Tuesday, April 23, 2013

HISTORY OR HOLLYWOOD QUIZ: The Longest Day




            “The Longest Day” is a movie about D-Day that was based on the nonfiction book by Cornelius Ryan.  I thought it would be interesting to see what Hollywood added and altered from the book.  Here are some statements about events in the movie, try to determine if they also appear in the book.  You don't need to have seen the movie.

1.  Rommel said, "Believe me, Gentleman, the first 24 hours of the invasion will be decisive. For the Allies as well as the Germans, it will be "The Longest Day… The Longest Day"! 

2.  Dutch Shultz wins a lot of money in a crap game, but a rosary from his mother causes him to purposely lose it all before potentially dying.

3. “Pips” Priller complains about his squadron being withdrawn leaving only he and his wingman.

4.  Janine Boitard hides downed airmen in her basement.

5.  Capt. Ernst During puts his boots on the wrong feet.

6. A paratrooper lands in a well.

7. Steele’s parachute gets caught on a church steeple and he was hit in the foot.
 

8. A British chaplain goes bobbing for his mass kit.

9. A group of soldiers including Schultz pass by a group of Germans without either side noticing the other was the enemy.
 

10. Col. Vandervoort broke his ankle on landing.
 

11. Pluskat sights the armada and relays that it is coming “right for me!”

12. Private Flanagan (Sean Connery) stumbles and falls in the water and says “they’re trying to drown me before I even get on the beach!”
 

13. There was a bagpipe player with Lovat.
 

14. The beachmaster had a bulldog and started a stalled vehicle by hitting it with his cudgel.

15. The reporter yelled “damned traitors” when the carrier pigeons went the wrong way.

16. Janine Boitard helped blow up a train and was almost drowned by a German soldier.
 

17. Gen. Cota says “Two kinds of people are staying on this beach, those who are dead and those who are going to die.”

18. When two Germans try to surrender, a Ranger shoots them and then says “I wonder what ‘bitter, bitter’ means.”

19. Flight Commander Campbell (Richard Burton) was shot down, crippled, and shot During (who still had his boots on wrong).
 
 

20. Priller and his wingman made the only appearance by the Luftwaffe that day.

21. A British paratrooper landed at a German headquarters and told a German general “Awfully sorry, old man, but we simply landed here by accident.”

22. A group of nuns walk through the chaos of Ouistreham to care for the wounded French.

23. Fuller uses Bangalore torpedoes to blow a lane through the barbed wire and then blows a hole on the sea wall to open up Omaha Beach.
 


ANSWERS:

1. Rommel said, "Believe me, Gentleman, the first 24 hours of the invasion will be decisive. For the Allies as well as the Germans, it will be "The Longest Day… The Longest Day"! True.

2. Dutch Shultz wins a lot of money in a crap game, but a rosary from his mother causes him to purposely lose it all before potentially dying. True, except he had received the rosary earlier and remembering it caused him to reenter the game.

3. “Pips” Priller complains about his squadron being withdrawn leaving only he and his wingman. True, the squadron was needed for the defense of Germany.

4. Janine Boitard hides downed airmen in her basement. True.

5. Capt. Ernst During puts his boots on the wrong feet. True.

6. A paratrooper lands in a well. True, he climbed out by using the parachute shroud lines.

7. Steele’s parachute gets caught on a church steeple and he was hit in the foot. True, but he was hit in the foot on the way down.

8. A British chaplain goes bobbing for his mass kit. True, but it actually happened to an American chaplain.

9. A group of soldiers including Schultz pass by a group of Germans without either side noticing the other was the enemy. True, but both sides knew who the other was, they just did not do anything about it.

10. Col. Vandervoort broke his ankle on landing. True, but it was not a compound fracture.

11. Pluskat sights the armada and relays that it is coming “right for me!” True.

12. Private Flanagan (Sean Connery) stumbles and falls in the water and says“they’re trying to drown me before I even get on the beach!” True, except his name was McQuaid

13. There was a bagpipe player with Lovat. True.

14. The beachmaster had a bulldog and started a stalled vehicle by hitting it with his cudgel. Mostly Hollywood. Capt. Maud was actually on Juno Beach and his dog was an Alsatian. He did not cane start a vehicle. he did have a cudgel.

