The Men (1950) Poster

(1950)

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Brando's first (and one of his best?)
didi-525 March 2002
"The Men" probably seemed very daring at the time of its release, and indeed Brando's performance and some of the supporting ones have lasted well and hardly dated at all. The film gives some idea of the horrific aftermath of war and its effects on the 'heroes' it disfigures. Teresa Wright plays Brando's girlfriend with some sensitivity and Everett Sloane gives a good performance as the doctor. Of the other actors playing paraplegics, Jack Webb deserves a mention. This is an interesting film which raises a lot of issues not previously faced that much on screen.
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8/10
surprisingly good
Robert D. Ruplenas26 July 2000
This little-known film surprised me with the depth of its emotional involvement with its characters. Conflict, pain, tragedy, suffering, doubt, and triumph are all present in generous and convincing doses, as we witness the travails of wartime paraplegics. Marlon Brando is excellent in a very auspicious beginning to his film career. We are really drawn into Ken and Ellen's tortuously conflicted relationship. Jack Webb is also very good here, which surprised me in light of his storied woodenness as Joe Friday (I guess that was just part of his characterization of the detective). Another round of kudos to American Movie Classics for bringing us this gem.
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10/10
A very powerful drama
Varlaam8 January 1999
Marlon Brando, Jack Webb, and Richard Erdman play three paraplegic war veterans in a VA hospital, where they are mired in cynicism and self-pity. Brando marries Teresa Wright with agonizing results.

The emotions in this drama are all really strong -- rage, frustration, anguish. The ending is a hopeful one, but the characters and the viewer have to undergo some torment to get there.

Brando must have been a revelation in 1950. He's explosive. Only his crippled legs keep him confined to his chair. Jack Webb -- Sgt. Joe Friday -- is far, far better than one would expect. (Actually, he did quite a good job with his small part in "Sunset Boulevard" too, before he was forever typecast.) Everett Sloane -- memorable in "Citizen Kane", "Lady From Shanghai", "The Enforcer" -- is their doctor who has to be cruel to be kind. The cast is filled out by "the men of the Birmingham VA hospital".

Stanley Kramer liked to produce "message" dramas. He tended to overdo it late in his career, but this is still early on. Fred Zinnemann directed a script by Carl Foreman, and these two would team up again on "High Noon". Foreman was then blacklisted by HUAC, getting no screen credit for his screenplay for "The Bridge on the River Kwai".

Not for the faint-hearted, but a fine film which deserves to be better known.
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Strange Bedfellows
schappe17 April 2002
Marlon Brando's screen debut is a strong one and the film is very hard hitting for 1950's cinema. But the real pleasure is watching Jack Webb, especially in his scenes with Brando. Webb was a much better actor than he is given credit for, (he's in several good movies of the period and is consistently good), before allowing himself to be typecast as the no-nonsense Sgt. Friday. I love watching films from early in actor's careers before their careers took different paths. It's fun seeing "Joe Friday" interact with Hollywood's bad boy. The TV guy more than holds his own.
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Early Brando Classic Masterpiece
guil fisher2 June 2004
This 1950 film had a triple threat in bringing it to the screen. There was Stanley Kramer producing, Carl Foreman writing and Fred Zinneman directing. Mr. Zinneman also distinguished himself as a director with the likes of FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, THE SEARCH, MAN FOR ALL SEASONS and THE NUN'S STORY. The film is also under the title of BATTLE STRIPE.

It marked the introduction of Marlon Brando to the movie goers fresh from his Broadway success as Stanley Kolowski in STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, which he also brought to film. And what a debut this dynamic actor made in the world of film and acting. It was the time of James Dean, Montgomery Clift and Brando.

Brando plays a war veteran, paralyzed in combat, facing the torturous ordeal of rehabilitation as a paraplegic. He is thorough and totally convincing in the role. Playing his fiance and eventually his wife is the lovely Theresa Wright, in another heartwarming performance that is expected of her. She works well with Brando, which, I'm sure, was no easy task.

In supporting roles, outstanding were Jack Webb and Richard Erdman as fellow veterans. Webb was excellent and far from his DRAGNET persona. I also liked Everett Sloan as the doctor who had to deal with watching "the men" face the reality of the world as it was. Arthur Jurado plays a young veteran that works hard to bring himself back to normalacy, whatever that is. There were 45 Men of Birmingham Veteran's Hospital playing themselves.

