Black Brigade (1970)
Ok, I'm back from a long hiatus. I've decided to take a break from Japanese monster movies for a while and branch out to other genres. Let's see how this works out...
Our movie for today was originally an ABC made-for-TV special from January of 1970 called Carter's Army. It was re-released soon afterwards under the name Black Brigade, undoubtedly cashing in on the Blaxploitation craze of the time. It was put on cheap-ass DVD in 2004 by Reel Productions and I bought it at Wal-Mart for a dollar! Sweet!
Well, maybe not so sweet. As can be expected from a dollar DVD, the technical quality is miserable. It's in lovely fullscreen pan-and-scan so I'm sure a lot was lost in the transfer to digital, though probably little that matters. The sound quality is the absolute worst imaginable, with the volume rising and falling like a jumping puppy. Spoken lines are often so muddled that you can't understand them and the background "music" blasts you out of your seat at every scene break. There are frequent editing cuts that look abnormally jerky, almost like they were snipped with a rusty pair of scissors and you wonder how much of the original movie was cut when it was put on DVD. There are no subtitles, so I had to do some fudging on some of the place names, but that worked out ok. All in all, pretty much what I expected when I laid down my Washington for this movie.
The writer and producer was Aaron Spelling (yes, THAT Aaron Spelling), known to audiences at the time as the producer of such TV hits as The Mod Squad , Honey West and Burke's Law. We know him now as the innovator of numerous television hits, Beverly Hills 90210 and Seventh Heaven amongst the more popular. As well, this was a product of Danny Thomas Productions, who at the time was well-known for such hits as The Andy Griffith Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Real McCoys. With all these big names behind it, you might expect a quality movie with an actual plot. And in some ways, it's not too bad, especially for a TV movie. It's just the general looseness of the script and the lack of attention to the little details that mostly ruins the experience.
And now on to our show...
We open at a large estate in allied-occupied Germany in 1944. The building has been captured by the advancing American Army and is now the headquarters of a Regimental staff.
We see a Willys jeep arriving with an American officer at the wheel. This is Captain Beau Carter, played by 39-year old Irish-born actor Stephen Boyd. Boyd was a near top-shelf actor at the time, having had notable success in such movies as The Man Who Never Was, The Bible, Ben-Hur, Genghis Khan and Fantastic Voyage. He won a Golden Globe award for his role as the villain Messala in Ben-Hur, and was also the first choice to play James Bond in Doctor No. He's a big man, 6'1" tall and the near spitting-image of Packers quarterback Brett Farve. In this movie he speaks with a deep Southern drawl, better to show his racist upbringing, and calls all black men "Boy". The square-jawed hero of our movie, we will watch his moral and ethical transformation progress from scene to scene.
A title card flashes on the screen telling us this is 1944. Now, I hate it when movies screw up in the first three seconds! The entire movie clearly takes place in the warm summer months and we're told explicitly that the coming action is in Germany proper. Since the Normandy landings were not until June of 1944, and it was deep into winter when the Allies made it to the German frontier, we have a problem here. If the date were 1945, then it would fit better, though the hot temperatures shown would not be seen in the area until well after the May capitulation of Germany. But then again, this movie was clearly filmed in America, most probably in the woods around Los Angeles. Being a California native, I can recognize the look of the Cleveland National Forrest, and it doesn't look like western Germany.
Anyway, Carter is taken to see a General, who's out in a courtyard enjoying the summer sun. We're slammed with our first Civil Rights message right off, as Carter is shown in by a black man in a fancy Civil War-era servant's outfit. When asked about the outfit, the man replies that he's a US Army sergeant but has to dress like this due to General's orders.
The Brigadier General's name is Holden, I think, without subtitles it's hard to hear. The invaluable IMDB lists him as "General Clark", but this is not his name in the movie. The IMDB is rarely inaccurate, but this is clearly one of those cases. The General is played by 62-year old Paul Stewart, an accomplished television actor with creative ties to Orson Welles. He plays it very military here, with good posture and a spiffy uniform. Curiously, Stewart gets near-top billing, despite the fact that his role is so small (he only has about three minutes of screen time, all within the first four minutes of the movie).