15. The reporter yelled “damned traitors” when the carrier pigeons went the wrong way. True.

16. Janine Boitard helped blow up a train and was almost drowned by a German soldier. Hollywood. The actress (Irena Demick) was the producer’s mistress so her role was expanded.

17. Gen. Cota says “Two kinds of people are staying on this beach, those who are dead and those who are going to die.” Actually said by Col. George Taylor of the 16thRegiment of the First Division.

18. When two Germans try to surrender, a Ranger shoots them and then says “I wonder what ‘bitter, bitter’ means.” Semi-true – actually happened on the bluff of Omaha Beach.

19. Flight Commander Campbell (Richard Burton) was shot down, crippled, and shot During (who still had his boots on wrong). Hollywood, the Campbell character was created for Burton.

20. Priller and his wingman made the only appearance by the Luftwaffe that day. True, although they might not have been the only appearance of the Luftwaffe and they were still drunk from the night before.

21. A British paratrooper landed at a German headquarters and told a German general“Awfully sorry, old man, but we simply landed here by accident.” True.

22. A group of nuns walk through the chaos of Ouistreham to care for the wounded French. Hollywood.

23. Fuller uses Bangalore torpedoes to blow a lane through the barbed wire and then blows a hole on the sea wall to open up Omaha Beach. Hollywood. There is no Fuller in the book and the egress from the beach was not that simple. It involved small groups of men fighting their way to the top and taking out the German positions.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

DUELING MOVIES: Buffalo Soldiers (1997) vs. Rough Riders (1997)


 
vs.


                 TNT produced two movies bringing recognition to legendary cavalry regiments of the late Nineteenth Century.  It seemed logical to compare them especially since the two units fought alongside each other in the Spanish-American War.  “Buffalo Soldiers” is a fictional story about the Tenth Cavalry in the West participating in Victorio’s War.  “Rough Riders” tells the tale of the formation of Teddy Roosevelt’s volunteer cavalry regiment through its Charge Up San Juan Hill. 

                “Buffalo Soldiers” appeared on TV in 1997.  It is set in the New Mexico Territory in 1880.  Apache Indian leader Victorio has broken out of the Mescalero Apache Reservation and is ravaging the countryside.  The Buffalo Soldiers are represented by Company H, Tenth Cavalry stationed at Fort Craig.  They are led by Sgt. Wyatt (Danny Glover).  Their nobleness is established in the first scene as they rescue some Indians who are being hanged by Texas Rangers to get them to reveal the location of Victorio.  Theme:  whites racist, blacks mistreated, Indians misunderstood.  When the unit returns to Fort Craig they are confronted with the newly arrived all-white Second Cavalry  with its racist commander and the new post commander Gen. Pike (Tom Bower) who is openly hostile to the black soldier “experiment”. 

Wyatt and a white guy


                Both units are sent out to track Victorio.  The units separate and the Buffalo Soldiers are lured by some decoys into an ambush.  They get spanked, but luckily capture Nana (another renegade leader who was hoping to hook up with Victorio).  However, Wyatt is blamed by Pike for abandoning the Second.  In case you don’t realize what a jerk he is, he murders a captive during the night because his singing is keeping him awake!

                Col. Benjamin Grierson (Bob Gunton) leads another tracking expedition, but is wounded by a sniper and command falls to Wyatt.  Redemption time?  Or corruption time?  Wyatt seems to be going over to the dark side (or the Texas Ranger side) as he threatens to kill an Indian woman warrior to get Nana to talk.  They ride into another ambush so a main character named Christy (Mykelti Williamson) can get killed.

                Wyatt sets up an ambush at a watering hole and Victorio’s band walks right into the trap.  It’s a Mexican standoff with both sides fingering their triggers.  Will the Buffalo Soldiers do their duty as members of the U.S. Army or will they side with the similarly mistreated  Indians?

                Historically speaking, “Buffalo Soldiers” is a farce.  It is fiction if you bother to check, but any casual viewer would get the impression that it is based on actual events.  Very loosely based.  There is no background given as to the history of the Buffalo Soldiers.  This is no “Tuskegee Airmen” (an obvious comparison).  We do not find out that the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry were established after the Civil War.  They were stationed in the West and earned their nickname from the Native Americans.  Sadly, their duties were more of the scouting, protecting railroad workers and mail carriers, and building roads variety, instead Indian fighting.

