron is comprised of misfits, barroom brawlers, borderline psychos and outright murderers. It is suggested that these sociopaths are the only men truly qualified for the mission at hand, and by film's end the squadron members-living and dead-are lauded as true-blue patriots. Once one gets past the questionable premise, Gung Ho is a fairly exciting WWII melodrama, with a particularly thrilling climax. The film is currently available in its original form and in a computer-colorized version. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Submarine Base
In this wartime drama, an ex-gangster proves himself a decent man when he helps defeat the Nazis while he is hiding out on a tiny island. At first the gangster looks as if he has joined the German soldiers by providing them with a location for refueling their U-boats. Later an American ship is sunk off shore. Among the survivors is a merchant marine who was formerly a New York City cop. The cop instantly recognizes the fugitive mobster and the situation soon becomes tense. In the end the Nazis realize that he has been working for the Allies all along and he is executed. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

Mutiny
Director Edward Dmytryk returned from a few unhappy years on the Blacklist in the early 1950s, to direct a handful of programmers before being restored to "A" pictures. Dmytrk's Mutiny is set during the War of 1812. Mark Stevens, captain of the American ship Concord, finds himself at the mercy of mutineer Patric Knowles, who is supposedly loyal to Britain. Actually all Knowles is concerned with is the gold bullion carried by the Concord, which he plans to squander in the company of treacherous femme fatale Angela Lansbury. Stevens recaptures the ship and torpedoes the British fleet, with the aid of a pioneering submarine-like vessel. Mutiny was produced by the estimable King Brothers who allegedly trafficked in illegal gambling devices before hitting upon the more lucrative arena of independent motion pictures. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Corregidor
Outdistancing all competing studios, tiny PRC managed to register the title Corregidor for copyright within hours after the surrender of the Allied forces at the real-life Corregidor. PRC even ponied up the money to commission a poem specially written for the film by the great Alfred Noyes. The film finds female Red Cross doctor Royce Lee (Elissa Landi) in love with a colleague named Michael (Donald Woods). Royce in turn is loved by Dr. Jan Stockman (Otto Kruger). But when the Japanese lay siege upon Corregidor, the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans. Actual combat stock footage (not from Corregidor) is intermingled with staged scenes of hand-to-hand combat between the Allies and the Japanese. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Three Came Home
Based on the autobiographical book by Agnes Newton Keith, Three Came Home stars Claudette Colbert as Mrs. Keith. Trapped in Borneo during the Japanese invasion, Mrs. Keith and her British husband (Patric Knowles) are penned up in a prison camp along with several other subjects. Despite the humanitarian views of camp commander Col. Suga (Sessue Hayakawa), Mrs. Keith is subject to torture, starvation, and humiliation at the hands of the guards, with Suga helpless to intervene lest he incur the wrath of his own superiors. Three Came Home contains several unforgettable moments, including a comic interlude between the male and female prisoners that ends abruptly with a barrage of Japanese bullets, and the heartwrenching scene wherein Suga learns that his family has been killed in a bombing raid. Since lapsing into the public domain in 1977, Three Came Home has popped up innumerable times on cable television. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

They Raid by Night
Directed by serial specialist Spencer Gordon Bennet, They Raid by Night is a PRC "special" dealing with the activities of the commandos in WWII. Lyle Talbot plays Capt. Robert Owen, the head of a three-man commando squad who parachute into Norway to rescue an Allied general (Paul Baratoff) from a Nazi concentration camp. One of the men is Norwegian-born Von Ritter (Victor Varconi), who is reunited with his former sweetheart Inga (June Duprez). Unbeknownst to our heroes, Inga has turned "Quisling," and tips off the local Nazi commandant as to the commandos' whereabouts. Later on, Von Ritter is captured by the Gestapo and tortured into revealing the plans of his compatriots. Eventually, Owen is able to complete his mission, thanks in no small part to a local Fifth Columnist who decides to switch allegiances at the very last moment. Most of They Raid by Night is enacted in front of a grainy back-projection screen, rendering the story line even more unbelievable. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