An excellent picture of it's time. And Brando's film legend beginning. A time when he was in top form with such films as STREETCAR, VIVA ZAPATA and THE WILD ONE that soon followed.
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9/10
A CLASSIC!!!!!!
diegosantti11 December 2001
Fred Zinnemann finally came up with a script that Marlon Brando liked enough to leave the stage and head for Hollywood. And the rest is history. That script turned out to be The Men. Brando is Bud, a paraplegic shot in WWII and recovering in a veterans hospital. Unfortunately there is no hope for Bud ever walking again, a fact he refuses to accept. This movie is an interesting character study. Brando shows here why he would become the most influential actor of the last century. He brilliantly depicts a man at tremendous odds with himself. The supporting cast of characters, Teresa Wright(Bud's love interest), the doctors, and the men in the hospital, are well cast. Fans of character driven dramas and Brando fans should get a kick out of this film.
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8/10
"She Looked At Me Like I Was A Bug"
bkoganbing3 February 2007
Marlon Brando's feature film debut was in this small budget independently produced film The Men about paralyzed World War II veterans and their adjustments. The Men also came out at around the same time as Warner Brothers Bright Victory about blind veterans and their adjustment to society.

The Men did not have the strong support of a major studio, but it had Marlon Brando who was winning raves at this time for his portrayal of Stanley Kowalski in Streetcar Named Desire. Many a time Broadway stars before and since did not recreate their career roles on film because Hollywood wanted box office insurance.

Stanley Kramer's independently produced film, risked no money for a major studio and proved Marlon Brando could both be a screen presence and a box office draw. So Brando and the entire Broadway cast with the exception of Jessica Tandy got to preserve A Streetcar Named Desire as it was first seen on stage on the strength of his good notices for The Men.

Brando dominates the film with combination of charm and bitterness not too many other actors could achieve. He's condemned to a wheelchair, not sure what if any of the functions of his lower body he will be able to use and control. His bitterness nearly drives away Teresa Wright who loves him in spite of all.

Look for good performances by Howard St. John and Dorothy Tree as Wright's parents, Everett Sloane as the doctor treating spinal cord injuries like Brando's and Richard Erdman as Brando's horse playing veteran friend. You might remember Erdman from Stalag 17 as barracks chief Hoffman. He's just as good here in The Men.

The wars change, but the injuries to life and limb to our armed services remain the same as do the problems therein. In that sense The Men is a timeless classic and the debut of a legend.
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10/10
Powerful movie more relevant than ever
aromatic-28 October 2001
I recently re-watched Zinneman's classic ode to paralyzed veterans. In the wake of the recent bombings here in New York, this excellently crafted and realistically acted film made me cry more than ever before. Jack Webb is astonishingly good as a cynical vet who puts aside his cynicism for love only to get kicked in the teeth.

Brando and Wright are excellent as the couple who find they are meant neither to be saints nor martyrs nor villains, merely human beings. The rehab scenes are grittily performed and sincerely executed. I probably suffer from post-traumatic syndrome even more than other New Yorkers, and watching the veterans cope with their mental, emotional, AND PHYSICAL post-traumatic distress made me realize just how fortunate I am to be among the survivors.
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7/10
Thought-provoking story with fascinating acting and excellent direction
ma-cortes22 March 2011
This magnificent film begins with a written prologue as : ¨In all wars , since the beginning of history , there have been men who fought twice . The first time they battled with club , sword or machine gun . The second time they had none of these weapons. Yes , this by far was the greatest battle. It was fought with abiding faith and raw courage and in the end victory was achieved . This is the story of such a group of men . To them this film is dedicated¨ . It deals with an ex-GI named Ken (Marlon Brando who follows the Stalislawski method from Actors' Studio) who as a result of a war wound suffers paralysis and is wheel-bound. In the hospital back home, he is depressed and the isolation young thanks the approval and help of the good Dr. Brock (Everett Sloane) and his former sweetheart Ellen (Teresa Wright) who manage to bring him out of it , as ken gets redeem himself . Ken's depression caused for his paralyzed below the waist is also overcome with the witty friendship of his fellow patients, especially the sly Norm (Jack Webb), the sympathetic Leo (Richard Erdman) and hunk young Angel (Jurado). Soon Ken throws himself into the job rehabilitation and later a long period of physical therapy even suspects he may regain the utilization of his feet. After that , he and Ellen marry, but on their wedding night both have sadness, misgivings and grief about their future , then bitter Ken reverts to self-pity. Ken drives nutty a car and takes place a crash accident . The newspapers publicize : ¨Paraplegics cited for drunk driving¨. Then he goes back to the hospital.. .