                As far as the movie events are concerned, Victorio broke out of the San Carlos Reservation in Arizona in 1879 and launched Victorio’s War.  They were provoked by disease, lack of supplies, and general mistreatment.  They did attack settlers.  They ambushed a company of the Ninth Cavalry in Las Animas Canyon using the classic decoy tactic.  Later, Grierson led the Tenth in a campaign to track down the Apaches.  His strategy involved staking out watering holes.  This forced Victorio to escape into Mexico where his band was surrounded and wiped out by Mexican soldiers.

TR and his motley crew
                “Rough Riders” was a two part miniseries that appeared on TNT in 1997.  It covers the entire history of the First US Volunteer Cavalry.  It also gives an overview of the Spanish-American War, specifically the Cuban part.  The movie introduces us to numerous real and fictional characters.  It hits the greatest hits of the war:  Hearst telling Remington to provide the pictures and he’ll provide the war, TR sending Dewey to the Philippines, the Spanish use of smokeless powder, Teddy’s multiple glasses, etc.  It concludes with an extended reenactment of the Battle of San Juan Hill.

Gatling guns
                The movie opens with pictures, newspapers, and political cartoons to get us into the war.  Teddy creates the Rough Riders and a motley crew of outlaws, Ivy Leaguers, ranchers, Indians, etc. gather at the encampment.  A famous sheriff named Bucky O’Neill (Sam Elliott) becomes the stereotypical drill sergeant.  There is more than a training montage.  Eventually they entrain to the singing of “Garry Owen” and pass by waving crowds that include forgiving Confederate veterans.  In Tampa, Teddy wins a race to get on ships first by commandeering a train and mooning the infantry as they race by.
the Charge up Kettle Hill

                In Cuba, the unit walks into an ambush in the woods when Gen. Wheeler (Gary Busey) pushes the regiment ahead against orders.  The first main character dies.  An ex-outlaw named Nash (Brad Johnson) runs away and stumbles into a Spanish flank.  The unit has followed him so he ends up the reluctant, wounded hero.  This is supposed to be the Battle of Las Guasimas.  The rest of the film concentrates on the Battle of San Juan Hill.  There is an artillery bombardment.  Nash returns from the hospital to seek cinematic redemption.  Teddy leads the charge up Kettle Hill and kills a couple of Spaniards.  After taking the hill, they move on to San Juan Hill and mingle with the Buffalo Soldiers.  Teddy shoots two more.  Nash is brave.  We win.  The survivors return home.

                As far as historical accuracy, the movie is above average.  The creation of the unit and the roles of Teddy Roosevelt and Leonard Wood are accurate.  The Battle of Las Guasimas is vaguely close.  Wheeler did disobey orders and the Rough Riders walked into an ambush.  However, the Spaniards were firing volleys instead of from in and behind trees.  In the movie, the Americans blunder into the Spanish flank and force them to retreat.  In reality, the Spanish inexplicably withdrew in spite of having the Rough Riders in a bind.  The movie plays down the incompetence common in first battles in American wars.

Pershing and the Tenth
                The Battle of San Juan Hill is problematical.  It starts accurate and ends laughable.  The movie accurately depicts the terrain and the pre-charge bombardment that provoked the charge.  Teddy did start out on his horse “Little Texas”.  The capture of Kettle Hill was close to as depicted.  Teddy did go off toward San Juan Hill with just a few men because of miscommunication.  From this point on, the movie descends into bull shit.  In actuality, the Rough Riders did move on to San Juan Hill but by the time they arrived the fighting was over.  The mingling with the Buffalo Soldiers occurred during the charge up Kettle Hill.  The movie does not have any Buffalo Soldiers doing that.  As far as Teddy’s personal actions, Bill Clinton must have based his push for awarding Teddy the Medal of Honor after he saw this movie.  In his autobiography, Teddy (not known for modesty) claimed he shot a running Spaniard “like a jack rabbit”.  In the movie, I counted him shooting at least four of the enemy.  That's Hollywood for you - take the facts and make them four times more exciting. 

"Don't call me Teddy!"
                The fun part of “Rough Riders” is the intermingling of real historical persons with the fictional.  Surprisingly, the real figures are accurately portrayed.  Bucky O’Neill and Hamilton Fish died basically as depicted.  O’Neill did say the last words that are put in his mouth.  Frederic Remington and Stephen Crane were spectators as shown.  Wheeler was the loose cannon loony as played by his equivalent Gary Busey.  Tom Berenger gets Teddy’s personality down.  Some will be surprised by his zest for warfare and his boyish mentality, but it fits what I have read about him.

