Saturday, November 27, 2010


(June 1977, U.S.)

Have you noticed that I'm not even out of the 'B' titles of my film collection and I've already discussed a more than fair share of war films? The challenge has now become to attempt to add something new and fresh to my perspective on war films that generally tend to follow that same war cliches and formulas. Mind you, these cliches and formulas do have the persistence of not failing to entertain the viewer for this type of genre.

Directed by Sir Richard Attenborough, A BRIDGE TOO FAR is an epic World War II film that tells the story of the failure of "Operation Market Garden" during the war and the Allied attempt to break through German lines and seize several bridges, including the road bridge over the Lower Rhine at Arnhem, in the occupied Netherlands, with the main objective of Allied armour outflanking the Siegfried Line at its northern extremity. For your interest, the name for the film comes from an unconfirmed comment made by British Lieutenant-General Frederick Browning, deputy commander of the First Allied Airborne Army, who tells Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, the operation's architect, before the operation, "I think we may be going a bridge too far." Get it?

In a way, this film reminds me much of THE LONGEST DAY (1962) in two ways. The first is that it includes an ensemble cast of popular stars of the time, including James Caan, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Edward Fox, Elliot Gould, Gene Hackman, Anthony Hopkins, Lawrence Olivier, Ryan O'Neal, Robert Redford, Maximillian Schell and Liv Ulmann. The second is that the first forty-five minutes or so of the film is spent entirely on strategic planning before any of the battles actually begin. That doesn't make the film entirely unoriginal, though. I suppose it all depends on the stars of the film and the combat mission that structures the plot. But getting back to cliches and formulas for a moment, the classic elements are alive and kicking in A BRIDGE TOO FAR and make for as an exciting a war film as any other of the genre.

I was only ten years old when this film was released in the Summer of 1977, which means I likely had no interest in it during a summer dominated by the first STAR WARS film (like my parents would have LET me see a grown-up war film at that tender young age???). However, I can remember the attention that it received through newspaper coverage and television promo ads. Those kind of images can stay with you for quite a while until you're old enough to see a war film...thankfully.

Favorite line or dialogue:

Sgt. Eddie Dohun: "Colonel, if you don't look at him right now, he's going to die."
U.S. Medical Colonel: "He's dead now."
Sgt. Dohun: "It would mean a lot to me, sir, if you'd check him out."
Medical Colonel: "Come on, Sergeant! For Chrissakes, get him out of here!"
Sgt. Dohun (draws his gun): "Would you look at him please, sir? Right now or I'll blow your fuckin' head off. Right now."
Medical Colonel: " I can give him a quick examination if you like."
Sgt. Dohun: "Thank you very much, sir."
(a few minutes later)
Medical Colonel: "Sergeant Dohun pulled a gun on me and threatened to kill me unless I did precisely what he ordered. I want you to put him under arrest."
Lt. Rafferty: "Yes, sir."
Medical Colonel: "I want you to keep him there. I want you to keep him there for at least ten seconds."
Lt. Rafferty: "I'm not all that sure I understand, Colonel."
Medical Colonel: "Count to ten, Lieutenant, fast."
Lt. Rafferty: "One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. Like that, sir?"
Medical Colonel: "Thank you, Lieutenant."

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