British Intelligence
Though set during WW1, British Intelligence was obviously thrown together to capitalize on the outbreak of WW2. A remake of the 1930 espionager Three Faces East, the film stars Boris Karloff as Valder, the sinister butler of a British cabinet minister. It is quite possible that Valder is a German spy, and equally likely that the mysterious Helene von Lorbeer (Margaret Lindsay) is likewise working for the enemy. In fact, the audience is never quite certain who the good guys and bad guys really are until the climax, which takes place during a German zeppelin raid of London. As a balm to 1940 audiences, the film includes an early comedy scene in which German military protocol is upset by a clumsy corporal (Willy Kaufman) who bears a startling resemblance to a certain Nazi dictator. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Torch
The Torch was originally released in Mexico as La Malquerida. It also bore several other titles, including Duelo en las Montanas, Del Odio Nacio el Amor and The Beloved. By any name, this is the story of a fear-inspiring revolutionary general (Pedro Armendariz) who develops a passion for the daughter (Paulette Goddard) of a wealthy villager. It's hate at first sight so far as the girl is concerned, but this will soon change. Designed as a dual-market production, The Torch was produced by star Paulette Goddard and RKO's Bert Granet, and directed by volatile Mexican filmmaker Emilio Fernandez. The international supporting cast includes Gilbert Roland as a kindly priest and Walter Reed as an American doctor who also yearns for Goddard. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Steel Claw
George Montgomery directs, stars, and co-scripts this routine, somewhat dated wartime drama set in the Philippines during World War II. Capt. John Larsen (Montgomery) has to go behind enemy lines at the beginning of the war to rescue a general from Japanese captivity. Instead of breezing through the assignment, Larsen discovers that the general has died, and it is almost impossible to get back to his rendezvous point. Filipino guerrillas help him out, but then he is handicapped by an injured woman in need of medical attention. The "steel claw" of the title is a hook that the one-handed Larsen fastens onto himself, a prosthetic straight out of Peter Pan. ~ Eleanor Mannikka, Rovi

The Big Lift
Filmed on location, The Big Lift is a reenactment of the Berlin airlift of 1948. Flexing their postwar muscles, the Russians blockade the Western sector, refusing to allow the Allies to ship supplies to the starving Berliners. From their headquarters at Templehof Airport, a group of courageous American flyers risk their lives to transport supplies by air. Paul Douglas plays a ground operations sergeant with several scores to settle (he had a hard time of it as a POW during the war), while Montgomery Clift costars as a pilot who inaugurates a doomed love affair with German girl Cornell Borchers. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Black Brigade
With The Mod Squad sweeping the Tuesday night TV ratings in 1968, producers Aaron Spelling and Danny Thomas hoped to get another multiracial adventure series on the air A.S.A.P. Carter's Army was the 72-minute pilot for this project. Set during World War II, the film stars Stephen Boyd as an Army captain who doesn't exactly dislike African Americans-it's just that he holds no special fondness for them. Naturally, Boyd is assigned an all-black company, and is forced to share his command with lieutenant Robert Hooks. Despite seething racial tensions, everyone pulls together to destroy an enemy dam. Originally telecast January 27, 1970, Carter's Army failed to spawn the planned series. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Drums in the Deep South
Directed by former set designer William Cameron Menzies, this minor Civil War effort from low-budget producers King Brothers stars James Craig and Guy Madison as former West Point roommates now on opposing sides in the war between the states. Assigned to delay General Sherman's march toward Atlanta, Major Clay Clayborn (Craig) and 20 rebel volunteers take position on top of Devil Mountain where they proceed to bombard Union supply trains, at first almost unimpeded. Unaware that his best friend is leading the rebels, Union major Will Denning (Madison) prepares to blow up the entire mountain but Clay's former fiancé, Kathy Summers (Barbara Payton), manages to persuade him to cease fire while she negotiates a deal. Filmed in inexpensive Super Cine Color, Drums in the Deep South was produced independently and awarded an RKO release. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi

The Last Chance
One of the few Swiss-produced films of the 1940s to gain an international release, Last Chance was distributed in the US by MGM. The film stars E.G. Morrison, John Hoy and Ray Reagan as three American officers who come to the aid of a group of Italian refugees. Tension mounts as the officers do their utmost to see their charges safely over the Alps. If the names of the leading actors seem unfamiliar to you, that's because they weren't actors, but genuine Allied pilots who'd been shot down near Switzerland and who agreed to appear in this film before being mustered out. Similarly, the refugees are the genuine article. Last Chance's enthusiasm and sincerity compensates for any lack of polish or skill among the amateur performers. The dialogue is spoken in several languages, requiring the film to be subtitled in every country where it was released. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Aerial Gunner
A wounded aerial gunner tells his story in this wartime propaganda film. He begins with his recruitment and basic training before the war. There he discovers that his sergeant is one of his foes, and that both of them are fighting for the affection of the lovely sister of a fellow recruit who becomes terrified of flying and suffers a plane crash during training. Eventually all is overcome and the new squadron prepares to fly for the South Pacific. The two rivals end up landing on an island overrun by Japanese troops. They frantically try to repair their downed plane. Later the brave sergeant sacrifices his life to save his rival who takes off and somehow makes it back to safety. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

Yellowneck
A "Yellowneck" was a deserter from the Confederate Army. This adventure centers on five such soldiers as they struggle through the dense and dangerous Florida Everglades en route to Cuba. Not only must they deal with the natural dangers of the swamps, they must also deal with the angry Indians living there. Eventually, only one of the deserters makes it to the coast. There he discovers that the boat that was supposed to be there has vanished. ~ Daniel Gelb, Rovi

Eagle in a Cage
Television veteran Fielder Cook brings a TV-like intimacy to his direction of Eagle in a Cage. This underrated film stars Kenneth Haigh as Napoleon Bonaparte, in his years of exile on St. Helena. The story is told from the point of view of the island's governor (John Gielgud), a former schoolteacher who finds greatness thrust upon him upon becoming Napoleon's jailer. By necessity, the emphasis is on conversation rather than action, but it holds the ear throughout. Eagle in a Cage is one of a handful of theatrical films released by the American broadcasting firm of Group W. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Navy Way
Johnny Jersey (Robert Lowery) learns The Navy Way in this typical Pine-Thomas actioner. A product of the streets, Johnny has no time for authority and protocol, thus has a lot of difficulty adjusting to the regimen at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station (where much of the film was shot). Gradually, however, Johnny comes to appreciate the value of cooperation and teamwork. It helps a bit, of course, that he falls for pretty WAVE Ellen Sayre (Jean Parker). But even after losing Ellen to fellow seaman Mal Randall (Bill Henry), Johnny remains loyal to the Navy and all it stands for (which is evidently quite a lot!) Not so much a movie as a patriotic tract, The Navy Way is definitely a product of its times. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Hearts in Bondage
First-time director Lew Ayres performs miracles on a tiny budget in the Civil War drama Hearts in Bondage. The story offers a romanticized version of the events leading up to the battle between the "ironclads" Monitor and Merrimac. Northern naval officer Kenneth (James Dunn), the nephew of Monitor designer John Ericsson (Fritz Leiber) is dishonorably discharged when he sinks the Merrimac instead of burning it, as ordered. He is restored to duty as a crew member on the Monitor, and in the ensuing sea battle with the recommissioned Merrimac he kills Confederate officer Raymond (David Manners), the brother of Kenneth's fiancee Constance (Mae Clarke). The estranged sweethearts are ultimately reunited with the help of Abe Lincoln himself! Both James Dunn and Mae Clarke are miscast in their roles, but they do their best under the circumstances to make their material "work" -- and often succeed. The real stars of Hearts in Bondage are Republic's special-effects mavens Howard and Theodore Lydecker, whose splendid utilization of scale models in the climactic Monitor-Merrimac confrontation is both exciting and convincing. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Proud and the Damned
Will (Chuck Connors) leads a group of American Civil War veterans into San Carlos, Columbia. The local mayor (Cesar Romero) welcomes the quintet, unaware they are scouting out the town for Columbian General Martinez (Andre Maruis). Soon the visitors are reveling with gypsies Mila (Anita Quinn) and Ramon (Jose Greco). Will and Mila end up making love, much to the dismay of the jealous Ramon. Will shoots and kills the hotheaded Ramon, and the mayor is called on to restore order. The five Americans are held for questioning following the murder. When the scouts fail to return to the General, the storm clouds of war gather over the once-peaceful town. Mila becomes ostracized by the townsfolk for her brazen behavior that resulted in Ramon's death. The mayor considers letting Will and Mila leave town in an effort to avoid further bloodshed. ~ Dan Pavlides, Rovi