                Both the movies are admirable attempts to bring recognition to famous units.  “Buffalo Soldiers” has the additional aim of making a statement about racism both toward African-Americans and Native Americans.  It is done in a heavy-handed way with hissable villains and cringe-worthy preachy dialogue.  The acting is average and thank goodness for Glover anchoring the film.  The rest of the cast includes some scene-chewers (especially Bowers).  The scenery is excellent.  The music is a blend of made-for-TV forgettableness and some period songs.  The action is average as expected for a movie of this type.  The scenarios are ridiculous and the evolution of Wyatt’s character is hard to believe.  The movie ends with you scratching your head about the motivation of the Buffalo Soldiers.

Gary Busey threatens the director
                “Rough Riders” is well-acted, but also has some scene-chewing.  I’m tempted to mention Busey, but he was playing a scene-chewer.  The dialogue is a bit florid, especially from the mouth of Stephen Crane.  There are the expected cliches.  The redemption of Nash, the gruff leadership of O’Neill.  Westerners and easterners learning to become a team.  The music score is a cut above due to it being composed by Elmer Bernstein’s son Peter.  The sound effects are well done during the battle scenes.  There is some welcome old school humor of which “Buffalo Soldiers” is totally bereft.  Neither movie has anything special in the cinematography department.  The action is more intense and realistic than in “Buffalo Soldiers”, but neither is bloody or graphic.  There is quite a bit of hand-to-hand combat that is well staged.  It is a much better history lesson than “Buffalo Soldiers”.

                Which movie is better?  Clearly, “Rough Riders”.   It could not have been much better considering the made-for-TV nature of it.  “Buffalo Soldiers” could have been a lot better.  I’m no big fan of “Tuskegee Airmen”, but it did a better job lauding its unit.

Buffalo Soldiers  =  C-

Rough Riders      =  B+          

P.S.  I have often shown the charge up Kettle Hill from “Rough Riders” to my American History class because it is entertaining, action-packed, and acceptably accurate.  It also offers an excellent example of how Hollywood plays with history.  I have the students count Teddy’s kills and then I tell them the truth.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

#18 - Stalag 17



BACK-STORY:

                “Stalag 17” is considered one of the great WWII POW films.  It is sometimes mentioned with “Bridge on the River Kwai” and “The Great Escape” as the triumvirate of top tier POW movies.  It was released in 1953.  It was based on a stage play by two veterans of Stalag 17B in Austria.  Director Billy Wilder reworked the play for the better and got pretty boy William Holden to play the lead even though Holden was unhappy with the cynicism and selfishness of the Sefton character.  Holden walked out on the play when he went to see it.  Wilder refused to soften the character and Holden went on to win the Oscar for Best Actor.  Wilder was nominated, as was Robert Strauss for Best Supporting Actor.  The movie was shot in California and the mud was real.  Wilder made the interesting decision to shoot the scenes inchronological order to where supposedly some of the main actors did not know who the stoolie was until the end (which sounds like bull shit to me).  The movie was a smash hit in America and Europe.

OPENING:

                The movie opens with cynical narration by Cookie (Gil Stratton).  He asks why there aren’t any movies about POWs?  (I guess he had not seen “The Wooden Horse” – 1950)  This will be the tale of a spy in a barracks.  Two prisoners escape through a hole under the stove.  The tunnel is in the wash area.  Sefton bets they won’t make it.  What a jerk!  Machine gun fire proves him right and he wins some cigarettes.  It turns out that Sefton trades cigarettes with the Germans and has a stash of luxuries that he trades for more cigarettes.  Some of the cigarettes from the bet buy him an egg that he eats while the other PWs are feasting on potato soup.  Sefton is an anti-social, self-preservationist.  “It’s everyone for himself – dog eat dog”.  He mentions that attempting escape is foolish.

SUMMARY:

Animal approaches Betty Grable
                The film bounces between scenes of barracks life and scenes that develop the stoolie angle.  A guard named Schulz (Sig Ruman) rousts them for roll call.  (The makers sued “Hogan’s Heroes” for obvious reasons.)  Although the character is not a buffoon like in the TV show, he is there for comic relief.  The commandant is a Col. Von Scherbach (Otto Preminger).  He plays him as a smug Nazi bastard.  He is somewhere in between Von Luger (“The Great Escape”) and Saito (“The Bridge over the River Kwai”). 

