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Considering that it was obviously shot in and around Hollywood and that the German soldiers look like crew members pressed into service, this still has some very effective scenes and some decent performances. Good to see Dickerson play a bad guy for a change.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
**SPOILERS** More of an anti-war then war movie "Shell Shock" has to be
with a hero GI Johnny Wade who loses it during an assault on a German
machine gun nest. It's not that Johnny is a coward it's that he's been
out in the field so long without being given any R&R, rest &
relaxation, that it was only a matter of time before he'd flip out
which is exactly what he did.
It's was Johnny's squad leader the busted, by losing his sergeant stripes, ex-sergeant-and now just group leader-Rance who insisted to his battalion commander The Major that Johnny, the best shot in the platoon, go along with him. Rance is slated by The Major to go on a deadly and almost suicidal mission in a deserted graveyard where it's suspected that the Germans had hidden a major ammo dump. With a battle weary johnny freezing up under fire the mission went kaput together with any chance of Rance earning back his stripes!
Even though it's obvious that Johnny isn't yellow but suffering from severe battle & shell shock Rance, who never liked Johnny in the first place, is now determine to have Johnny shot for cowardice under fire even if he's the one to do it! It's Johnny boyhood friend, from the orphanage, and fellow GI Gil Evens who wants to get him help, for his shell shock, in a MASH unit behind the lines but Rance had other plans for him. Have the confused and, because of his condition, mute young man make a run for it and gun him down for desertion under war time conditions.
O.K for a low budget war movie "Shell Shock" does show the Germans, remember the film was made some 20 years after the end of WWII, in a far better light then you would have expected them to be. We get to see a confused and out of it Johnny captured by a German Army unit and treated quite well by his captor with medical attention and even given, in Johnny being bear-foot with severe blisters on his feet, a new makeshift pair of what looked like slippers. There was also a scene in the movie where a what looked like 14 year-old German sniper gun down a member of the patrol looking for Johnny. When he was finally put away, with a bullet to his chest, it was the German you were made to feel sorry for not the GI whom he just killed!
***SPOILERS*** It took a while, like almost the entire film, but in the end Johnny finally got it all together and saved the day by almost single handedly taking out an entire German platoon who were assaulting the house he, as well as Rance & Gil, were hiding in. The irony of all this is that Race who had started to see Johnny in a new light, as an blood & guts fighting GI, ended up getting himself killed by Johnny's Italian girlfriend, who was hiding him from the Germans, Maria who mistook him, when he came barging into the house, for a German!
P.S Despite his small part in the film Max Hebner as The Major was by far the best actor in it. Coming across like like a combination between a John Wayne or Robert Mitchum at their sh*t-kicking and tough talking best Huber was never seen in another movie for some 37 years until he secured the role of Igor in the 2001 comedy "Bomb 'N Venice".
This film has been bundled with "Battle of Blood Island" by Something
Weird Video and they both have a lot in common. Both were made with
minuscule budgets. Both had tiny casts. And, both were WWII war films
that were made during the late 50s to mid-60s. However, while "Battle
of Blood Island" proved you could still make a half non-way decent film
with next to no money, "Shell Shock" would almost seem to prove the
"Shell Shock" is a very dull film. What makes it much worse is that, according to the movie, WWII must have involved a dozen or so men TOTAL on both sides! That's because you never see more than three or four or five guys at any one time in the film and the action is almost non-existent. To make matters worse, the German soldiers look like American college students from 1964---and I truly believe that's what they are. The black rimmed 60s nerd style glasses and hairdos are clearly NOT German circa 1944! As for the plot, it isn't bad but overacting all around really sink the production. The story involves a soldier who has just been decorated for bravery going nuts because he's so badly in need of a break from the action. Ultimately, however, the guy snaps out of it and single-handedly wins WWII...or something like that.
Overall, it's just amazingly dull from start to finish. Seeing a very few guys wearing army surplus uniforms and running around the hills outside Los Angeles isn't my idea of fun...and I doubt if it would be yours.
I recently learned that Beach Dickerson passed away on 7 Dec, 2005.
This review is dedicated with deepest respect to his memory.
You know you're watching a low budget movie when the ubiquitous Bronson Canyon stands in for Northern Italy during WW2. Johnny (Carl Crow) is a new guy in the combat unit of tough guy sergeant Rance (Beach Dickerson). Rance has been busted 3 times and it's beginning to look like he'll never get his stripes back. This has made him mad at the world and he rides the soldiers under him without letting up. While trying to take a machine gun nest Johnny freaks out big time and has a mental breakdown. Rance thinks he's faking it just to get some R & R in a nice quiet hospital so he lets Johnny "escape" just for the fun of hunting him down and (maybe) shooting him for desertion. So is Johnny headed for a psycho ward? Is Rance going to gun him down? Has anyone remembered that there's a war going on and the real enemies are the German soldiers who are out there someplace? Is this movie ever going to end?
You wouldn't think a low budget war movie would have an undercurrent but SHELL SHOCK has a motif of losing and recovering ones own humanity. Without revealing too much Johnny finds a few moments of tenderness with an Italian farm girl (Pamela Grey) and Rance gets back in touch with his sensitive side when he meets and Italian-American expatriate (Delores Faith, who deserved way better parts than she got in her short career) who offers him a slow dance and a hamburger.
Okay so some of the people in this picture couldn't act their way out of an empty room; most of this movie is fun and many of the characters are very believable. I enjoyed watching this and I think many of you will too.
We miss you Beach, thanks for everything.
Shell Shock seems to have been made on a limited budget, and while everyone tries their best this is far from a classic film. Though set in Italy in 1943, it is quite obvious that it was filmed in the Hollywood Hills in the early 1960s and also apparently on a LA beach for one scene. It is quite a laugh to see lots of WW2 soldiers (both American and German) with mid sixties surfer haircuts. Some of the action scenes aren't bad, but the psychological aspects dealing with combat fatigue seem quite unbelievable. Not a totally bad film, but a movie to watch only once.
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