This is a thoughtful flick with interesting storyline by Carl Foreman relies on wonderful interpretations and slick realization . Subtle performance from Marlon Brando in his screen debut as depressed paralysed young who pass through an initial period of bitterness and sorrow to spontaneous blazed anger and splendid Teresa Wright as his faithful fiancée . Everett Sloane steals the show as intelligent and realist doctor . Marvelous relationship among the main players , both of whom must attempt to build their new life full of difficulties and problems . Furthermore , special mention to ¨ Forty five of the men veterans of Birmingham Administration Hospital ¨. Though the characters and events depicted in this Photoplay are fictitious and similarity to persons , living or dead is purely coincidental. Atmospheric cinematography in black and white by Robert De Grasse A.S.C . Sensible musical score composed and conducted by the classic musician Dimitri Tiomkin. Atmospheric production design by Edward Boyle though is mostly set at a Hospìtal .

The motion picture well produced by Stanley Kramer - National Film Release- and is stunningly directed by Fred Zinnemann who had a lot of experience from his formers classic films as ¨Act of violence , Seventh cross , Eyes in the night , The search ¨, among them. Rating : Above average . Well worth watching.
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A film with guts
jeffhill122 March 2002
Marlon Brando's first film, "The Men" is conspicuous for many things

including how little he got paid for it, the method acting that went

into it, and the time Brando spent living like a patient in a veteran's

paraplegic hospital. One story I heard was that one night when Brando

was at a public place with the other (real) patients, a Bible thumper

started ranting about the power of faith. Brando gestured the man over

and asked him, "Let me ask you something, mister. If my faith is

strong enough, will I be able to walk again?" The religious ranter

paused and then said, "Yes, son. If it is God's will, you will even

be able to walk again." So Brando responded with mock sincerity,

"Well, by God, I am going to try right now." With that, he made a

few straining, unsuccessful attempts to raise out of his wheelchair.

But then he gave it his all, stood up completely, and went tap dancing

out of the establishment, much to the shock of the Bible thumper, and

much to the boisterous laughter of the other men in wheelchairs.

I choose to believe this story is true and that it, in effect,

created the scene when drunk Ray Teal comes over and starts patronizing

the characters played by Brando and Richard Erdman. Brando asks Ray

Teal, "Let me ask you something, mister. Could I marry your daughter?"

A sarcastic banter ensues and eventually Brando punches out Teal who

seemed to be discovering his type casting mold as an obnoxious

character who gets punched out ("Best Years of Our Lives") and a

bartender in Brando films ("The Wild One" and "One Eyed Jacks")

I'd like to ad a personal note to authenticate the serious message

of "The Men." Over ten years ago I taught a Japanese secondary

student whose English ability was extremely low. But her desire, her

drive, and her determination to learn were extremely high. After about

a year of struggle with words and sentences, she wrote her first

authentic essay for me. I had assigned an essay about someone she

admired. She wrote about her father who had lost his legs in an

industrial accident, but whose desire, drive, and determination to

become independent were extremely high. She concluded with, "My

father has learned to do many things. But the most difficult thing he

has learned is how to accept help for those things he really can't do."
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A True Great Story by a veteran's son.
oscar-3529 October 2002
This film holds a personal touch for me because my father was one of the paraplegics featured in this film. I know it's story to be a true and an accurate "slice-of-life" for the late 1940's public views on wheelchair bound veterans. This film is consistant with the producer[Krammer] and director[Zinnemann] film legacy of making socially conscious films. This one is a film gem! Reviewers like "Renee" should realize that there was NO measure of handicapped public awareness in 1949. People would whisper, stare, and step away from people in wheelchairs. Hand controls for cars, ramps & wide doors for wheelchairs in public restraurants, homes and hospitals were still quite new. I know, I was there at my dad's side for many many years. The point of the film was the interest about people overcoming obstacles. The cast was believeable and very outstanding. I find this film to be a very enjoyable memory into seeing again my dad with all his wheelchair friends that I grew to know. My dad and many of the veterans in this film started the Paralyzed Veterans Association or PVA. This organization is still helping needy veterans. My dad lived a very full life. While there are less and less of these "The Men" still alive; their courage and this film's insiteful positive message is worth expressing today. This is an interesting character driven film, hurrah! [This film or it's cast should NOT be compared or confused with the politically radical biography film, "Born of the Fourth of July". They are a study in opposites. My father and I thought that film was horrible and demeaning to wheelchair veterans because of it's director's heavy handed self-serving political viewpoint staged in that film.]
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Powerful subject, Brando in young brilliance, and everything a bit calculated...
secondtake24 September 2011
The Men (1950)

