Tag Archives: War Movies

Movies For Memorial Day 2015

With Memorial Day coming up on Monday May 25th, I’d like to take this moment to thank all veterans and active members of the armed forces for their service and sacrifice.

The combat film has always been one of my favorite cinematic genres, with Peter Weir’s Gallipoli, Sam Fuller’s The Big Red One, and of course Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan ranking highly among my all time favorite films.  Memorial Day Weekend in my home also includes a screening of the amazing Band of Brothers.  

Every year I check the TV listings, Netflix and Amazon Instant Video for the best military themed films and documentaries to watch over the holiday weekend.  As always, Turner Classic Movies has several classics in their lineup this weekend.  Amazon Instant Video has an elaborate selection, but unfortunately few of those titles are available on Amazon Prime (though you can never go wrong with Band of Brothers, The Civil War, and Patton).  Netflix doesn’t have as many feature film options as Amazon Instant Video, but has a good selection of documentaries.  Here are some highlights:

On Turner Classic Movies (all times Eastern):

Saturday 5/23:

6:00 AM – Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944)
5:30 PM – Twelve O’Clock High (1949)
10:30 PM – Glory (1989)
12:45 AM – The Horse Soldiers (1959)

Sunday 5/24:

6:00 AM – Sahara (1943)
12:00 PM – The Story of G.I. Joe (1945)
2:00 PM – Bataan (1943)
6:00 PM – The Steel Helmet (1951)

Monday 5/25:

6:45 AM – The Green Berets (1968)
8:00 PM – Battleground (1949)
10:15 PM – Patton (1970)

Netflix (Streaming):

Wings (1927)
The Longest Day (1962)
Patton (1970)
Twelve O’Clock High (1949)
The War: A Ken Burns Film (2007)
The Civil War (1990)
The First World War From Above (2010)
Vietnam in HD (2011)

Amazon Instant Video:

Band of Brothers (2001)*
The Pacific (2010)*
Medal of Honor (2008)*
The War: A Ken Burns Film (2007)*
The Civil War (1990)*
American Sniper (2014)
Lone Survivor (2013)
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Gallipoli (1981)
All Quiet On the Western Front (1930)
Sergeant York (1941)
The Fighting 69th (1940)
Patton (1970)*
The Big Red One (1980)
Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)
The Great Escape (1963)
The Longest Day (1962)
We Were Soldiers (2002)
The Green Berets (1968)
Glory (1989)
The Steel Helmet (1951)
* = Available on Amazon Prime

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Warriors Five (1962)

Warriors Five movie Poster

Release Date: September 28, 1962
Starring: Jack Palance, Giovanna Ralli, Serge Reggiani, Folco Lulli, Venantino Vanantini, Franco Balducci, Miha Baloh
Directed by Leopoldo Savona; Screenplay by Gino De Santis, Ugo Pirro, Leopoldo Savona

One of my favorite genres of cinema has always been the combat film, primarily the films set in World War II such as The Big Red One, Sahara, and Saving Private Ryan.

It started for me back in the late 70’s, when Saturday afternoons would include at least one or two black and white combat films from the 40s and 50s on the local channels here in New York.  Most of them were set in the Pacific, with plots that usually involved a group of grizzly soldiers on a mission or defending their ground against impossible odds.  I must have watched hundreds of those now forgotten films back then, and while I don’t remember most of the titles, I still have a soft spot for the B combat films.

So when I was browsing the selection of films on Amazon Prime this past week, one that stood out was the 1962 World War II film Warrior’s Five starring Jack Palance.  American paratrooper Jack (played by Palance), on a mission to blow up a bridge, has been captured behind enemy lines in German occupied Italy and is held by the Italians in a military prison north of Naples.  He doesn’t crack under their interrogation and is about to be transferred to the Germans (and a more intense methods of interrogation) when they receive word that Italy has signed an unconditional surrender to the Allies.  As the Italian prisoners storm out of the prison, the commandant simply opens the gate and lets Jack walk free.

A group of five Italian prisoners, led by the sticky fingered Sergeant Marzi (Folco Lulli) plan to make their way to Naples and the protection of the Americans.  They ditch their uniforms and hawk a stolen cannon to for a few lire and second hand suits to start their journey.