Sefton fries an egg
                The film makes an effort to depict typical goings-on in a camp.  There is a mouse race (run by Sefton), peeping at Russian women in the adjoining camp, Christmas caroling, a dance with some of the men role-playing women, mail call, volley ball, listening to the clandestine radio, etc.  Woven into this is the main story line of “who is the stoolie?”  Sefton is the first to float the idea that someone is informing to the Germans which back-fires on him because everyone naturally assumes being a “black marketeer” is just a small leap to “collaborator”.  The audience learns early that the stoolie is passing messages to Schulz using the device of a loop in a lamp wire.


Sefton and Price

                Two new prisoners arrive.  One, Dunbar (Don Taylor), is a rich boy who had a past with Sefton.  Sefton holds a grudge against him, but he is a true hero.  He tells the barracks of his destruction of a German munitions train on the way to incarceration.  Of course, word of this gets to the commandant who has him brought in for interrogation.  Sefton is blamed for this and beaten up.  While bed-ridden he figures out the secret of the lamp.  The barracks hatches a plan to rescue and hide Dunbar in the water tower.  Someone will have to get him out.  Price (Peter Graves), barracks security, offers to do the job.

CLOSING:

                Sefton exposes Price as the stoolie.  He volunteers to get Dunbar out because he figures it will mean a big payout from the rich guy’s family.  He will need a distraction and what better than throwing Price into the compound with noise-makers tied to his legs.  As Sefton leaves he tells his mates “If I ever run into any of you bums on a street corner, let’s just pretend we’ve never met before.”  Then Wilder backs off a bit in the characterization by having Sefton salute and smile.  Price attracts the attention of the machine gun towers as Sefton and Dunbar use wire cutters to escape.  Graves gets a great death scene.  The movie closes with one of the funniest lines in war movie history.  When Shapiro (Harvey Lembeck) asks what made Sefton turn heroic,  Animal (Strauss) responds:  “Maybe he just wanted to steal our wire-cutters.  You ever think of that?”

RATINGS:

Acting                     A+

Action                    D

Accuracy                N/A

Realism                  B-

Plot                         B-

Overall                   B

WOULD CHICKS DIG IT?  Yes.  It is a deft blend of comedy and suspense.  The movie is definitely PG in violence and language.  Females might be disappointed in the measures Holden took to dehandsome himself.  (That didn’t stop him for entertaining lady friends in his trailer during the filming.)

ACCURACY:

                The movie is fictional so this category does not apply.  The screenwriters may have incorporated some actual incidents in the plot, but the main plot points seem unlikely to have occurred in any camp.  Not that there weren’t some collaborators, but I am aware of no incident where the Germans managed to plant one of their own in a barracks.  I also never read about a PW blowing up a munitions train with a matchbox incendiary.

CRITIQUE:

                Although it was not the first WWII prisoner of war film (sorry, Cookie), “Stalag 17” certainly laid a strong foundation for the subgenre.  It established some of the template.  Most of the action takes place in the barracks.  There is a lot of interaction between “hale fellows well met”.  Comic relief is thrown in.  The men try to make the best of their difficult conditions.  Those conditions (since it’s a German camp) are not intolerable to the point where  many men in the audience (and all the fourteen year old boys) would trade places with them for a week.  “Stalag 17” is not typical in its mystery subplot and the fact that it is not predominately about an escape attempt.  I can think of no other POW movie that includes humor, suspense, mystery, and a dislikable central character.

                The main strength of the film is the acting.  Holden is great as possibly the first anti-hero in an American WWII movie, POW or otherwise.  Wilder brings out the best from an actor reluctant to play against his usual roles.  Holden may not have deserved the Oscar (he personally thought Burt Lancaster should have won for “From Here to Eternity”).  In fact, Wilder works wonders with the cast.  It was genius and gutsy to cast Otto Preminger as the commandant.  Preminger was legendary for treating actors like Von Scherbach treats the prisoners.  So I guess you could say Preminger was playing himself.  Graves is appropriately hissable as the villain, although it is obvious to everyone (except the actors supposedly) that he is the bad guy early on.  Strauss did not deserve an Oscar nod, but he and Lembeck do have some humorous moments.  Neville Brand (a WWII veteran) scores as the barracks tough guy.   Lefton memorably strikes a match on his cheek.  The only false note is from Jay Lawrence (Larry Storch’s brother) as Sgt. Bagradian.  Bargradian does impressions of people that could not have been funny in 1953 and certainly are not funny today. 