Carter has been called here because he's a veteran commando and the General needs him to accomplish a risky mission for him. He needs to capture a roadway over a dam some 50 miles into German-held territory so that his 3rd Regiment can advance more quickly. The General tells Carter that B Company is the closest unit, and thus the only hope to take the dam before the Germans blow it up themselves to stall the advance.
The General wears the shoulder patch of the 1st Infantry Division, the "Big Red One". This unit never had a 3rd Regiment attached during WWII, so that part is fantasy. The Division was in Germany, but didn't cross into that country until the winter of 1944. Thus, the whole warm weather problem gets worse. The real 3rd Infantry Regiment, which is the "Old Guard Regiment" based in Washington DC, never made it to Europe. (Strangely, my father-in-law was formerly the Chief of Staff for this regiment, but that is neither here nor there.)
Moving on to stupider things...you mean to tell us that such a vital mission, one that could hold up the general advance for some time, is to be entrusted to a single company of soldiers? And one led by what is essentially a mercenary captain? If the dam is so vital, then why is there not a larger effort to seize it intact? You would think that more effort would be made to ensure its capture.
And it seems like the General is working on his own here, outside the command structure of the US Army in Europe. Such important missions as securing axis of advance and the like really should be decided at higher levels than Regimental staff. American troops didn't operate independently like that in WWII (or in any other war). There would be a Divisional staff above the Regiment, and an Army staff above that. The General seems to be working solo.
Anyway, Carter is airlifted to the vicinity of the unit. We see a C-46 Commando transport plane kick out a solitary parachutist in the dusky darkness. Apparently a plane was tasked solely to insert him into the front lines. We wonder if they can parachute a single man into the area, then why not a seasoned unit of commandoes along with him to help capture the dam. Doesn't that make sense? Neither does Carter's highly-visible bright white parachute, not exactly the safest way to make a night insertion near enemy territory, eh? But it's ok, because that entire sequence was stock footage from some 1940s Army training film anyway.
Carter finds the unit camped out in the woods, and we're hit with one of those "lack of attention to detail" problems again. The unit is actually just Platoon 1 of B Company, a 20-man group versus the entire 120-man company. The cast, however, will refer to the Platoon as "B Company" repeatedly throughout the entire movie. That annoys me.
It also makes the actual title of our movie suspect. I know that Black Brigade sounds all hip and cool and all, but it makes absolutely no sense. A Brigade is a very large unit, comprising at least three full Regiments, we see no such unit here. Does Black Platoon sound any better? For that matter, does the original title Carter's Army seem a bit overblown considering it's just 20-some guys. Is it too much to ask that the title of a movie have some relevance to the actual film?
It turns out that Platoon 1 is a sanitation unit, responsible for digging latrines and picking up garbage, and is in no way a combat unit. To prove that, we get some scenes of the Platoon to establish the general feel of the unit. This is 4077th MASH to the extreme, with virtually no sense of military order or any semblance of discipline at all. Tents are up in a haphazard manner, equipment is scattered around and not one man is properly dressed or armed in the slightest. Guard duty is minimal at best, alcohol is flowing, and we see that a crap game is occupying much time and effort. Being so close to the front lines, you would expect at least some sort of entrenchment, but nothing is seen. And as well, everyone in the unit seems to smoke like cancer-fiends. One day I'll count the total number of cigs lit up in this movie, it has to be hundreds.
A sentry that Carter surprises takes him to see the Platoon commander. This is Lieutenant Edward B. Wallace, played by 33-year old Robert Hooks, a bit-part actor and one of the cofounders of The Negro Ensemble Company with Moses Gunn. To 1970 general audiences, he was probably best known for his work on the TV series NYPD. He was also Admiral Morrow in Star Trek III. He's a good-looking man with an emotive face and an easy, if infrequent, smile. He has an athletic build and unbelievably white teeth. Seriously, his teeth can blind you. In this movie he does an outstanding job portraying a man forced into a leadership position he never wanted and fighting his internal demons as fiercely as the enemy.
From the first second they meet, Wallace and Carter exchange racial barbs and glowering stares. Carter is flat-out astonished that he's the only white guy here. Ok, what? You mean that he didn't know that the unit was all-black, or that it was just a support unit? Didn't he get any briefing from the General's staff before taking off in the plane? You would think that with the General's established racial predijucies, he would have warned Carter that the unit was all-black, or better yet, assigned the mission to a regular white unit. This makes no sense.
