In the winter of 1944, the Allied Armies stand ready to invade Germany at the coming of a New Year. To prevent this occurrence, Hitler orders an all out offensive to re-take French territory and capture the major port city of Antwerp. "The Battle of the Bulge" shows this conflict from the perspective of an American intelligence officer as well as from a German Panzer Commander.Written by
Anthony Hughes <firstname.lastname@example.org>
As Hessler approaches Ambleve he is seen riding in the hatch of his tank as it moves forward. He raises a pair of binoculars and the subsequent shot is shown POV through the binoculars. The image of the town is completely stable, but should have been jostled about as the tank was moving forward. The next shot show Hessler once again astride the moving Tiger, binoculars in hand. See more »
The film was originally screened at about 170 minutes. When it was initially released on North American home video in the 1980s, it was trimmed to a mere 141 minutes. Most of the cuts involved was seen as "unnecessary" battle footage, such as when Guffy's tanks arrive in the first major battle scene to back up Major Wolenski's battalion and, later, portions of the German day attack on Ambleve are missing, among other scenes. The 1990 video and subsequent home video and laserdisc releases run 156 minutes (in order to market the film on a T-160 videotape) and restore the original Overture, Intermission and Exit Music. Four key scenes are still missing:
1. Colonel Hessler and General Kohler meet Schumacher's paratroop contingent just after they leave Kohler's office.
2. After Kohler shows Hessler the colossal war room, Hessler goes outside and inspects his tanks.
3. After Pritchard tells Kiley he is being transferred to the United States, Kiley and Maj. Wolenski discuss what should be done with Germany after the war.
4. The most famous missing scene occurs right after the nuns ask Hessler for aid in Ambleve. It has a young French boy attempt to assassinate Hessler. Hessler allows the boy to live, but has his father shot instead. Immediately after this scene, Major Wolenski has a meeting with Hessler in which he confronts him about the Malmedy Massacre.
For me this is the best of those hollywood multi-star war epics (Tora, Tora, Tora, Sixth of June, The Longest Day etc) that grew up like military mushrooms around the same time. True, Annakin's direction could be a little bit forceful. True it plays fast and loose with historical facts. But it has sufficient compensations to make it an enjoyable viewing experience, even after repeated viewings. And it has Robert Shaw and Robert Ryan in the same film - two of my acting icons!
Shaw's Hessler is a standout, utterly convincing as a dedicated Nazi. His relationship with his batman is an intriguing one and the viewer genuinely begins to care what happens to the two of them. One can see them as two sides to the same coin, the obverse of the same character, given the reciprocal relationship they develop.
Previous comments have criticised the historical inaccuracies in the film. This approach seems futile. One might just as well complain that most of Shakespeare's history plays are distortions of history. As a work of fiction, based on real events, Battle of the Bulge is perfectly acceptable.
It is also graced with a superb score by Benjamin Frankel (his last) which, in the full version, is stirring and suitably gritty.
My favourite scene is I think the most powerful: that when Shaw/Hessler leads a thunderous Nazi marching song with his picked troops. The depiction of the Germans as something more than murderous mechanics is a characteristic of this film. Hence this particular scene has huge impact by contrast.
I also like the German fifth columnists (based on true events)- a devious, scary manouevre played by smiling 'GI's' that I remembered for years after seeing the film when young. The war in Battle of the Bulge is of more intellectual, resonant kind than in contemporary epics. This is a time of desperate, secret actions, of smug belief in victory by the allies, and of final bravery by the German military. In short, no hollow honours, but a battle edged around with cunning, daring and a degree of suspense unusual in this genre.
Definitely one to watch then: intelligent, with a great cast and music, with several memorable scenes
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