The Mark of the Hawk
Filmed on location in Africa, Mark of the Hawk stars Sidney Poitier as a London-educated African who returns to his homeland to take a political post. Poitier's brother Clinton Macklin is in charge of a rebel organization, determine to topple the white-dominated government. Poitier must choose between seeking out racial equality through peaceful means, or casting his lot with Macklin: it is (at least in this film) a struggle of Right against Right. Eartha Kitt is top-billed, but her role is decidedly secondary to Poitier's. Released in Britain as Accused, Mark of the Hawk has been retitled Shaka Zulu on video, though it should not be confused with the 1985 TV miniseries of the same name. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Then There Were Three
In this WW II drama, six soldiers end up separated from their units behind enemy lines in Italy. As they make their way back to safety, they pick up a wandering fellow. The man is a Nazi spy assigned to assassinate an important resistance leader. Soon the soldiers begin to suffer mysterious, fatal mishaps. Still they continue on until the remaining four and their conniving companion make it to the underground camp. There the Nazi captures the leader. Fortunately, the remaining soldiers stop him and he ends up running back towards the German lines. Unfortunately, his compatriots mistake him for the enemy and shoot him. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

The Adventures of Tartu
Tartu--or more formally, The Adventures of Tartu--stars Robert Donat as a Rumanian-born British spy, dispatched to Czechoslovakia during World War II. Posing as an ineffectual milquetoast, Donat is hired as a chemist in a Nazi-controlled poison gas factory. Working in concert with the Underground, our hero spends his off-hours dismantling the Nazi operation. Then he has to figure a way to get out of Czechoslovakia as adroitly as he got in. Adventures of Tartu was filmed at MGM's British studios (it was Metro's first British production in two years), with an American director but with a full cadre of English acting talent: Donat, Valerie Hobson, Glynis Johns, etc. The Teutonic villain is played by Walter Rilla, whose son Wolf Rilla later became a prominent British director. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Minesweeper
Adhering to the formula of such previous Pine-Thomas productions as Forced Landing, Flying Blind and Torpedo Boat, Minesweeper is the action-packed story of military men under wartime pressure. Richard Arlen plays Jim Smith, a once-reliable Naval officer who has virtually destroyed his life with his chronic gambling. When Pearl Harbor is attacked, Smith finds a chance for redemption. He signs up under an assumed name as a lowly seaman, then proves that he's still made of "the right stuff" by single-handedly seeking out and destroying a new type of Japanese mine. Jean Parker, who like Arlen was a "regular" in the Pine-Thomas product, plays Smith's loyal wife Mary, while the requisite romantic-rival duties are handled by western alumnus Russell Hayden. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Desert Commandos
The Nazis pull out all the stops during their scheme to kill all the Allied leaders with one strike when it seems that the Allies are winning World War II. ~ Jeaniff Dorset, Rovi

Bombs Over Burma
Of the two PRC Anna May Wong vehicles filmed during the 1942-43 season, Bombs Over Burma is marginally the best, thanks to the cinematic savvy of writer-director Joseph H. Lewis. Relying more on strong visuals than clever dialogue, the film details the contributions of the courageous Chinese guerilla fighters in keeping the Burma Road safe for Allied transport vehicles during WW2. During the arduous construction of the serpentine thoroughfare, a number of Chinese workers are killed by a mysterious saboteur. It turns out that the assailant is English nobleman Sir Roger Howe (Leslie Denison), who is actually a Nazi agent. Chinese schoolteacher Lin Yung (Anna May Wong) is the freedom fighter responsible for the unmasking and ultimate destruction of the duplicitous Sir Roger (the villain's death scene is the film's hands-down highlight). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

War Devils
In this WW II adventure, an American officer is captured by the Nazis in North Africa. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

Partizanska Eskadrila
This film is a tribute to the Partisan Squadron, a group of Yugoslav airmen who flew out of England in the early days of WWII to defend their homeland from the Nazis. ~ Forest Ray, Rovi

