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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Released in 1969 THE BRIDGE AT REMAGEN is a gritty action packed war
movie. Produced by David L. Wolpor and beautifully directed by John
Guillermin the picture has, over the years, gained something of a cult
status and besides being a great favourite with collectors is regarded
as one of the more memorable war classics of cinema. Released through
United Artists it was photographed in Panavision and colour to dazzling
affect by Stanley Cortez and is underlined throughout with a super
gutsy score by the always welcome Elmer Bernstein. Also of note is the
location filming. It was filmed in 1968, not in Germany, but in
Czechoslovakia which wonderfully doubled for Germany with the Remagen
Bridge scenes shot at Davie on the Vitava River using the old bridge
where fake towers were constructed.
It is the closing weeks of WW2 and the only escape route for Germany's 15th. Army is across the Obercassell Bridge over the Rhine at Remagen. But Berlin wants it destroyed in case the Americans can put it to their own use. Germany's General Von Brock (Peter Van Eyck) instructs Major Paul Kreuger (Robert Vaughan) to blow it up but to delay its destruction as long as possible so as to facilitate most of the 75,000 retreating German troops who will be crossing the bridge. Meanwhile the Americans under acting C.O. Lt. Phil Hartman (George Segal) head towards the bridge to destroy it. But later however Brig. Gen. Shinner (E. G. Marshall) changes his mind and decides not to destroy it but to secure it instead. The picture ends with the Americans storming the bridge and taking it.
Performances are superb from all concerned. Taking the lead is George Segal as the laid back cynical but dutiful C.O. Usually cast in romantic comedies this was a real departure for the actor and is the best thing he has ever done. Excellent too is Robert Vaughan as the ill fated German commander desperately trying first to save the bridge then failing to destroy it and Ben Gazzara as Angel the colourful brash and thieving Sergeant. Those in smaller roles are also outstanding like Bradford Dillman as the the self absorbed Major detested and distrusted by his company and the always impressive Peter van Eyck as the General of the German high command. This was to be Van Eyck's final screen appearance. He died the same year from Sepsis at the age of 54. And carrying the whole thing along is the rollicking score by the always pleasing Elmer Bernstein. Best known for his many scores for westerns the composer here turned in a powerful score of great depth and excitement. His main theme is a dramatic martial statement which segues into a reflective melancholy theme pointing up the plight of the many hapless refugees trying desperately to cross the bridge to safety and not forgetting the bold and engaging trumpet theme for the German Command. The score is Bernstein's best work for a war movie.
THE BRIDGE AT REMAGEN is a gripping and exciting well produced war epic and hasn't dated at all since it was made in the sixties. It remains one of the best post war movies of its kind,
An ironic postscript on the final frame of the movie reads -
"Ten days after the Americans captured the Obercassell Bridge it collapsed and fell into the Rhine".
Truth is often stranger than fiction we know. What's more perplexing is
having seen 'The Bridge At Remagen,' you may think it more or less
happened that way which was intriguing to say the least.
*** SPOILERS ***
In reality, the events surrounding the capture of this bridge were even more bizarre and surely never was there such great coincidence. These elements of the movie happened in reality:
-the bridge at Remagen was accidentally captured intact by US forces;
-the Germans unsuccessfully tried to blow it up, repeatedly;
-the Americans lost a lot of men in the fighting around the bridges;
-the German commander of the defense at the bridge was court martialed and executed by the Germans;
Following are the more bizarre real events of the bridge at Remagen. The commander of the US re con force that spotted the bridge first, was an man named Karl Timmerman! This US Lieutenant was of German descent. His father had stayed in Europe following his tour of duty during the First World War. There his father met his future mother in Germany. Karl Timmerman was born and grew up in Germany, NEAR the bridge at Remagen. He and his parents then moved to the States.