And what's this unit doing so close to the front lines anyway? Support units don't operate separately from their parent Companies or Battalions. We're led to think here that this unit is "on the front lines" completely on their own, with no other Allied units anywhere near. The front in Germany in WWII was a lot less fluid than this movie would have us think, and certainly support units would not be anywhere near the forward edge of the battlefront.
Carter is stuck with these men, however, and is determined to accomplish his mission with the cards he has been dealt. Wallace tells him that he gets his orders from "General Smythe", but Carter tells him that General Holden has new orders for them. Hmmm...what? So are we to assume that B Company belongs to a different Regiment than General Holden's 3rd? If so, then don't you think that General Smythe would be in on the plan? Maybe he was and we just didn't hear of it. Or maybe General Holden took over for Smythe recently and that news hadn't made it down to Wallace yet. That might explain his confusion. But then, wouldn't Carter tell him of the change in command? I hate thinking this hard.
The plan is simple in a way. They will march east to a farmhouse about 28 miles away. There they will meet up with a resistance member and radio for any changes to the orders. From there, they will march north for 12 miles to an old winery where they will rest and prepare. From there it's just a few miles further north to the dam. As far as actually securing the dam, Carter is just going to wing it when they get there.
Carter demands that Wallace get him six volunteers to go with him and Wallace on the mission. So Wallace has his Platoon line up and counts off everyone in groups of three. He then has all the threes step forward, they have just been volunteered. Probably not the best way to do it, but I guess Wallace is figuring that he's sending them to their deaths so he had better pick them at random.
And now let's get acquainted with the six men chosen for this mission.
Private Lewis is played by 33-year old Billy Dee Williams. Williams is best known to us as Lando Calrissian from the Star Wars series, but he was an A-list leading man through much of the mid and late 1970s. At the time of Black Brigade, however, he was just a bit-player on daytime soap operas and TV series. He's a handsome man, six-foot tall with a ton of charisma and acting skill. His character here is an arrogant, tough former street thug from the mean streets of Harlem, a requisite in every war movie. His afro is quite tall.
Private George Brightman is played by 24-year old Glynn Turman. This was Turman's first substantial acting role, though he would go on to have an active career lasting to 2005 and was even married to Aretha Franklin for a while. You might remember him as Colonel Brad Taylor in the series A Different World or as the Mayor on the outstanding series The Wire. He's also still active in roles today, with two movies coming out in 2005 and parts on popular TV shows such as The Bernie Mac Show. He's an interesting character in this movie, a gangly, innocent kid who you just know is going to get killed in the end. He has a journal that he keeps that's filled with elaborate stories of his unit's "war records", presumably to convince people back home that he was doing more than digging ditches.
Private George "Doc" Hayes is played by 41-year old Moses Gunn. To 1970 audiences who cared to notice, he was an Obie-winning stage actor and co-founder of The Negro Ensemble Company in the 1960s, but was fairly unknown to movie and television watchers. Since then, Gunn has had a long and productive career in the industry before dying in 1993. His character here is the Thinking Man, a former physics professor at Howard University who's now a simple cook in the Army. Doc is a distinguished man, a chess player, and fluent in German.
Private "Fuzzy" is played by 60-year old Napoleon Whiting. Before dying in 1984, Whiting would have a nice career in film and television, but to contemporary audiences, he was probably best known as Silas on the series The Big Valley. He's a scrawny old guy with a shambling gait and in this movie he plays a deaf man, really. Tagged to go on the commando mission, he's clearly going to be fodder to tug at our heartstrings.
Private "Big Jim" is played by 38-year old Roosevelt "Rosey" Grier. A former all-pro professional football player, Grier was best known to audiences of the time for hosting his own The Rosey Grier Show from 1969, and as Gabe Cooper on the TV series Daniel Boone. Perhaps more famously, he's known for having helped capture Robert Kennedy's assassin Sirhan Sirhan in 1968 while attending Kennedy's speech. Grier reportedly jammed his finger in the trigger guard to prevent Sirhan from firing any more shots. He's an imposing physical sight, about 6'5" tall and thick with bulging muscles. Unfortunately, he simply cannot act, and it's painful to watch him read his lines. In this movie he claims to have seen service in Italy, France and Belgium. Again, that doesn't jive with the warm months of 1944 timeline that the movie wants us to believe.