Well, you do have to see a movie like this partly to see Marlon Brando before his stellar rise to fame (ultra-fame) in "On the Waterfront" (1954) and "Streetcar Named Desire" (the next year, 1951). This is his first role, and he's already the famous, complex, simultaneously macho and tender Brando. He plays Ken, and he is bedridden because he can't walk.

Around him are a host of actors, amateur and professional, who are all unable to walk, probably permanently, from war injuries. This is a story of adjusting to being in a wheelchair, getting others to accept you like this, and ultimately getting to accept it yourself. It's an emotional more than a physical battle, and a powerful one.

The doctor in charge is in some ways the main character, or the most present, throughout, and he's strong if somewhat uncomplicated in his portrayal of a devoted, tireless medical worker. He's played by Everett Sloan, who has just come off a bizarre but terrific role as a rich lawyer with difficulty walking in "Lady from Shanghai" (a Welles movie--and Welles gave Sloan his entrance into Hollywood in "Citizen Kane").

The woman who is both lovingly sympathetic and also scared in her uncertainty as Ken's girlfriend and wife. She's kind of perfect, turning into that somewhat disconnected 1950s housewife before our eyes (influenced surely by her officious if kindly parents, a kind of 1930s Republican do good but also look out for yourself first attitude). It's a perfect fit, set up by the screenwriter and worked by with surprising believability by the young director, Fred Zinnemann ("From Here to Eternity") with Stanley Kramer producing. These two men were among the most socially conscious in a post-war Hollywood that had many directors trying to make a difference in their films (Kazan and Lumet would be two others). And "The Men" is certainly about showing a problem with realism and optimism at the same time. It's a kind of parallel to the film noir films which made dramatic fictions out of many returning servicemen. This was closer to the reality for many.

Is it a great film? For some small reasons, no, as much as Brando is convincing in his role. For one thing, it's just too clear what the motivation of the director and producer is, so the movie movies forward without clear dramatic tension (even though you don't quite know the outcome). For another, the acting is generally very good without being wrenching (and the subject is frankly wrenching). It feels a little like we're being given a lesson, a good lesson, but still a bit like schoolwork made vivid on the screen. This will be apparently right from the first scene where a room full of wives and girlfriends ask questions (frank and important questions) of the doctor, who wisely and frankly answers them.

Good stuff, great stuff, and as a film experience, incomplete stuff.
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A Straightforward Film About a Very Difficult Subject
mrb198016 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Marlon Brando and Teresa Wright give fine performances as a disabled veteran and his girlfriend/wife. After Brando's character is paralyzed from the chest down in WWII, he goes through anger and denial before deciding to rebuild his life. After marrying his old girlfriend (Wright), he begins to question their life together and flees back to his old pals at the paralyzed veterans' center. All is forgiven as the two reconcile, resigned to a future they never could have planned.

Brando and Wright are good, of course. However, the film belongs to the supporting cast, primarily Jack Webb and Richard Erdman as Brando's paralyzed buddies at the veterans' center, and to Everett Sloane, who towers over everyone as a wise and brutally honest physician. It's not a feel-good movie, but one that gives valuable insight into the challenges faced by many men returning from war. It's also pretty daring for 1950, with its frank treatment of some pretty heavy subject matter.
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9/10
A brave little film
MartinHafer2 May 2007
THE MEN is not the sort of film most people want to see--after all, most of us would rather not think about spinal cord injuries or long-term injuries on soldiers fighting for our country. Because of this, Stanley Kramer was a brave man to make such a film and everyone involved must be commended for NOT making it sappy, clichéd or manipulative. Instead of a film that overly romanticizes the disabled, it shows both the best and worst of human nature--wrinkles and all. I appreciate this a lot, as the characters in the film are, above all things, men--not noble one-dimensional caricatures.