Timmerman and his men took the bridge and the Germans guarding it completely by surprise. No men were lost and the relative small squad quickly disabled the defending machineguns and captured all defenders without firing a single shot! US high command didn't think the bridge at Remagen of strategic importance as there were no major roads leading from it. However, remembering his youth nearby, Timmerman explained and persuaded his commanders because he knew from memory that a dozen kilometers nearby, was the major highway to Frankfurt!
Although it had cost them not a single man to capture the bridge, the Americans lost a LOT of men in the days and weeks following the capture, because the Germans were desperate to recapture it. They made many attacks and bombed the bridge from the air, even with the first jet-bombers.
The movie was really okay, much much better than 'Battle Of The Bulge' or even 'The Battle Of Britain.'
I remember seeing this movie in the late 1970s and liked it a lot and
still watch it every time it's broadcast not infrequently on television
. I was very disappointed that it didn't make the recent list of
Channel 4 's 100 GREATEST WAR MOVIES list
What I like about THE BRIDGE AT REMAGEN is its cynical edge . You see in these type of movies the Yanks are invincible knights in shining armour while the Jerries are invariably goose stepping Nazi dumbkopfs and while there is an element to Uncle Sam winning the war single handed it's nowhere enough to drag the movie into mediocrity . When I say " cynical " the screenplay is very even handed - The Americans loot from the bodies of the dead and come close to fragging a senior officer at one point while German civilians bleat that they're not Nazis seconds after taking down prized portraits of Adolph Hitler
Of course much of the cynicism is helped because of the period setting . It's only a few weeks from the final end of the war in Europe and everyone knows what the outcome of the war is going to be but everyone still kills and dies regardless . There is something more poignant about this than say the battle of Stalingrad in 1942 or D Day in 1944 hence the obvious war weariness from the Americans . It's different for the Germans who are fighting the enemy in their own borders . It should also be pointed out that in reality they know the Nazi death camps have been found and someone will be paying a heavy price for these crimes against humanity hence the Germans are in no hurry to surrender
Being made in 1969 I wonder if the war in Vietnam was at the back of the producers minds ? The one major German character Kreuger is portrayed as just a soldier protecting his homeland while we see scenes of American bombers dropping ordnance on innocent civilians that include young children and woman in their eighties . Maybe it's just another example of cynicism ? but one things for sure - You won't be seeing something like this coming out of a Hollywood studio today
If you like war movies you'll like THE BRIDGE AT REMAGEN a lot . It's intelligent , cynical and contains a really great score from Elmer Bernstien
This is a no-nonsense, gritty, thoroughly well made war film. As a recreation of war it is quite convincing, I couldn't spot anything wrong with the military equipment. The battle scenes are exciting and give a good, clear picture of the fighting instead of just chaotic shots of shooting and explosions. However, the people are never lost among the warfare. These are complex, solid characters, and the actors are good throughout. There is nothing superhuman, just individuals, very low on humanity or manners. Tired and ill-motivated Americans, desperate and scared Germans. Nothing glorious or patriotic: there is even a scene with American planes bombing refugees and Germans trying to protect them! This is not an adventure, more a depiction of an interesting situation and the people in it. However, the story flows on and there isn't a dull moment. Why this film hasn't acquired more recognition is beyond me. As a war film I think it is better than most of it's contemporaries, like "The Battle of the Bulge" or "Anzio".
American director John Guillermin, known for several epic "clunkers",
pulls together this rather tense look at one of the most important
battles of World War II: American forces clash with the Germans at
Remagen, where the last intact bridge over the Rhine stands between the
two opposing forces.
The script divides attention evenly and fairly between the two forces. George Segal ("The Longest Day") is Lt. Hartman, a burned out and pretty tired junior officer who doesn't want to accept the responsibilities of command when his company commander is killed. The war is almost over, and Hartman is concerned with getting his men home. On the other side of the river, German Major Kreuger (Robert Vaughn) is equally concerned with saving lives German lives. He becomes obsessed with keeping the bridge intact in order to allow retreating German soldiers to attack, despite orders from the High Command to blow up the bridge to prevent its' capture by the Allies.