Go for Broke!
Robert Pirosh wrote and directed this little-known World War II drama from MGM that commemorates the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a combat unit composed of Japanese-Americans who fought valiantly during World War II, with many of the actual veterans of the combat unit appearing as actors in the film. For the most part, the film follows the standard Battleground plot line -- there is Sam (Lane Nakano), the wise sergeant; Chick (George Miki), a lazy private; the enervating Ohhara (Henry Oyasato); and Tommy (Henry Nakamura), a crack sharpshooter. Van Johnson plays Lt. Michael Grayson, a bigoted Texan assigned to shape these men into a fighting unit and who learns to respect their valor and bravery. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi

Sundown
Adapted by Barre Lyndon from his own Saturday Evening Post short story, Sundown takes place in Africa during WW2. British army major Coombes (George Sanders) cannot abide the local Arab population, and he has even less time for district commissioner Crawford (Bruce Cabot), who has befriended the natives. Crawford is particularly fond of the beautiful Zia (Gene Tierney), whom Coombes suspects of being a Nazi sympathizer. But when the British troops must make their way through treacherous uncharted territory, they are forced to rely upon the guidance of the enigmatic Zia. Cedric Hardwycke spouts reams and reams of symbolic dialogue as the local British bishop, while among the native extras is a very young Dorothy Dandridge. Impressively photographed (by Charles Lang) and directed (by Henry Hathaway), Sundown just misses being as profound as it obviously wants to be. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Identity Unknown
Predating 20th Century-Fox's Somewhere in the Night by at least a year, Identity Unknown is one of the first (if not the first) 1940s melodramas centering around an amenisiac ex-GI. Richard Arlen plays Johnny March, who returns from WW2 with nary a clue as to his true identity or the details of his past. March begins a long and arduous trek across America, visiting a wide variety of people who've lost loved ones in the war, in hopes of piecing together his own previous existence. In the manner of The Fugitive, March profoundly affects the lives of everyone he meets, helping them understand what the sacrifices of the war were all about and enabling them to face the future with optimism and pride. Though it may have been merely coincidental, Identity Unknown was released around the same time that the United Nations' first San Francisco Conference was about to convene. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Iron Angel
In this wartime drama set during the Korean conflict, a squadron must destroy a North Korean mortar that is blocking a crucial road. En route the soldiers bicker constantly. One of the soldiers suffers two breakdowns. The operation is further hindered by the arrival of a strict Army nurse and her armored ambulance. Eventually though, the soldiers succeed. ~ Sandra Brennan, Rovi

The Bushwhackers
Also known as The Rebel, The Bushwackers was coscripted by director Rodney Amateau and actor Tom Gries (later the director of such big-budgeters as Will Penny). Tired of senseless bloodshed, civil war veteran John Ireland vows never to use a gun again. This proves difficult when Ireland runs afoul of town despot Lon Chaney Jr. It seems that Chaney takes special delight in tormenting the local newspaper editor, who happens to be the father of pretty heroine Dorothy Malone. Effectively avoiding stereotypes and cliches, The Bushwackers is a virtually a model of everything a good program western should be. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Hitler's SS: Portrait in Evil
The two-part TV movie Hitler's SS: Portrait in Evil crystallizes that evil by concentrating on two Berlin brothers. In 1931, Helmut Hoffman (Bill Nighy) a brilliant student and self-styled opportunist, joins Hitler's SS. At the same time, his younger brother Karl (John Shea), a top athlete and idealist, becomes a chauffeur for the "S.A." (storm troopers). When the SS topples the SA from power, Karl ends up in Dachau. He is rescued through his brother's influence--if you can describe sending Karl to fight on the Russian Front a "rescue." As he watches the Third Reich deteriorate, Helmut at long last suffers pangs of conscience. As if the story of the rise of Nazism needed any further melodrama, Hitler's SS shoehorns in a romantic triangle involving Karl, Helmut, and beautiful nightclub-singer Lucy Gutteridge. The all-star supporting cast of Hitler's SS includes Carroll Baker as the Hoffman brothers' anguished mother; Tony Randall as an androgynous entertainer named Putzi (shades of Cabaret's Joel Grey); and David Warner, repeating his Holocaust role as SS head man Heydrich. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Overall Customer Rating

4.5 (2 Reviews)
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