Marlon Brando is the star of this film and his performance was realistic and simple. This was his first film and when the film debuted, none of the actors involved (except for Theresa Wright) were big-name stars. In addition, he was supported by several good but relatively small-time actors and included Jack Webb before his career took off with DRAGNET. I really thought these were excellent casting decisions, as "big name" actors would have made the film seem more polished and "Hollywood-ized". Sure, we all are familiar with Brando now, but at the time he was a newcomer--and a good representation of an average guy.

Because the film involves paralyzed veterans and takes place mostly at a VA hospital (with actual paralyzed vets playing the non-starring roles), the film is very realistic and will most likely elicit a few tears. Bring a hankie and be prepared to see some excellent writing, acting and drama.
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9/10
The best movie Brando ever made
ariches-14 April 2006
I saw this movie when I was 12 in England. After years of glorious positive movies about WW2 this was quite an eyeopener for me. I thought it was going to be a war combat picture. That ended real fast when Squad-leader Brando gets hit. You see Brando leading his infantry squad through devastated country side of war-torn Europe. Brando moves around the corner of a dilapidated farm house when suddenly a machine gun hits him and down he goes. The story then begins with the wounded soldier joining other bitter vets in a VA hospital. I was very impressed with this story. A great portrayal of what ordinary people who become war heroes have to live through when their minds and bodies are shattered. One scene that stands out in my mind is the one where Jack Webb quotes from Shakespeare's "perchance to dream" speech.
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9/10
A film with a wonderful story, good acting... just great!!
Italy-Wedding11 August 2001
I saw this film for the first time when I was 13 years old (4 years ago). I never heard about the great Marlon Brando but he surprised me so with his acting, it was like he was really handicapped, the story was so wonderful. Marlon Brando is handicapped but he wants to marry teresa wright. It is for her and him very difficult to live with each other. For her it was difficult to live with his handicap and he wouldn't accept it. They split but his friends say that he must go back to her and that real love can survive everything.

After seeing this film again recently, I have always the same good film. This film let see how great Brando is / still is!

---> 9/10
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10/10
Great psychological character study
capitan_movie3 July 2000
Brando scores big, and Wright matches him scene for scene. The tragedies of post-war disabilities are examined unflinchingly by Zinneman in this no-punches-pulled drama. Paul Stewart and Jack Webb are superb in supporting roles. Brando takes us right inside his character and never lets go. This is a movie that should be seen with and discussed by the whole family as it honestly discusses the horrors of daily life.
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....who gave the best years of their lives....
dbdumonteil29 June 2007
....to mention one of William Wyler's finest films.Teresa Wright was in that movie too,she was the banker's daughter Fred married .She was in "Mrs Minniver" as well.She was par excellence the girl-they-left-behind.

Wright is a as sensitive as tender and as warm as ever ,but she is overshadowed by Brando's brilliant debut,fresh from the actor's studio. But all the cast is to be praised particularly Everett Sloane as doctor Brock who tries to help paralyzed war vets to adjust to the world without their limbs.

Great scenes:

The moment when the doctor explains to the wives/fiancés/mothers how heavy their task is.

The scene when Brando has an argument with a civilian,a sequence which will remind you of a similar scene featuring Dana Andrews in "best years of our lives" .

French title is "C'étaient des Hommes" ="They were men! .This is a stupid one.They ARE men!
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Dated, but very relevant
Rbennett4723 October 2004
Renee in her earlier comments could not be more wrong("...just get over it "??). I worked for three years in a regional spinal cord rehab center here in California. The psychological devastation that young men(or anyone) go through following paralysis cannot be overestimated. It is so much more than just being stuck in a chair. It's also worth noting that, yes, attitudes in the fifties were a lot different on many of the social issues that we don't even think about today.

The drama is in the fact that people had to DEAL with them within the context of the times. To me, one of the values of "The Men" is that it addresses an issue that most people at the time just wanted to sweep under the carpet. I think it probably helped a lot of vets at the time validate their experiences. Sadly, it also foreshadowed the horrific inundation of parapleigics and quadrapleigics we were to experience during the Vietnam era.