Private Jonathon Crunk is played by 30-year old Richard Pryor, the now-famous comedian. In 1970, his career was just starting and audiences probably didn't recognize him at all except for occasional stand-up work on variety shows. He had actually served in the US Army in 1958-60, but you can't tell it from this movie. In every war movie ever made, there has to be a Coward Who Finds The Courage To Be A Hero. Crunk is that man in this movie. He claims to be from Hickory Creek, Georgia and oh-so doesn't want to get killed in this war. He wears a natty red beret throughout the entire movie, a very 1970's look to be sure. He even wears it on this commando mission, tossing his helmet to someone as they leave camp. Carter never says anything about this, even though he really should insist on proper headgear.
The eight men are rather lightly armed. Carter has a Colt M1911 pistol and a Thompson submachine gun. He clearly didn't have the Thompson with him when he parachuted in, so he must have gotten it from Wallace. I didn't think Tommy guns were issued to sanitation platoons, but I might be wrong. The other men are armed with a single Browning Automatic Rifle (Big Jim), four M-1 Carbines (Wallace, Brightman, Crunk and Fuzzy), two M-1 Garand rifles (Lewis and Doc), and only Wallace has another .45 pistol. We see that several of the men, most notably Brightman, have cigarettes stuffed into ammo pouches. Carter later catches this once, but other than grimacing, he doesn't make the man get more ammo.
Hmm...so, this supposedly battle-hardened commander didn't even check the weapons and ammunition supply of his men before he left on the mission? He knows he's going to be deep in enemy territory, and yet he didn't think to check on the very weapons that his mission depended on? Even boy scout leaders make sure their kids have the right stuff before heading out to spend the night in the park. Captain Carter is not impressing me much here. And what about Fuzzy, who is 99% deaf? Surely Carter would have scrubbed him right off, as he's clearly a critical liability on the mission. Carter sucks. And how do you also explain Wallace allowing the deaf guy to come along? Earlier we saw him defend him from Crunk's insults, so we know he has a soft spot for the old man. Why would he allow him to join this suicidal mission?
So the eight of them head off into the woods of Southern Calif...er, I mean, Germany. Along the way, we get to learn some details about our men. We learn about Doc's education credentials and his resentment at being treated so badly by the Army. We learn that Crunk is a total coward of the first degree. We learn that Lewis would have killed Carter on first sight if they were still back in Harlem. We see that Carter is ever-so-slightly beginning to sympathize with their plight, even though he clearly still thinks of them as inferior.
This whole time Carter has them walking along open roads and across open fields, clearly terrible tactical decisions. Even Wallace suggests that they find a more covered avenue of approach, but Carter rebuffs him. Clearly this is not going to end well. And indeed, we now hear the droning sound of an airplane approaching. Everyone scatters into the ditches and brush alongside the road. Except for the poor old deaf Fuzzy, who just stands there oblivious to what's happening. Nice of his fellow soldiers to maybe run out there and tap him on the shoulder before they left him alone.
Alone in the open road, Fuzzy is a sitting duck for the German fighter plane. Bullets kick up and he goes down screaming. The plane only makes one pass and is only seen for about two seconds of screen time. Clearly, plane rentals don't come cheap and they only wanted to pay for a brief cameo. On freeze frame, you get a single frame of the plane from below. It's fuzzy, but I would have to identify it as a P-40 Warhawk or some derivative, with German crosses painted on the wings. Few original P-40s were flying in 1969, but a number were made as kits for Hollywood movies about WWII. I would guess that this is one of those, rented for the day to make one pass over a dirt road.
This late in the war, with Allied airpower nearly having complete mastery of the battlefield, it's dicey to believe that a German fighter would be flying in broad daylight so close to the front lines, and that it would waste ammo and gas on strafing a single soldier. And for that matter, why did it attack to begin with? We're clearly behind lines in German-occupied territory, so why did the pilot think that the man was American and not German. And if he did somehow see that it was a GI, don't you think he might radio some local control center and tell them that American soldiers are deep behind the lines? It just seems weird.
There's no time to bury him, says Carter, to which Wallace replies, "Would there be time if he was white?". So they leave Fuzzy there on the road and walk on. Yes, they keep walking down the open road, despite what just happened. With more small unit leaders like Carter, the Allies would have lost the war for sure. Seriously, I've played Advanced Squad Leader for years and the To Hit bonus for being in the open is steep. Sure, you loose some Movement Points, but at least you won't get shot up as easily. I digress.
