Above average war film with Jack Palance's snarling ferocity as a revengeful officer along with Eddie Albert as a coward captain ,both of whom give excellent performances along with the remaining cast . 1944 , Belgium , Battle of Bugle , during the closing days of WWII, a National Guard Infantry Company is assigned the task of setting up artillery observation posts in a strategic area . Lieutenant Costa (splendid Jack Palance as platoon leader) knows that Cooney (Eddie Albert ,in real life he served in WW II, was a war hero, in one engagement having braved heavy enemy fire to rescue 70 wounded Marines) is in command only because of his friendship to a colonel (Lee Marvin) and other connections he had made with High-command . As captain Cooney is ordered to move one of his platoons into a forward position . They , then are slowly surrounded by a Nazi army . As Costa has serious doubts concerning Cooneys' ability to lead the group . Lt. Costa calls headquarters for reinforcements but Cooney won't commit his reserves even as the platoon is decimated , then Costa swears vendetta .
This is a bitter war drama that packs thrills , chills , intense battle of wits among two officials and many other things . This has an anti-war argument , though not the usual 'war is hell,' but the terribly corrupting influence that war can have on the most normal, average human beings , and the terrible things it makes them capable of that they wouldn't be capable of otherwise . Interesting picture with excellent screenplay by James Poe based on a play titled "Fragile Fox" by Norman Brooks , dealing with an expert portrayal of men in war under pressure . It is a war movie as frankly good that when it was shown as the Venice Festival a U.S. ambassador walked in protest for its un-Americanism and anti-patriotism , in fact , US Department of Defense and the US Army refused to assist with the production of this movie based on its film script . After reading the script, the military flatly refused to allow any co-operation with the production , that meant no tanks, no uniforms, no troops ; they didn't even allow director to view any Signal Corps footage . However Aldrich managed to rent two tanks ; by careful staging and ingenuity, he was able to convey the impression that many more were being used . Very good acting from Jack Palance who dominates the picture with a tremendously acting , though sometimes overacting , and Eddie Albert as cowardly captain Cooney who refuses to re-enforce him . Two of the lead cast in this Robert Aldrich war film of the Second World War, Richard Jaeckel and Lee Marvin, would go onto appear in the same director's later hugely successful World War II war movie, ¨Dirty Dozen¨ . Actors Jack Palance and Lee Marvin were veterans of World War II as were Peter van Eyck and Eddie Albert . Feature film movie debut for actor William Smithers portraying Lieutenant Harold 'Harry' Woodruff , Smithers prior to this role had only worked in television. Spectacular combats and fights , battle sequences were filmed on the back-lot of two studios: The RKO-Pathé Studios back-lot and the Universal Studios back-lot. Appropriate and evocative musical score by Frank De Vol , Aldrich's usual . Adequate and atmospheric cinematography in black and white by Joseph Biroc .
Well made on the RKO lot in only 35 days for a minimal budget of $750,000 . The motion picture was stunningly realized by Robert Aldrich who gave a tense and brilliant direction . Aldrich began writing and directing for TV series in the early 1950s, and directed his first feature in 1953 (Big Leaguer ,1953). Soon thereafter he established his own production company and produced most of his own films , collaborating in the writing of many of them . Directed a considerable plethora of genres but almost all of his films contained a subversive undertone . He was an expert on warlike genre (Dirty Dozen , The Angry Hills , Ten seconds to hell) and Western (The Frisko kid , Ulzana's raid, Apache , Veracruz , The last sunset) . Rating : Above average , it's a must see and a standout in its genre .