An American tanker is sunk by a German U-boat and the survivors spend eleven days at sea on a raft. They're next assigned to the liberty ship "Sea Witch" bound for Murmansk through the sub-stalked North Atlantic.
We follow a band of American soldiers as they engage the Germans in a snowy, foggy winter near Bastogne in World War II. They're low on fuel, rations, and ammunition; the Germans are constantly encouraging their surrender via radio and leaflets, and most importantly, the pervasive thick fog makes movement and identification difficult and prevents their relief by Allied air support. This film focuses much more on the psychology and morale of the soldiers than on action footage and heroics. Written by
Michael C. Berch <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Dore Schary completed the film twenty days under its original shooting schedule by instituting several other innovations. He also ordered twenty-five sets built on one sound stage, and then had art director Hans Peters map out in detail the terrain, action and possible camera angles. Copies of these drawings were then given to director William A. Wellman and cinematographer Paul Vogel. Some of the sets were used several times over as the film's actions shifted. See more »
At the beginning of the movie Holley (Van Johnson) enters the tent wearing a class A uniform. Although currently worn above the ribbon rack, at the time the film takes place, the Combat Infantryman Badge was worn on the left breast pocket, below the ribbons. See more »
I didn't expect much of this -- I was wrong. Wellman rates pretty low on the Andrew Sarris "auteur" scale, and, frankly, most of his movies are pretty dull fare (ever watch "Blood Alley" or, despite its reputation, "Nothing Sacred"?). But this is a first-rate war film, as gripping as Walsh's "Battle Cry" or "Objective: Burma," or Dwan's "Sands of Iwo Jima." The cast could not be bettered, with outstanding work from Van Johnson, James Whitmore, John Hodiak, Marshall Thompson, Jerome Courtland, Ricardo Montalban, Douglas Fowley. It doesn't have the breadth of the three above-mentioned films -- there are no away-from-the-battlefield scenes that give the characters more dimension -- some might say "dilute the intensity" -- but "Battleground" is very intense and involving. Astonishing that it was made entirely on an MGM sound stage.
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