So, it's a fifties movie and we should expect it some overacting and moralizing. Still, it was a valuable contribution at the time and Brando's performance is still worth watching, perhaps moreso if you have any experience with these patients. Renee needs to get a life.
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Pretty well done.
yarborough11 December 2001
Marlon Brando's first movie is a decent beginning for him in the motion picture industry. The movie deserves priase for its insightful look into the lives of paralyzed war veterans and for its attempt to show paralyzed people of all kinds that, despite the struggles, a person can still live a full life when they lose the use of their legs. The only problem with this movie is that, except for Marlon Brando's and Teresa Wright's characters, the other characters are somewhat cartoonish acting, which, in this case, is the fault of the writers. In the scenes between Brando and Wright, the movie is very realistic and intriguing, but with the other characters, especially the other paralyzed veterans, the movie seems to take the form of a stage play, in which every character is a witty smart-aleck. This is really a shame considering that all of the supporting players (especially Jack Webb and Everett Sloane) were at least as talented as the marble-mouthed Brando. That said, the movie is still pretty satisfying and entertaining. "Star Trek" fans look out, DeForest Kelley has a very small role in this movie as one of the doctors who follow Sloane around early in the movie when he checks out all the patients.
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Brilliant acting by a young Marlon Brando
sol-2 July 2006
This was the film that boosted Marlon Brando's career - his first screen role as a paraplegic war veteran who refuses to come to terms with his condition. Brando plays it out as well as one might expect: he shows his emotions more often than he says them, and even when he does say out loud what he is feeling, it is the tone of his voice rather than his words that convey what his character feels. Brando's performance is even more commendable when what he is working with is considered. The film's screenplay is not really great. Too much is explained to us by the characters talking (such as Sloane's lecture to the family members). The film has the atmosphere of a propaganda piece - the dialogue is generally hammy, with wooden delivery from the supporting actors and the style of having everything literal rather than subtle is very typical of wartime propaganda. There is a distance therefore to the film, however Brando does manage to overcome it and still bring in some sense of realism.

It is a melodramatic film, and probably too melodramatic to be really effective. The style of acting by the supporting cast - which for lack of a better word can be described as "unsubtle" - really doesn't suit the film. The music score does not help much either, nor does the lighting design, in which darkness often surrounds one or two aspects of the frame which are shot to stand out with bright white light. Zinnemann does not do a fantastic job directing, but that said, the opening sequence to the film is excellent - the camera pans across to see Brando who then signals and rises out of frame, behind him other men approach that before could not be seen... right up to the point when Brando is shot in a surprise attack. Zinnemann's style is evidently noir based, with a lot of shadows and the beginning narration by Brando is exactly the type one expects in noir. And there are good camera angles too. It is an adequately directed film, but not masterful in that regard. Overall it is certainly a worthwhile film. While the script might be wooden at times, it does address a lot of issues well, particularly the struggle to keep one's manhood, plus Brando's excellent performance is certainly worth seeing.
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8/10
very good movie
TRC-420 June 2004
I am surprised that this movie is not more widely known, as it is Brando's film debut. It's very good and the acting is wonderful. Brando is believable as the war veteran, as is Teresa Wright as his sweetheart. I had only seen Wright in movies from the early 1940s (The Little Foxes, Shadow of a Doubt, etc) and always wondered what had happened to her career.

It's nice to see that she never lost her talent, even if she was appearing in fewer films. The supporting cast is good too, I enjoyed seeing Sloane in this (I had only seen him in Citizen Kane). It's not one of those sugary-sweet movies, it has a realistic plot, so be prepared if you're lucky enough to catch this one on TV.
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Outdated, yes, but still a good film.
mikiail17 May 2004
Although this isn't one of the best films from the 50s era I have seen, it is by no means anywhere near the worst either. The main topic of the film is paraplegia and the effects that has on the sufferer and his relationship(s), not only of the main character Ken (Brando) but also on the other veterans in the ward. The film is obviously going to feel outdated, there is nothing that can be done about that, yet the themes running throughout the film are still relevant. This film isn't trying to set-up the disabled as having no place in society, or that love will never happen for them, it is exploring the feelings encountered by all involved. The main theme is how suffering from paraplegia causes the sufferer to feel inadequate - feeling like less of a man - the loss of masculinity is paramount to the film. Whilst not exactly a melodrama, this film can be placed into that category, for many reasons, such as the use of music throughout the film and the very convenient 'forced closure' ending...which if anybody believes then more fool them. Brando is very watchable in this film, and apart from a couple of questionable casting decisions the rest of the cast are perfectly adequate in their roles.
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1/10
A very good example of Stanley Kramer's art.
Alice Liddel19 July 2001
'The Men' has impeccable liberal credentials. Produced, written and directed by the men who would go on to created 'High Noon', that Western riposte to McCarthy, it takes an uncomfortable issue rarely spoken about in the public sphere, and certainly not in Hollywood: paraplegic veterans of the Second World War. Although its focus is on these men, their struggles with their condition, and their attempts to accomodate some sort of normality, the film manages to make some wider points, puncturing the military triumphalism still prevalent in the US: exposing the hypocrisies and intolerance of society, and especially the family; questioning the assumptions of a science that would take the place of religion (we are first introduced to the doctor giving a lecture on paraplegia in the hospital chapel).