                The movie is famous (and has been criticized) for its broad humor.  I have to admit much of it is silly, but there are some truly funny lines.  Hell, just the way Marko the Mailman says “At ease, at ease” is LOL.  When Trzcinski  (one of the screenwriters, playing himself) receives a letter from his wife he says “ I believe it. My wife says, ‘Darling, you won't believe it, but I found the most adorable baby on our doorstep and I've decided to keep it for our very own. Now you won't believe it, but it's got exactly my eyes and nose.’ Why does she keep saying I won't believe it? I believe it! I believe it.   Schulz gets some good ones like “The barracks should be schpic, and also schpan!”  Even Preminger gets a moment when he puts on his boots so Von Scherbach can click his heels during a phone call to a superior.  It’s the kind of movie that leaves you smiling, but guiltily because you know the real thing was not as funny.  However, American soldiers do tend to maintain their senses of humor even in tough situations.

                The movie is technically sound.  Wilder’s cinematography gives the movie a dynamism that overcomes the static nature of the barracks.  Many of the shots have depth to them.  The set is nicely authentic looking.  The barracks has nice touches like pin-ups, laundry hanging, and graffiti carved into the bunks.  The score is used sparingly and not to force a mood on the audience.

CONCLUSION:

                “Stalag 17” is an entertaining movie that holds up fairly well although I doubt my students would be very impressed.  The top-notch acting and the blending of humor with the seriousness of a prison camp with a stoolie in it makes it different.  Possibly this would not have worked without Wilder at the helm, but it does work.  With that said, it is very overrated at #18 on the list of 100 Greatest War Movies.  I would have it in the top 100, but not in the top 50.  It is inconceivable that it could be rated 26 spots higher than “The Great Escape”.  That’s insane.
 
 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

MARCH MADNESS FINALS


 
VS.
 
FINALS

SAVING PRIVATE RYAN vs. THE LONGEST DAY

            This is the third annual finals of the March Madness War Movies Tournament.  This year’s competition was to determine the best WWII ground combat movie.  Sixteen movies entered the tournament and after watching all sixteen, reviewing them, and comparing them in various categories, we are down to the last two.  There were some surprises along the way, but we ended up with the two top seeds in the finals.

             It’s a fascinating match-up.  One is an Old School battle epic classic with an all-star cast that was filmed in black and white.  The other is from the modern VioLingo School that uses all the bells and whistles available today.  Interestingly, the two finalists are both about D-Day and they present a macroview (TLD) and a microview (SPR).  They make perfect companions for not only educating and entertaining the audience, but for recognizing the participants in Operation Overlord.   

            The tournament always concludes with a recap of the movies’ past scores.  It comes down to the calculator.

                                          TLD                                      SPR

Acting                                 9                                          10

Cliches                                8                                           6

Plot                                    10                                          8

Combat                               9                                         10

Realism                               8                                          9

Dialogue                             8                                          9

Soldier Behavior               9                                          8

Entertainment Value      10                                        10

Technical Advisors          10      Effects                      10

Educational Value           10      Characters                8

Balance                              10      Deaths                     10

Accuracy                             8        Implausibilities      6

 

Total                                  109                                      103

 

COLOR ANALYSIS:

            Congratulations to “The Longest Day” for winning this year’s tournament.  The Finals was pretty competitive, but TLD was the comfortable winner.  While TLD was consistently strong in all the categories, SPR was let down by two areas where it has gotten a lot of criticism from war movie fans:  clich├ęs and plausibility.  The spectacular acting and combat makes it one of the great war movies, but it does have some cringe-inducing elements (e.g., the evil German) to please the general public.

            TLD has no weaknesses as a war movie.  I am sure there are non-purists that gripe about the black and white, the length, and the fact that you have to read subtitles!  But from a war movie fan’s standpoint, it is hard to see how it could be better given when it was made.  I am not even sure a modern remake would be superior.  The combat would be more realistic, but we have SPR to cover that.  Watch them together.