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This Robert Parrish directed World War Two film is set on D-Day plus one. The film was based on the 1959 novel, Epitaph for an Enemy. The cast of this US-UK-French co-production include, Cliff Robertson, Red Buttons, Irina Demick, Marius Goring, Fernand Ledoux, Slim Pickens, James Robertson Justice and Broderick Crawford.
A group of four American Infantrymen are ambushed as they approach a farm several miles from Omaha Beach. One of their number is killed before they rush the house and dispose of the three SS troopers inside. Also inside of the farmhouse are 20 plus French civilians and a wounded Wehrmacht officer.
The American Sgt in charge, Cliff Robertson, pulls the wounded German, Marius Goring outside to put a round in him. Just then, a jeep with a Col. pulls into the courtyard. The Col, Slim Pickens, orders Robertson to take the civilians and the German back to the beach. He is to give them to the Navy for evacuation to England. Pickens takes the other two G.I.'s that are with Robertson. He does leave replacement, Red Buttons, to help Robertson. The group starts back to the beach picking up several more people and a dog along the way.
Several hours later, after reaching the beach, Robertson finds he cannot get the Navy to accept the group. The Beach-master on site, James Robertson Justice, orders Robertson to take the group back to the village. On the road they go again. Once there, the same officer, Slim Pickens, again orders Robertson to take the group back to the beach. (A royal Snafu or what?) Once back at the beach, Robertson tries to scare up some food and water for everyone. Now he runs into a "by the book" MP officer, Broderick Crawford. Crawford says, "There is no way I am giving U.S. Government water to civilians!" Robertson ends up stealing water, rations and some blankets to give to his group.
Yet again the band is chased off and ordered back up the road to the village. Robertson by this time has noticed that the French civilians are friendly with the German, Goring. They feed him and bandage his head wound. Miss Demick tells Robertson that Goring had been the local German Commandant. Goring had been fair and decent to the locals. He even helped arrange an escape by several villagers who had been rounded up by a Gestapo raid.
Half way back, the group is strafed by a German aircraft. A couple of passing Spitfires shoot down the offending German. The Nazi parachutes to safety and lands near the group. Rather than surrender to Robertson, the swine pulls a Luger and shoots one of the civilians. Robertson dispatches said German in return.
German officer Goring suggests they house the civilians in the vault of a nearby church. He knows it is well built and will provide cover for the civilians. Robertson and Goring head off to check out the church. Goring however gets himself blown up by a booby trap that had been left by the SS.
Robertson hoot-foots it back to the civilians and who should he run into again? Col Slim Pickens of course. This time Pickens tells Robertson to let the civilians go home. Their village has been cleared of Germans. Robertson sees off the group before loading Red Buttons on a medic jeep. Buttons had thoughtlessly got himself wounded by a random artillery round.
This filmed on location feature is full of unused footage that had been shot for producer Darryl Zanuck's, D-Day epic, "The Longest Day". This film was promoted as a sequel to the earlier film.
Irina Demick was the mistress at the time of producer Zanuck, and as such moved up the pecking order in the billing. Demick, Red Buttons and Fernard Ledoux had also been in the earlier film, "The Longest Day". Demick is probably best known for her multiple roles in the 1965 comedy, "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines".
Robert Parrish was a twice Oscar nominated, one time winner, film editor before making the switch to directing. His Oscar win was for his work on 1947's "Body and Soul". As a director he cranked out several top flight film-noir, "Cry Danger" and "The Mob". He also scored with a couple of excellent westerns, "The Wonderful Country" and "Saddle the Wind". He never really came close to matching those four films.
This one was plagued with problems as Zanuck was always on set checking on Miss Demick. This constantly threw the production schedule off. It is a watchable film, but it does seem to run longer than the 99 minute runtime.
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