The supporting cast is filled with fine performances. The standouts are Hans Christian Blech ("Battle of the Bulge") as Captain Schmidt, a weary Wehrmacht Officer who feels his duty is to protect the civilians whom Kreuger puts in harm's way by continuing a hopeless fight. Blech's acting ability ranges from quiet humility to occasional fits of rage, bringing a dimensionality to a role not commonly found in war epics. Joachim Hansen ("Breakthrough") disagrees with Schmidt; he is devoted to the High Command and wants a battle with the Americans more than anything. Both actors bring passion to their roles and make these very believable wartime officers, not simply normal caricatures and stereotypes.
Guillermin takes these characters and puts them in intense combat situations, making their humanity all the more believable. The best battle scene in the film has a platoon of American soldiers advancing onto the bridge under a smokescreen, but while they are in the open, the smoke begins to clear giving the Germans a clear field of fire. As some men are shot in the open, others move underneath the bridge to try and rip off as many explosives as they can before the Germans can ignite a secondary fuse to blow up the bridge.
In the aftermath of battle scenes like this, the human drama unfolds. Sgt. Angelo (Ben Gazzara, "Fireball Forward") is a tough GI who loots the bodies of the dead and sees the war around him as a chance to get rich and take the wealth home when it's all over. But when he must shoot a Hitler Youth member who is sniping at his men, then weeps when he realizes he has shot a mere pre-teenage boy. During a lull in the siege on the bridge, Hartman faces off with Maj. Barnes (Bradford Dillman), who wants him to take his men onto the bridge and capture it despite enemy fire and the threat of the bridge's imminent destruction. Hartman argues that he cannot risk the lives of his men; Barnes states that it will help to end the war faster is the bridge is captured, thus saving more lives in the end. It's a tough choice to make, and both decisions have their drawbacks.
The performances are complimented by three crucial technical elements: scoring, scenery and cinematography. Elmer Bernstein provides a sweeping score which resounds with the troops when they are victorious, yet mourns and seems to cry during some heart-wrenching scenes, such as an important scene between Angelo, Hartman and Schmidt at the film's conclusion. The Czech locations look magnificent the film looks and feels real because it was lensed in Europe, in a location which passes for Germany perfectly. The cobblestones streets, rustic villages, rolling hills and clear rivers look amazing. Finally, Stanley Cortez's cinematography is fantastic; the composition of every shot looks well-planned and detailed. There is action going on in the background and foreground most of the time. The focus is not just on the main characters, but as in real life, there is stuff going on around them. Scenes of the battle on the bridge are standouts, as the action is captured from every possible angle, it's very clear what's going on and who is where at all times.
"The Bridge at Remagen" is a fine World War II film which succeeds in showing history, American patriotism and the horrors of war at the same time. It will leave you feeling glad that the Allies won the war and agonized over the great cost of such small gains. But when you realize how much a "small" gain really matters in the big picture, it won't seem as small anymore.
'The Bridge at Remagen' has, for what ever reason, largely been lost or
forgotten by today's movie-going public. I think this is a real shame
because the sensibilities and attitudes that the film has toward it's
own themes fit very much into the modern movie-goer's. Films like 'The
Big Red One,' 'Saving Private Ryan,' 'The Thin Red Line,' and a host of
other modern war films owe their dark edge to earlier films like 'The
Bridge at Remagen.' 'The Bridge at Remagen' is about worn out soldiers.
It is a film that doesn't like war, and stews in bitterness. George
Segal's world weary eyes are matched only by Robert Vaughn's. Two men,
one an American and the other a German who are trying less to kill the
others forces than they are trying to just keep the men that they
command. Segal has been ordered to capture the town around the bridge.
