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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's 1944 in France, and a cowardly American captain (Eddie Albert)
causes the needless deaths of his men, led by Lt. Jack Palance. Palance
promises to kill Albert if it happens again. And it does.
Jack Palance is an acquired taste, but there's always something gripping and unique about his panting and breathlessness and gnashing of teeth. He's usually a decent or damaged man caught in an uncaring society - whether it's the American army or (as in THE BIG KNIFE) a film studio. With his voice, he does things to lines that no one else can. His bravery and heroism lead him only to death in ATTACK, but Albert ends up no better.
The performances seem rather melodramatic by today's standards (or are modern 'standards' nothing more than a fashion?), especially Albert's complete breakdown toward the end. Lee Marvin appears to be the great survivor here, providing military leadership without losing his eye for the political fast lane back home. But it's a toss-up what will happen to him once William Smithers has finished his phone call. But the film ends there, and we'll never know. Buddy Ebsen is good here, his acting rather measured and careful, steadying the noisy pyrotechnics of Palance and Albert.
Looks good in black & white - the war scenes are quite realistic for the Fifties, and the more talkative scenes are in suitably claustrophobic settings. I spotted a brief bit of wartime documentary stock about half way through, but the rest of it is Aldrich through and through. (Its treatment of the philosophy of war bears some similarity to Kubrick's PATHS OF GLORY.)
Interesting twist of a war drama about a National Guard infantry
company stuck with an incompetent, politically appointed, company
commander, Captain Cooney, played by Eddie Albert. Cooney's father is a
big whig back home and the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Bartlett,
played by a very young looking Lee Marvin has big political ambitions
for after the war so he puts Eddie Albert in command of Fox Company as
a favor to the 'Old Man'. Captain Cooney is a coward and at the
beginning of the movie leaves one of his squads hanging out to dry and
they are quickly killed. When Lt. Costa (Jack Palance) is ordered to
take a farmhouse at the edge of an enemy infested town, he warns Cooney
what will happen if the company doesn't show up as promised. Cooney's
behavior eventually puts the whole battalion at risk and pushes each
man nearly to his breaking point.
The performances are brilliant all around with Albert and Palance turning in arguably the best performances of their careers. Lee Marvin essentially does Lee Marvin and if you've seen a few of his movies you know what to expect. Attack is 107 minutes but felt more like two hours. The pacing is spotty and another round of editing, cutting six or seven minutes, would vastly improve the film. I'm not sure but there were a few spots in the beginning where it seemed they mixed up the ranks and had a lieutenant in charge of the squad that was killed. Lieutenants command platoons in an infantry company, sergeants command squads.
I first saw this when I was nine years old. It has stuck in my mind
because it was the first war movie I'd seen that was not basically guts
and glory. Rather it showed a nasty side of war, focusing on a cowardly
US Army company commander (as the Allies approach Germany during WW II)
and how his men react (has some similarities in tone to "Paths of
I just saw it in the cheap videos ($9.98) section of Shopper's Drug Mart and bought it. It is as good as I remembered and well-worth getting. Even has Geneva Convention moments that are relevant today. Lee Marvin is the best I've ever seen him, and Jack Palance and Eddie Albert are very good.
My father was a veteran of World War II, and he suffered all of his
remaining life - 20 years - after it was over. This was his favorite
film. And this is back when you had to be lucky enough to catch it on
When it became available of VHS cassette, I immediately bought it, years after my father died.
I asked him why he loved this movie so much. He told me it was just like the way it was. Each day was the day you were going to die. And, no one was going to help that.
He fought because he had to, and wanted to. But that didn't make it any easier.
The film shows much of the conflict and interplay between senior officers, but underneath all of that, it is a film about fighting in that war.
I cannot recommend it more.
Don't expect anything glorious. It is hard to watch. But it makes movies like 'Saving Private Ryan' look weak.
This film is remarkable for all the reasons shown in your review but there are one or two things that need to be emphasised. The none-datedness of the film is incredible - it stands up alongside any film before or since . The performances of three of the leading actors, Jack Palance, Eddie Albert and Lee Marvin are arguably the best of their careers. It is also notable for the quality of the supporting actors. Buddy Ebsen gives his usual superb performance alongside regular support stars like Richard Jaekel and Robert Strauss. The "introduction" of William Smithers was a landmark even though he did not go on to the sort of stardom he seemed to promise. The only downside was in some of the scenery and the vehicles used. Shots of the same war-torn tower, from different angles, appeared in scenes supposed to be in two different towns, whilst the mocked-up German tanks bore no resemblance to those used in reality in the Ardennes, where the action is set.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is as good as a 1950's war flick can get. The film stars Eddie Albert, Lee Marvin, Jack Palance, Robert Strauss and Buddy Ebsen. The acting is first-rate by everybody and the story is certainly a plausible one. A company commander (Albert) is absolutely gutless. He quickly loses the respect of all his men. His superior (Marvin) keeps him in command for future political reasons. Palance plays the squad leader who is stuck dealing with Albert's poor decisions. Several men die as a result and Marvin won't replace Albert. The decision is made that Albert has to go somehow. There is a good bit of combat action and it is certainly well-done. The film, as I said, is one of the better ones to come out in the 50's. It's well worth a watch!
the interesting thing about all the movies lee marvin made with robert aldrich was the way that aldrich, not the least 'hysterical' of directors found marvins quiet core, and used him as the 'still' man in a world of constsnt movement. attack, the dirty dozen, and emperor og the north , apart from being fine films, were all great marvin.
Take jack Palance and Eddie Albert and Lee Marvin, 3 great actors where
cowardice, chicanery and bravery among WWII soldiers are all combined. This
movie was censored by the US Army, (as well as my first review on this) and
ends with the bravest and the cowardly officer in the same state. The
colonel is left free to go on with his chicanery, but we hope that the
lieutenant, finally conscience stricken enough to refuse the buy-off, lets
the world know what REALLY happened. Many innocent GIs are dead because of
this officer's cowardice, so you can understand why many movie books don't
even have this movie listed.
And if this review 'disappears' as well, I'll know why. See 'Attack' available from some of the online houses, if you can find a copy of it. The one movie review book that DID feature it says that it was Palance's and albert's finest hour of acting. And indeed it is. I could not watch it at one sitting, because of the suspense and knowledge that some great guys were about to get it because of a psycho officer. Although, when I asked a special forces VietNam vet why in the world a platoon of GIs were advancing down a hill in a parallel line a la the Brits, circa-1776 to certain death, he said, "That's Hollywood for you."
This again is an anti-war movie with a full contingent of fighting GIs--show this to all the potential cannon fodder kids you know, along with "The Americanization of Emily". We might have some peace, if we all refused to go to war and this movie shows how stupid it is.
The movie had a profound impact on me when I first saw it. Having been brought up on the standard, sanitised British war movie 'Attack!' gave me a more realistic impression of what it may have been like. Jack Palance is no typical central character for this sort of movie and is in a different league to the average central character in a British war movie. No matter how many times I see the movie I'm left thinking he was undervalued.
Yet more proof that Jack Palance could really act!
His Joe Costa, a decent, tough, and honorable guy, is matched wonderfully by Eddie Albert as Costa's incompetent and sniveling commanding officer (a great portrayal of a weasel in action).
And any movie that has both Buddy Ebsen and Lee Marvin deserves a look.
Great cast, great dialog. Silly-looking "tank" mockups are the only drawback I can think of.
I rate it an 8 out of 10.
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