'The Men' would have us believe that it is a realistic work because it deals, in a straightforward, downbeat fashion, with a difficult theme simply denied by the artifice of mainstream Hollywood. We are told, firmly and early on, that there will be no miracle cure for these men; we will therefore be denied any sugary uplift at the end, any reconciliation being provisional and fraught. The cast is low-key, and character-actor-driven (this was Marlon Brando's first movie role, and he is frequently subordinated in screen time to the group dynamic of the veterans in the hospital). There will be as much tough talking, strong language and violence as the censors will allow.

So, 'The Men' has its heart in the right place. The road to cinematic hell is paved with good intentions. 'The Men' is a prime example of the cinema of Stanley Kramer, where narrative and entertainment is sacrificed in favour of didactic preaching. The film begins with a nightmare war sequence, borrowed/influenced/pilfered by/from King Vidor's harrowing 'The Big Parade', as a platoon of soldiers slowly populate an eerily empty desertscape. There is no natural sound, just ominous martial music and stylised movements. After this moderate inventiveness, and the shooting that prompts the narrative proper, we go into voiceover, as Ken Wilozek (Brando) gives vent to his self-pityingly bleak feelings about his paraplegia. If this suggests a demoting of the visual in favour of the verbal, at least we're getting the experience from the victim's own viewpoint.

But no. The filmmakers don't trust us enough to empathise and understand, and so we're given a cinematically inert lecture and question-and-answer session from Dr. Brock explaining the tenets and consequences of paraplegia. The audience is not being asked to share a traumatic experience, but is being given a stern lecture about a pertinent issue of the day. You could argue that this scene functions like the end of 'Psycho', where the inane psychobabble is satirised, but there is no such distance here - the doctor is clearly a good man behind his gruff exterior, trying to do his best for these men, without giving them any false hopes. As the film continues, so does the lesson, with facts, examples, statistics, experiments dutifully expounded.

One of the men says he feels like a freak. And this is the way the film presents the men. Their plight is presented from the outside to the outside, an explanation of something unusual to a 'normal' audience. The few attempts at expressionism only serve to make men seem ridiculous, such as the intrusive Rachmaninoff pastiche during Ken and Ellen's reunion, or the preposterous Wagnerian blast that greets Ken's first effort to move.

Brando does his best, but his eruptions of violence here should be compared to his seminal performance in the next year's 'Streetcar named desire'. In that film, violence was an inevitable product of a fully worked out character; here it is forced by violent music and horror-film style into something grotesque, Boris Karloff-like, the horror genre's obsession with the body taken out of context, turning realism into kitsch ('The Men' is, in any case, impossible to take seriously if you've seen Brando's wonderful parody of his performance here in 'Bedtime Story').

Zinnemann's camera rarely moves - movement arises from montage, from editing different camera angles between two over-composed shots. This has none of the dynamics of Eisenstein, resulting in a static aesthetic perfect for the film's intellectual reach.
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6/10
without Brando, who would even remember it?
Michael Neumann5 December 2010
Several paraplegics in a veteran's hospital learn to cope with the physical and emotional scars of war, but if one of them wasn't a young Marlon Brando the film wouldn't be half as interesting. His typically vital performance greatly improves what would otherwise be just another earnest but melodramatic civics lesson, presented in the manner of an Armed Forces instructional movie: How To Treat Our Homecoming Heroes. To its credit the film was considered quite daring when first released, for its forthright depiction of an unpleasant (and thus generally ignored) reality. And with a running time of only eighty odd minutes it fairly zips along at an unflagging pace. The film was produced (you might have guessed) by a young Stanley Kramer.
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