Four of Warner's wartime best
calvinnme | 02/08/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As I've mentioned before this TCM greatest classic film series is all about bringing classic film to the masses at an affordable price. These four films are bare-bones releases of Warner Home Video's WWII classics. Three of them can be found in the boxed set World War II Collection, Vol. 1 - Battlefront Europe (The Big Red One Two-Disc Special Edition / The Dirty Dozen / Battle of the Bulge / Battleground / Where Eagles Dare). For some reason Kelly's Heroes has not been upgraded since 2000. It is one of the great offbeat wartime comedies, so I can't imagine why it has been ignored. Thus in this particular case you are probably getting a better deal than those of us who own the stand-alone DVD of this film. The Dirty Dozen now exists as a two disc special edition - The Dirty Dozen (Two-Disc Special Edition) for those who are interested. Although "Dirty Dozen" is indeed one of the great war films, I think my personal favorite is "Battleground". Directed by William Wellman it is about the 101st airborne while it is being besieged by the Germans during the Christmas of 1944. I highly recommend this set for its economy and quality."
Core WWII Films in One Place
Kevin T. Keith | Brooklyn, NY United States | 07/11/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"At least three of these 4 films are so well known that anyone who is likely to buy this collection is likely to have already seen them, and probably to have memorized choice quotes. ("Drinking wine. Eating cheese. Catchin' some rays . . . you know!") They've been on heavy rotation as weekend TV-movie filler for decades. But seeing them unaltered and one the widescreen is worth the low price of this set.
The film transfers are uniformly good quality. The extras - mostly "making of . . ." shorts - are OK but not great. In short, this set is exactly what it claims to be, and it's fine that way. Any WWII or WWII-movie buff ought to have these films in their collection - they are, if not exactly models of historical accuracy, certainly key touchstones of the genre. You can't have any credibility on the subject without an intimate familiarity with "The Dirty Dozen", "Where Eagles Dare", and "Kelly's Heroes"; "Battleground" is not as well known, but is regarded as an excellent movie of its type, and much more realistic than the other three.
All in all, this is a good set of good movies at a good price. What more do you want?
OK - for the few who actually haven't seen the films, here's a capsule summary:
"The Dirty Dozen": a renegade Army major is tasked with a suicide mission against a Nazi officers' retreat; he recruits misfits from an Army prison, all sentenced to death or long terms, and offers them the possibility of freedom if they will serve on this mission - but first he has to whip the worst soldiers in the Army into a team of top commandos, then they have to actually execute the mission against insane odds. Naturally, the Dirty Dozen rise to the occasion, but not without paying a price. It's kind of a goofy, high-spirits combat film, but it's notable for helping to create the cliche's that defined the genre thereafter: the "rag-tag band of misfits" who come together when the chips are down; the white racist who grudgingly comes to accept his black comrade; the salad-bowl assortment of token minorities (one black, one Hispanic, one Jew . . .) who earn respect by fighting for it; the selfless sacrifice by one man for his buddies; the hero who gets cut down by gunfire just steps from safety . . . . Also notable for memorable performances by Lee Marvin as the major; football star-turned actor Jim Brown as the doomed token black guy; lounge singer Trini Lopez, as, incomprehensibly, a singing death-row Hispanic commando (???); Charles Bronson as the quiet tough guy; and Telly Savalas as the psychotic killer who can't hold it together. Good supporting performances by Ernest Borgnine, actor/director John Cassavetes, and a young Donald Sutherland.
"Kelly's Heroes": a goofy WWII comedy from 1970 that, reading between the lines, can be seen as embodying more than a little of the anti-war counter-culture of that era; easily the strangest "war movie" set in WWII, arguably not actually a war movie. The plot has renegade busted-Lieutenant-now-Private Kelly (Clint Eastwood) discovering a deposit of Nazi gold bars being held in a small-town bank vault behind German lines. He talks his platoon into staging an unauthorized mission, without knowledge of their officers, during a three-day layover period - they will infiltrate the German sector, find the bank, steal the gold, and be back before anyone notices. Naturally, things go awry. Good comedy work from Don Rickles as the supply-sergeant fixer who pulls the strings for them - for a price, Carrol O'Connor as the raving general who mistakes their bank job for a real assault and races to pin medals on them while they're still unloading the gold, and Gavin MacLeod (future captain of the "Love Boat") in a small role. Telly Savalas is back again as the tough sergeant who reluctantly goes along to try to keep his men from getting killed. Donald Sutherland shines in a supporting role as a laid-back beatnik tank driver who provides their heavy armor - when he's not too stoned to keep awake. The movie is genuinely funny, but there are realistic scenes of intense combat, as well, that keep reminding you that war is no joke - good people die, and often for a lot less reason than a bar of gold.
"Where Eagles Dare": one of the best-known and well-liked "serious" war movies about WWII, it is in many ways as over-the-top as the two previous films. Staged as a war movie, it's actually an action/espionage caper; the script was written by mystery-thriller author Len Deighton from his own novel, and could easily have been a James Bond film, other than for all the Nazi uniforms in evidence. The plot has it that a top British officer was captured and is being held in an impregnable German castle high on a mountaintop - reachable only by a suspended tram. A team of British commandos, with one tag-along American (Clint Eastwood, again), has to infiltrate the schloss in disguise. ("Fortunately, you all speak fluent German!" Yeah, that was lucky.) But things are not as they seem. The mission quickly begins to unravel, and it gradually unfolds that almost nobody from the Allied side is really who they claim to be. Richard Burton, the team leader ("He's the best man we've got!"), has to figure out who's really on his side, break up a German spy ring that has infiltrated British high command, and get the survivors out of the castle. There is little combat, but the overall tension is high and there are some spectacular scenes of sneaking in and out of the castle on the aerial tram. Good spy movie disguised as a war movie - totally unrealistic as either, but who cares?
"Battleground": really the only "real" war movie in the set, it is a realistic and gritty dramatization of the 101st Airborne in the Battle of the Bulge. It illustrates the constant danger and uncertainty of the combat zone: infiltrators and psychological warfare from the Germans; fog and clouds that prevent re-supply; and the ever-present fear. Stars B-list perennials Van Johnson, Ricardo Montalban, and George Murphy."
Superb WWII Collection
Josh | 03/06/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: World War II - Battlefront Europe is a superb set of four of the best war movies of them all.
First on the list is Kelly's Heroes, an unusual comedy about GIs attempting to steal Nazi gold. Great suspense and witty humor (not to mention a hippy, played by Donald Sutherland) make this film entertaining and memorable.
Secondly, we have the Dirty Dozen, a fantastic story of twelve condemned men granted freedom if they agree to do a suicide mission. Great acting and a thrilling climax make this film great.
Thirdly, we have Where Eagles Dare, an incredible spy thriller in the tradition of the Guns of Navarone. With about a thousand plot twists and stunning action, Where Eagles Dare is near-perfect.
Lastly, we have Battleground, the oldest film in this collection. Pacing issues aside, this is one great film, and features some of Hollywood's greatest actors. Definitely recommended."
4 for 1
Donald Graeca | 06/26/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A great deal like this cannot be passed up. You have 4 classics that have great actors with superb performances.If you enjoy films from the 70's(except battleground), you will not be disappointed. A real testosterone fest!"