But despite the armistice, the German army still controls the area.  And as Jack heads to his radio and weapons stash to relay his position to the American army, Marzi and his four Italian cohorts (Alberto, Libero, Conti and Sansone) fight the crowd at the local railroad station and hop a train to Naples and the protection of the Allied soldiers.  Shortly after the the train pulls out of the station, a group of women led by the strong willed and not shy about it Italia (played by Giovanna Ralli) use their charm stop the train in the middle of the countryside and hitch a ride.  It seems like it will be an uneventful journey, until one of the women convinces the conductor to stop the train along a vineyard so the starving passengers can eat the grapes.  As they tear apart a poor family’s vineyard, three armed German soldiers appear.  Despite being armed with machine guns, the scared young German soldiers are overpowered by the mob and killed.

When a squad of German soldiers discovers the dead bodies, they set a trap for the train at the upcoming railway station and arrest all of the passengers.  Marzi anticipates the trap, and the five Italian prisoners and Italia sneak away through a tunnel.  While resting at a stream, they spot one of Jack’s empty ration cans and track him down.  Along their way to the American line they reach a minefield with two dead paratroopers.  Marzi and Alberto brave the minefield to scavenge their supplies, but the fragile Conti has had enough and runs off to his hometown.

Jack, Italia and the remaining four warriors hole up at a nearby farm.  Jack recruits Alberto (and pays Marzi) to help him blow up the Galliano bridge to slow down the German drive toward the allies at Anzio.  But when they learn that Conti’s hometown of Altano is being held hostage by German soldiers hell bent on finding the American behind their lines, even if it means killing innocent local men, Jack, Alberto, Marzi, Libero and Sansone take their guns in an attempt to liberate Altano.

Some versions of the movie poster have a grindhouse quality with actress Giovanna Ralli taking up more space than lead actor Jack Palance, which takes away from the fact that Warriors Five is less an action film than a drama about the effect of World War II on the Italian population.  With a steely eyed leading man (Palance), strong willed leading lady and a small band of vagabonds in a war torn country, this is exactly the type of movie Quentin Tarantino would have remade.  Thankfully he didn’t, because it’s the simplicity of Warrior’s Five that makes this an enjoyable film (as was the original Inglorious Bastards), and a remake wouldn’t have had the grit, only caricature.

Warriors Five isn’t a classic, but the story still packs a punch with the human drama of life in German occupied Italy and the gravity of the warriors’ impromptu mission.  The film’s score is a bit uneven, and at times unable to successfully transition between the dramatic and the lighthearted.  Despite the low budget, director Leopoldo Savona utilizes a strong cast and the Italian countryside to create a hard hitting war drama that balances action with empathy for the disillusioned Italian prisoners of war randomly brought together for a noble cause in their war ravaged homeland.

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Movies For Memorial Day 2014

With Memorial Day coming up on Monday May 26th, I’d like to take this moment to thank all veterans and active members of the armed forces for their service and sacrifice.

Every Memorial Day weekend I scan the TV listings, Netflix and Amazon Instant Video for some of the best military themed films to watch.  More than a few of the films listed below have been included on previous Movies For Memorial Day posts (Sergeant York, Band of Brothers, Gallipoli, The Big Red One, and The Best Years of Our Lives to name a few), but I also try to find a few lesser known films as well.  This year it’s an even mix of old favorites and new additions.  And while the films scheduled on Turner Classic Movies have made up the majority of my recommendations over the last couple of years, this year’s list is mostly made up of films available on Amazon Instant Video and Netflix.

On Turner Classic Movies (all times listed are EST):

Saturday, May 24th

1:45 PM – The Steel Helmet (1951)
3:15 PM – Objective, Burma! (1945)

Sunday, May 25th

12:00 PM – Mr. Roberts (1955)

Monday May, 26th

7:30 AM – Sergeant York (1941)
6:00 PM – The Fighting Sullivans (1944)
8:00 PM – Twelve O’Clock High (1949)
10:30 PM – The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

On Amazon Instant Video:

Medal of Honor (2008)*
Gallipoli (1981)*
Wings (1927)*
Taking Chance (2009)*
Fixed Bayonets! (1951)*
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
The Longest Day (1962)
Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)
The Big Red One (1980)
Pork Chop Hill (1959)
The Green Berets (1968)
We Were Soldiers (2002)
Hamburger Hill (1987)
The Fighting 69th (1940)
* = Amazon Prime

Netflix:

Restrepo (2010)
Ken Burns: The War (2007)

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Movies for Memorial Day 2013

The Big Red One Copyright 1980 Warner Bros.

