Sam Gifford remembers : In prewar years he was an arrogant southern cotton plantation owner, married to the daughter of a colonel. At the beginning of the war he was mobilized with his National Guard unit as a sergeant. Came the day when, revolted by the cowardice of his lieutenant, who had fired at his own men, he hit him. Downgraded, he was sent to a disciplinary battalion. Sam now discovers his new detachment, his new commanding officer, just another cowardly brute, Captain Waco Grimes. While in combat, Sam will gradually become closer to the privates, working-class people he used to despise. He will become another man, a better man. Written by
The novel by Francis Gwaltney of which this film is based, 'The Day the Century Ended', provided the working title for this movie. See more »
In the cast listing, Robert Wagner is listed as Sfc/Pvt. Sam Francis Gifford. He should be listed as T/Sgt/Pvt. Sam Francis Gifford. The rank Sfc (Sergeant First Class) did not exist during WWII. At that time it was T/Sgt (Technical Sergeant). See more »
BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL (Richard Fleischer, 1956) **1/2
I rented this on DVD in honor of director Fleischer's passing a week ago. While it's not among the best of its kind, this underrated war flick is quite well done in most respects - notably the cinematography, in color and Cinemascope, by Leo Tover. Still, with a title like that - as well as its flashback structure and the inspired use of "Dies Irae" on the soundtrack (given a military arrangement!) - one feels that the film had pretensions above its station, which neither hesitant scripting nor the generous budget of a major studio (Fox) could hope to accommodate!
That said, the film features a plethora of gripping action sequences and a solid cast, led by Robert Wagner in a better-than-expected performance as the callous-landowner-turned-jittery-soldier and featuring, among others, Mark Damon (whom I saw in person at the 2004 Venice Film Festival, where he was invited to introduce Vittorio Cottafavi's delightful picaresque epic I CENTO CAVALIERI aka SON OF EL CID !). Indeed, one might say that BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL only falters whenever the narrative feels the need to return to Wagner's civilian life...which almost turns the film into one of those novelettish upper-crust domestic sagas that were popular Hollywood fixtures around this same time!
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