Stay off the road!
So after some uneventful walking they now reach their first objective, the farmhouse. Since it was said that the farmhouse is 28 miles from the camp, and they left during the day and arrived at the day, we have to assume that they spent the night out in the woods. None of them carry bedrolls or tents, so that must have been a very, very uncomfortable night with a rock for a pillow. There's no way that they all-night force-marched 28 miles considering the condition they appear to be in when they reach the farmhouse.
In the farmhouse is a German woman named Anna, their contact for this mission. Anna is played by 38-year old Susan Oliver, a beautiful and talented woman well-known by 1970, having had prime roles in the movie Butterfield 8 and on the TV series Peyton Place, Mannix and The Wild, Wild West. She was also Vina the sexy green alien slave chick in the pilot episode of the original Star Trek called The Cage. Curiously, she was also an accomplished pilot, winning Pilot of the Year in 1970, and even attempted to become the first woman pilot to fly to solo from New York to Moscow. She's a Nordic-looking blonde with Katie Couric hair and bright blue eyes. Her "German" accent is atrocious, she seems to be channeling Eva Gabor, and it's often hard to understand what she's trying to say. Anna is a war widow, her husband having gone off to fight and die for the Fuhrer. She has been disillusioned by this and has turned into an allied spy.
Anna has a radio and with it Carter is to contact his superiors to get an update on his orders. Hmm...I don't think this is right. The mission was pretty much set up beforehand, so why is Carter on the radio? Perhaps he was told to check in with HQ just in case they changed the game plan while he was in the field. That makes sense. And where did Anna get the radio to begin with? She must have had contact with Americans at some point in the past, perhaps she has assisted other Allied efforts? And why didn't they send a radio along with Carter if they knew he would need to contact his base? What if Anna was compromised by the Germans before they got there? Then they would be in serious trouble.
Anna also seems to live all alone out in the woods. Her house is on a road that is frequented by German patrols and is precariously close to the front lines. Doesn't anyone wonder why she hasn't evacuated further east yet? Seems a bit odd...
Because Anna is a Sexy White Woman and Wallace is a Handsome Black Man, we of course get some controversy. The two of them talk alone in the kitchen, Wallace opening up to her about his bad lot in life. Clearly there's no chemistry here, but Anna feels sympathy for him. She's consoling him with a hug as Carter enters the room. Carter instinctively assumes that Wallace is attempting to bespoil the virtue of this fine white woman and there's a confrontation. It's Anna who ends it, by slapping Carter and calling him a racist moron!
Wallace storms out raging against The Man. Seeing the error in his assumption, Carter makes an effort to apologize to Wallace. The two of them banter around some civil rights talk for a bit, and we get the feeling that Carter is Beginning To See The Light.
That little Black History Month Moment over, we get finally some action. A German patrol drives up suddenly, forcing the soldiers to hunker down in the barn. The patrol is five soldiers and an officer in a Kubelwagen and a motorcycle-sidecar combo. It's unclear, but it certainly looks like the officer and Anna go into the bedroom and close the door (wink, wink...). She goes willingly, so maybe this is how she has survived in this area so long.
Even though the other German soldiers make no moves to check the barn, the men are starting to crack under the pressure. Some want to charge out guns blazing (Lewis), others want to run out the back and hide (Crunk). It's Wallace who calms them, even to the point of threatening to shoot them himself, and orders them to wait for Carter.
Carter returns soon and they all sneak out the back door and head away north. Hmm...strange, usually in these types of movies, the gallant Americans rush in to save the fair lady in distress. But here they light out as quick as they can, leaving Anna alone to face the German patrol. If any evidence of the Americans' presence is found there, Anna is in some serious trouble. The first time I watched this I was really surprised they didn't try and rescue her. We also never see Anna again, which is also strange as she got top billing.
Anna does her duty...
On the night march to the winery, Crunk begins to crack under the strain. He begins to see Nazis in every treetop and eventually starts babbling and empties a clip of bullets into the trees. Carter disarms him and Crunk cowers behind a log whimpering and crying. Carter wants to just leave him there, but Big Jim (who is clearly Crunk's best friend) manages to talk him out of it. Big Jim tells Crunk that if he chickens out now, then The White Man will always think of The Black Man as cowards. Crunk gathers up some inner strength and continues on with the group.
