WWII Collection, Vol. 2: Heroes Fight for Freedom [6 Discs] [DVD]

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Overview

Special Features

  • World War II-era shorts
  • Classic cartoons
  • Vintage making-of The Hill featurette
  • Trailer galleries

Synopsis

Command Decision
Command Decision is a stagebound but consummately acted adaptation of William Wister Haines' Broadway play. Clark Gable, starring in the role essayed on Broadway by Paul Kelly, plays Air Force Brigadier General "Casey" Dennis. With time at a premium, Dennis sends waves of bomber squadrons into Germany to knock out the enemy's jet plane factories. Though Dennis seems utterly unconcerned about the fate of his pilots (even his superior officer Walter Pidgeon is appalled by the heavy losses), the audience knows that his duty is exacting a severe emotional toll on him. Thanks to pressure from a misguided US senator, "butcher" Dennis is replaced by the supposedly more humane Brian Donlevy. But Donlevy realizes that Gable's decisions were the correct ones, and he vows to continue his predecessor's "suicide missions". ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

36 Hours
In 1950, Maj. Jefferson Pike (James Garner), an Army intelligence agent who served with distinction in World War II, awakens in a hospital with severe amnesia. He isn't sure where he is, how he got there, or even who the woman at his side is, even though the doctor tells him that her name is Anna (Eva Marie Saint) and that she is his wife. The doctor instructs Pike to recall, in as much detail as possible, what he was doing before the accident that caused his traumatic memory loss. But the doctor isn't a doctor, Anna isn't Pike's wife, it isn't 1950, and he isn't in an American hospital. World War II is still very much in progress, and Pike is being duped in an elaborate scheme prepared by Maj. Walter Gerber (Rod Taylor), a German intelligence agent. Gerber is trying to trick a drugged and suggestible Pike into telling him everything he knows, as the injured soldier lies in a Bavarian military hospital after being taken prisoner. Will Pike be able to see through the cracks in Gerber's facade before he spills the beans that could mean death and defeat for American soldiers? 36 Hours was later remade for TV under the title Breaking Point. TV fans will want to keep an eye peeled for bit parts by James Doohan from Star Trek and John Banner from Hogan's Heroes. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo
Billed third, Spencer Tracy plays Lt. Col. James P. Doolittle, who led the bombing raid over Tokyo. Most of the footage concerns pilot Ted Lawson (Van Johnson), who loses a leg while escaping from China after the attack; other subplots concern the meticulous preparations for the raid, and the individual exploits of those Doolittle flyers who crashed into the sea or were captured by the Japanese. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Air Force
On December 6, 1941, a squadron of nine B-17 bombers takes off for Hickam Field, HI. The crew of the Mary Ann, including two new men, assistant radio man Private Chester (Ray Montgomery) and gunner Sergeant Joe Winocki (John Garfield), assembles for the flight, and in the first 20 minutes, the movie reveals certain things about the crew: the shadowy past of one, the mother of another, and the wife of a third; two of them are good friends with the sister of McMartin (Arthur Kennedy), the bombardier, who lives in Honolulu; the son of the senior member of the crew, Sgt. White (Harry Carey Sr.), is a pilot stationed at Clark Field in the Philippines. Then more characters make entrances: the aircraft commander Quincannon (John Ridgely); Weinberg (George Tobias), a Jewish mechanic from New York; and a man from a farm in the upper Midwest -- they all represent a broad cross-section of America as it saw itself, and the "regular guys" in the Army Air Force as it existed in 1941. The flight proceeds without incident. Winocki, an embittered, washed-out flight school candidate who accidentally killed another pilot, is about to leave the service when the weather report from Hickam Field is interrupted, and the radio man begins picking up transmissions in Japanese. The Mary Ann and the rest of the squadron fly right into the middle of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor unarmed and out of gas, and nearly crack up landing on an emergency field; no sooner do they make repairs than the crew comes under attack, and the plane takes off and makes for Hickam Field, which they find a flaming shambles. They fly on to the Philippines, stopping at Wake Island just long enough to meet a few members of the doomed Marine garrison, taking their company mascot, a dog, with them. At Clark Field, the Mary Ann and her crew finally go into action against the enemy, flying in alone against a Japanese invasion force; Quincannon is mortally wounded in the brief action, which leaves the plane damaged seemingly beyond repair. The remaining crew won't give up the plane, however, even when ordered to abandon and destroy her; they get the bomber off just ahead of the advancing Japanese, and survive to help bring retribution to the invading fleet and the Japanese empire. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi

The Hill
The Hill was unfairly subjected to ridicule by the more obtuse "critics" of 1965 who harped on the fact that it starred Sean Connery and, unlike Connery's Bond pictures, had no women in it. Bypassing these cretinous comments, it must be noted that The Hill is an above-the-norm entry in the "military prison" genre. The film takes place during World War II, in a Libyan stockade for incorrigible British soldiers. The camp's brutal Sergeant Major (Harry Andrews) puts his charges to work on grueling, monotonous and pointless projects to break their spirits. When one rebellious inmate dies due to this treatment, the Sergeant Major is reprimanded by Joe Roberts (Connery), who has been appointed as the prisoners' spokesman. The result is that Roberts is likewise subjected to the most demeaning and humiliating of prison chores -- but his spirit, and that of his comrades, is not so easily crushed. Based on a TV play by Ray Rigby, The Hill should never be seen in any form other than its dusty, parched original black-and-white; the currently available colorized version is a crime against humanity. One problem: The British dialects in the first 20 minutes are so thick that an American viewer practically needs subtitles (British critics chalked this problem up not to elocution but to poor sound recording). ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Hell to Eternity
This standard wartime drama is divided into three chronological segments and is based on the experiences of the real Guy Gabaldon (played as an adult by Jeffrey Hunter, and as a boy by Richard Eyer). In the first segment, Guy is a homeless waif without many prospects when he is adopted by a Japanese-American family. He grows up just in time to be drafted into battle in World War II -- the bombing of Pearl Harbor has a particularly devastating effect on his family and their friends. After a wild last fling with two buddies (David Janssen and Vic Damone) and some women, Guy heads off to war where he distinguishes himself because of his fluency in Japanese. ~ Eleanor Mannikka, Rovi

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