He's told not to worry about the bridge because it is assumed that the
Germans will have blown it up themselves by the time he gets there with
his troops, or that the Allied air force will bomb it in order to trap
and destroy the German 15th Army ... an army on the wrong side of the
bridge. Vaughn, excellently playing the conflicted Major Kruger, is
ordered to blow up the bridge. The 70,000 troops of the 15th Army and
countless civilians are to be sacrificed at the greater expense of
protecting Berlin. The General who gives Major Kruger the order to blow
up the bridge suggests that holding the bridge for as long as possible
so that fleeing troops and civilians can escape might not be a bad
idea. This ultimately leads to tragedy for both sides.
The film is highlighted by worn out lower level officers who must command on the front lines, and the incompetent or uncaring officers who outrank them. These lower ranking officers and their men are merely pawns to be pushed beyond the breaking point and destroyed. The lower level officers see letters of condolence that they need to write for the families of the fallen men serving under them. The higher ranking officers see flags on maps. 'The Bridge at Remagen' is deeply cynical and highly embittered. Although it is in my mind superior in every way to similarly themed films like 'Anzio,' It was overshadowed and consumed by films with bigger budgets and star power. Need one look much further than 'A Bridge Too Far'? The two leads, Segal and Vaughn are both tremendous and are playing their parts in top form. Vaughn especially turns in some of the best work of his career.
The only real flaws in 'The Bridge at Remagen' aren't too serious, but they are strong enough to detract overall. The direction does lean toward heavy-handed pedantics and this can become aggravating. Only having a soldier standing in front of the camera and yelling "WAR IS BAD! WAR IS BAD!" over and over again would it have been more 'in your face.' The movie also suffers from some pacing issues, especially early on, although I think it is redeemed by the hard and gritty ending.
'The Bridge at Remagen' -- very much worth taking a look at if you can find it, and almost certainly belongs (with pride) on the DVD shelf of any serious WW2 film fan.
Famous for its Apocalypse Now-style production problems. Filmed in then-Czechoslovakia where the then Communist government offered up a whole town (due to be cleared to make way for a strip mine) for cinematic destruction. But halfway through shooting the Russian army invaded to remove reformist president Alexander Dubcek. George Segal and Robert Vaughn give career best performances, but it also marks the moment when US war films moved beyond action-adventure and into a darker realm. The capture of the Remagen Bridge in 1945 was a magnificent feat of arms by the US Army. But in the film account the troops are slovenly, often fearful thugs, slanging and striking their officers, robbing corpses and killing children. It's not really about World War II at all, but about how many Americans saw the Vietnam War. The Bridge at Remagen is out of time, set in 1945 but made in 1968, the year of the Tet Offensive, when the US realised that Vietnam was a lost war. It shows.
Only someone who was there, e.g. the U.S. 9th Armored Division, can really say whether this movie about the Remagen bridgehead comes close to what they went through in securing the Ludendorf, the last remaining intact bridge over the Rhine, on March 7, 1945. Only they know of the finality of the gunfire, and the smell it left in the air along with the smell of the dead bodies. But as a combat veteran I was impressed by this movie as it retained the tension and fear involved in war. I do not like most movies because they gloss over reality, but this movie closely shows the different types of individuals that usually make up an army. There are the commanders at the top who see the overall picture, the self-centered career minded officer types who reap only contempt, and the officers and their N.C.O.s-on the American side armored infantry-that just do what they have to do and are just trying to survive. It also shows the close, emotional bonds that war can create between soliders involved in battle. This movie keeps it dirty, with nothing very unbelievable. It gives a good idea of an armored division on the move-and that ain't much fun.