They reach the winery next without further incident, which is 12 miles north of the farmhouse. The winery is abandoned and run down, and no one is there. Wait, we see a skinny dude sneaking around the winery, watching the Americans with binoculars. Who is he? Certainly an enemy, though an irregular as he's not in a uniform. We will call him the "Thin Man". We see him pull a Mauser 98K rifle out of a hiding place and take a position in a tower.
As the dam is so close, Carter orders Lewis and Doc to go on a little recon of the dam while the others rest up. After they leave, we get a little more of the Racist Carter Berates the Black Men stuff, which frankly is getting a bit old. How much more of this PC message do we have to be beat over the head with?
Suddenly a shot rings out! Big Jim is hit! He goes down, clutching a nasty chest wound. The Thin Man we saw watching the Americans from before has shot Big Jim from the top of a tower with his rifle. Strangely, instead of staying in his position and trying to pick off the others, the Thin Man climbs down and starts running around.
Big Jim is down!
The Thin Man eventually runs into Wallace, who stands there with pistol drawn. The Thin Man makes a lunge for his rifle, and Wallace hesitates. Fortunately, Carter is there to gun the man down with a shot from his .45. Wallace looks shaken, and we're left to believe that this is the first time that Wallace has had to face death in combat. His first time almost gets him killed, but we will see that he has no further trouble in high-stress shooting situations. To his credit, Carter doesn't berate Wallace for being slow on the trigger. I think he understands that everyone has a first time.
Meanwhile, Doc and Lewis are still out on their recon. They find the dam and settle down to watch. They're concerned to see that the dam is defended by a group of German soldiers. They're also very concerned to see that they are currently wiring the dam with explosives.
With their recon accomplished, Lewis and Doc turn to head back to the winery, when suddenly they walk into a minefield! What the hell! They both go down in a puff of smoke and the scene cuts away, leaving us wondering if they survived. Why would there be a minefield out in the middle of nowhere on a ridge? This seems like an incredibly stupid place for mines. As well, wouldn't the explosion of the mine alert the Germans on the dam below? Didn't they hear that?
The mine goes boom.
Back at the winery, Carter is concerned that his recon team is overdue. He's getting ready to go on without them when a cry sounds out. What's this? It's Doc, stumbling back to the winery, alive, but badly injured (Lewis was killed by the mine, I guess). Doc tells the story of the mine incident and the German dispositions on the dam and the explosives. It's clear that they have to act soon or risk loosing the dam for good. Doc is unable to travel, so they quickly treat his wounds and leave him there for now.
With time now at a premium, they head off to the dam to save it. Crunk takes the opportunity to slip off unseen. He has chosen the way of the coward.
So, with Crunk awoling, now we are down to just Carter, Wallace and George Brightman. That's one Tommy gun, two M-1 Carbines and two pistols against a defended German position. And Carter still has no real game plan about what he's going to do. Hmmm...not going to end well.
The three men left.
The three of them make the hike north and stop to observe the dam from up on a ridge. There are two light trucks, a Kubelwagon and a motorcycle down below, with a gaggle of German soldiers milling around. There are at least fourteen soldiers there, most all armed with rifles. Some of the Germans at the dam sure look like the same Germans who were just at Anna's house (Yep, there's that same officer in his dress blacks). I guess they only had a limited number of prop uniforms and extras.
They can see that the dam has already been wired with explosives, and the plunger is on the flatbed of one of the trucks. Carter's only plan to is start shooting and hope something good happens. Time is not on their side.
Suddenly, before any shooting starts, a horse-drawn cart of straw approaches the checkpoint. The old German farmer just wants to cross the dam, and the Germans let him pass. Strange that a seemingly able-bodied man (even one in his later years) would not have been impressed into service at this point. Manpower was critically low by 1944 and people were being drafted in desperation to form Volksgrenadier units.
Ah, but what's this? As the wagon rolls across the dam, we see a man slide out of the hay unseen and dash to hide behind a vehicle. It's Crunk!!!! What the hell!!! So the cowardly lion found his strength after all...didn't see that coming, eh? There's certainly no way possible that Crunk is aware of how close his fellow soldiers are at this point, so clearly he's set on a solo Rambo-style attack on the dam. This makes his sudden and unexpected show of courage even more impressive and illogical.
