There Is Always Something Of Value In Any Little Picture, Even This A.I.P. Pot Boiler!
My little old 12 year old self and my two younger brothers*, Jim Ryan (7 years old) and Bob Ryan (6 years old)saw this TANK BATTALION at the old Ogden Theatre, near 63rd & Ashland in Chicago. It was on a Double Bill along with another American-International Pictures' Classic, HELL SQUAD (also 1958).**
During that period, we were gobbling up any thing involving The Armed Forces, World War II and Korea.We all built model airplanes, model tanks & half-tracks, any thing Army. We also put together numbers like the U.S.S. Missouri and the Nautilas (the Navy's, not Walt Disney's!).
We would frequently stop in to our local Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and Marine Recruiting offices and mooch any hand out recruiting literature that they had. They always obliged and were very friendly and courteous.
On Television during that period, we had several programs on the Networks and in Syndication that had military themes. We can recall: The Silent Service, Citizen Soldier, Steve Canyon, Navy Log and even Phil Silvers as SGT. BILKO. Others followed in the years to come.
What all the preceding reminiscing was about was to set up the following evaluation of TANK BATALLION.
We knew that TANK BATTALION was a cheapie. It was an Independent Production, released by American-International. It was intended, you can be sure, to be part of those multi picture programs not watched at the local "Passion Pits",aka Drive-In Movies.
It did, however, provide an afternoon's fun for the kids in the neighborhood. And, though probably completely overlooked is that a movie, any movie can have a good effect on young minds, as long as it isn't too "adult". What gives it value is a certain relation to Real Historical Events. Even if it is only a passing reference or the mentioning of some actual Battle, it has a certain value.
But what we remembered most was one of the Actors featured as a member of the Tank's Crew. (sure was a small Battalion!) He had the nickname of "Skids", and he was always amusing the crew with Movie Star Impersonations. We really liked his James Cagney! It was all 'Thumbs Up" from us that day.
Well, this was the first time for our seeing this "Skids" guy, but he surely had a real talent and was so gifted as to rise far above this schlock film. His name was Frank Gorshin.
We were privileged a number of years later to meet Mr. Gorshin. The first time was at a special Batman TV Show Convention, commemorating the Series' 30th Anniversary.(it was in Summer of 1995, a little early but...).
The Second time, we saw him at a Bud Courts' Hollywood Collectibles Show also here in Chicago. It was at this time we got to talk much more with him. We found him to be warm, friendly and very courteous and personable to his many fans. He had just finished a one man show engagement as George Burns, a production that we regrettably did not see. But it got really good reviews.
It was probably one of his last public performances, this George Burns thing. Sadly, he passed away not too long afterwords, and not that long ago. We will long remember him as a 'regular' guy as much for his filmed and record work. The sight of him on that Saturday, dressed ever so casually, wearing his Pittsburgh Pirates cap. He confessed to still being that Pittsburgh kid,his moods rising and falling with the fortune of the 'Bucs'.
* No, not those Younger Brothers, contemporaries of Jesse James! I meant my younger brothers.
** It wasn't long that pictures like this would be shown on television. Now, I swear! My right hand to God! HELL SQUAD was on one of our local TV Stations within 6 months of our seeing it at the show! Honest Injun! Cross My Heart and hope to die! It's the truth.
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