While it doesn't follow the exact historical events and has its fair share of "realistic" technical and tactical flaws, I think The Bridge at Remagen is a great movie. The WW II U.S. M24 Chaffee tanks, the M8 Armored Cars, half tracks, jeeps, troop carriers, and 2 1/2ton trucks are all just great. Unlike other WW II films of the period (60's-70's)the use of these vehicles sometimes make it seem as if one is watching George Stevens footage from WW II and not a Hollywood production. The moving, combat vehicles scenes were never better. Filming on location in eastern Europe where they had whole villages and towns that could really be blown up and destroyed adds a great deal also. I think most of the technical flaws (uniforms/weapons, both American and German)can be overlooked by the quality of what they did get right and the only real tactical flaw that I can't forgive is the out-in-the-open American tank vs German Flak battery duel. I just love those American M24's so I give it an 8 out of 10.
Spectacular and exciting warlike movie based on famous event about the
Bridge at Remagen . This Blockbuster is one of the biggest war films
ever made. It's a magnificent film, recreating the known offensive by
Allied army on the German front during 1945 .What happened during those
desperate days that could have changed the course of war is now history
. It's well recreated by John Guillermin for United Artists, with
Technicolor cinematography by Stanley Cortez. The producer, David L
Wolper was well-qualified for his job as he made documentary as ¨D-Day
,6 June, 1944¨ and produced ¨The Devil's brigade¨ , among others.
Stirring images accompanied with roaring battle noises it quite
possible for the sound effects you heard today to be as realistic as
those he heard when was listening to them whining overhead.Furthermore
, it packs a moving musical score in military parade style composed by
the master Elmer Berstein. The making was a logistical problem as
almost that of setting up a campaign and putting a film together under
any circumstances was very difficult because working under pretty bad
conditions. So this whole film was put together, photographed and
edited, scored and prepared for release in a matter of about various
months. After a daring escape from Czechoslovakia where was shot at
Davle and Most , filming was resumed near Hamburg, Germany and closely
the Pope's summer house, Castelgondolfo, Italy.
The film is based on real events, though the characters are fictitious, those are the following : The Ludendorff Bridge at Remagenthe last standing on the Rhine was captured by soldiers of the U.S. 9th Armored Division on 7 March 1945, during Operation Lumberjack. Although German engineers had mined the bridge before the American approach, the fuses had been cut by two Polish engineers forcibly conscripted to the Wehrmacht. On 7 March 1945, soldiers of the 27th Armored Infantry Battalion, led by Lieutenant Karl H. Timmermann,(at the movie Phil Hartman well played by George Segal) approached the bridge, and found it standing. The first American soldier across the bridge was Sergeant Alex Drabik (at the film bears similar role played by Ben Gazzara as corrupt sergeant Angelo) ; Lt. Timmermann was the first officer across. Although the bridge's capture is sometimes regarded as the "Miracle of Remagen" in U.S. histories, historians debate the strategic importance of the capture of the bridge at Remagen. General Eisenhower ( in the movie a similar character is played by E.G. Marshall as General Shinner) said that "the bridge is worth its weight in gold". However, few U.S. units were able to operate east of the Rhine ahead of the main crossings in the south, under Gens. Patton and Bradley, and in the north, under Gen. Montgomery . Ultimately, only a limited number of troops were able to cross the Rhine before the bridge's collapse. However, the psychological advantage of having crossed the Rhine in force and in pursuit of the retreating Wehrmacht, improved Allied morale while communicating disaster to the retreating Germans. Hitler ordered a flying courts-martial that condemned five officers to death. Captain Bratge, who was in American hands, was sentenced in absentia while the other four (Majors Scheller, Kraft, and Strobel, and Captain Peters , respectively played by Robert Vaughan as Major Kruger and Hans Chritian Blech as Captain Carl Schmidt ) were subsequently executed . Soldiers from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers worked long hours to stabilize and repair the bridge . However, despite the best U.S. efforts, on 17 March 1945, ten days after its capture, the Bridge at Remagen succumbed to the cumulative damage from German bombing and collapsed, killing twenty-eight soldiers of the Army Corps of Engineers. However, because the pontoon bridges and other secured crossing points had supplanted the bridge, its loss was neither tactically nor strategically significant. Still, the Ludendorff Bridge remained important as the first point at which Allies crossed the Rhine.
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