Crunk spies the plunger detonator in the truck and dashes for it. He cracks one German in the head with his rifle butt and then shoots two more dead with his Carbine. This touches off a furious gun battle as the rest of the Germans charge him. The officer takes aim with a pistol and hits Crunk in the right shoulder and left leg, down he goes, hurt but not dead.
Any sort of plan that Carter was envisioning, however weak, instantly breaks down when Crunk makes his move. From then on it's a melee with everyone blasting away like mad. The final battle will be brisk and frantic. The Americans use their rifles, though they all fire from the hip, which is oh-so not the way to hit anything accurately. The Germans use bolt-action rifles, historically proper I might add. They look like Mauser 98Ks, probably knockoff. Kudos for not using Garands to pose as German weapons. Several close ups of Carter firing his Tommy gun show it clearly to be a prop gun, with no brass ejected and no recoil.
Brightman is first down the hill, firing like crazy to draw the Germans' attention away from the wounded Crunk. Firing wildly from the hip, Brightman kills the officer and two soldiers. The distraction allows Crunk to crawl to the railing and toss the detonator plunger over the edge. He then seeks safety behind an abutment.
Wallace and Carter make it down the hill by now, and Carter opens fire with his Tommy gun, killing two German soldiers. They hunker down behind the Kubelwagen.
Now you can just tell that Brightman is the Designated Odd-Man Out in this battle, the Red Shirt Security Ensign on the away party. Indeed, we see now Brightman runs out of ammo and reaches down into his pouches to find...cigarettes! The Germans, clearly non-smokers themselves, gun him down dead.
That's not helpful.
So now we're down to just Wallace and Carter, still hiding behind the Kubelwagen. Wallace reaches in and turns the key on, starting the motor. BTW, this is clearly a cheap knockoff vehicle, probably built on a VW bug frame or something. Wallace jumps in the driver's seat while Carter jumps in the back. At first watching, I was reminded of every A-Team episode when they steal the Kubelwagen and go racing down the road, Carter hosing down the Germans as they're exposed on the walkways. Three Germans fall to Carter's Tommy gun with it's Infinitely Bottomless Magazine. They then encounter one of the German trucks, barreling down the road towards them. Carter shoots the driver, who slumps out the window most unconvincingly, and the truck slews to a stop. They then u-turn and head back towards the Germans for another run. By this time, however, all the bad guys are dead and the battle is over.
So, to recap, we lost Brightman, and Crunk is injured. We see eleven Germans go to Vahalla, plus maybe a few more off screen. Of note, Wallace apparently never makes a kill, which is kinda weird considering he's like the movie's hero and all.
They tend to Crunk, who tells them that he was running away when he saw the hay wagon. At that moment, he had to make the choice to "be something, or be a nothing".
About this time they hear the rumblings of approaching vehicles. It's the lead elements of the American 3rd Regiment. We see about four big trucks and some jeeps pass by, one of them notably draped with a Confederate flag. They pass by the three men, not even slowing down. What would have happened if the bridge was still in German hands? They seem to be rather unprepared for any sort of combat.
As a final nail, some of the soldiers toss insults at the two black men. One even hurls a shovel at their feet, telling them to go "dig some latrines, boy". Wallace and Crunk take it with stoic resignation, they've heard it all many times before, though Crunk starts to cry a bit out of pain. Carter, however, has found his Inner Racial Harmony and is outraged at the incident. There's little he can do other than glower and toss the shovel away.
Finally, a medic jeep rolls by and they pull it over. Crunk is loaded in the jeep and driven off. Carter and Wallace turn their backs to the camera and walk slowly away as sorrowful music plays. The end. I guess the ending was meant to remind us that white folks' hearts can only be changed one at a time...or something. I think you should go to the library and get the book The Right To Fight (1998) by Gerald Astor. Read it before you watch this movie. Then again, once you read the book, you won't want to watch the movie.
Thanks for reading, the end.
Hey! Wait a minute, what about poor Doc? Isn't he still back at the winery bleeding to death? Shouldn't someone go back for him? Carter? Wallace? Bueller? Anyone?
Written in March 2005 by Nathan Decker.
comments powered by Disqus
that's between you and the vengeful wrath of your personal god...