The Big Red One
Copyright 1980 Warner Bros.

With Memorial Day coming up on Monday 5/27, I would like to thank all veterans and active members of the armed forces for their service and sacrifice.

Every Memorial Day Weekend my ritual is to check the TV listings for the war movies I grew up watching, classic war films I haven’t seen before, and a Band of Brothers marathon.  Judging by this weekend’s TV schedule, most of the films I’ll be watching this weekend will be on Turner Classic Movies and streaming video.

Here’s a list of notable movies this weekend (all times listed are EST):

On Turner Classic Movies:

Saturday, May 25:
Sergeant York (1941) 10:30 PM

Sunday, May 26:
Back to Bataan (1945) 11:00 AM
They Were Expendable (1945) 1:00 PM
The Green Berets (1968) 3:30 PM
Battleground (1949) 8:00 PM

Monday, May 27:
The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) 6:15 AM
The Best Years of Our
Lives (1946) 5:00 PM

On Netflix:
The Battle of Britain (1969)
Von Ryan’s Express (1965)

On Amazon Instant Video:
The Big Red One (1980)
Gallipoli (1981)
Sahara (1943)
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
We Were Soldiers (2002)
Band of Brothers (2001)
Fixed Bayonets (1950)

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Movies for Memorial Day

With Memorial Day coming up on Monday 5/28, I would like to thank the all active members and veterans of the armed forces for their service and sacrifice.

One of my favorite movie genres has always been the combat film.  Not so much for the action sequences, but for the characters.  Growing up in the 70’s, there was always a WWII or Korean War film playing on Saturday afternoons.  Some of my favorites:

Sahara, Battlefront, Von Ryan’s Express, The Great Escape, The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Steel Helmet, The Green Berets, and Sergeant York

Some notable films to watch on TV this Memorial Day weekend:

Turner Classic Movies:

The Steel Helmet (Sunday 5/27 at 4:45 PM)
Sergeant York  (Sunday 5/27 at 8:00 PM)
Tora! Tora! Tora! (Sunday 5/27 at 10:30 PM)

The Green Berets (Monday 5/28 at 9:15 PM)
The Great Escape (Monday 5/28 at 11:00 PM)

Spike TV will run a marathon of all ten episodes of Band of Brothers on Monday 5/28 from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM.

Of all of the war films I’ve seen, Sam Fuller’s The Big Red One (1980) is my favorite of the bunch.

Written and directed by the legendary Sam Fuller, this film was a based on his personal experiences as a GI in World War II.  The main character Private Zab (played in the film by Robert Carradine) is based on Fuller.  The film follows The Sergeant (played by Lee Marvin) and four members of his squad called The Four Horsemen (played by Carradine, Kelly Ward, Bobby DiCicco, and Mark Hamill) through Africa and Europe from 1943-1945.  But this film only scratches the surface of Sam Fuller’s experiences during the war.  I highly recommend Fuller’s autobiography A Third Face for more about this part of his life.

I had the opportunity to interview Mark Hamill at the 2011 New York Comic Con.  He was there to promote a comic book project he was involved with, but I couldn’t help asking him about his experience working with both Sam Fuller and Lee Marvin on The Big Red One:

Hamill:  Oh my God, it was one of the greatest experiences of my life.  I learned more about World War II from them than I ever learned in history books.  Because they were both veterans.  With all due respect to Steven Spielberg, it’s second hand from him.  With Sam you’d go “This is crazy, why would I do this?”  And he would say “Well I’ll tell ya it wasn’t you, it was a guy by the name of Colowitz, and he was handsome like you…”  And he would tell you what really happened!  It was just probably the most profound experience of my career.  I can’t think of a director I like better than Sam.  And Lee Marvin was not only a brilliant actor but an amazing storyteller and a hilarious person.  Boy was he funny.  And I could make him laugh, which he loved.  He loved to laugh.  He was not an attention hog, he loved to hear stories from you.  Yeah, he was fantastic.

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