Thursday, March 08, 2012

THE TANKS ARE COMING (1951)

It's July 1944, just a month after D-Day, and the Allies are making a push through France hoping to break through the Siegfried Line into Germany. The men in Lt. Rawson's tank platoon are gung-ho about their mission until their beloved Sgt. Davis is seriously injured during a battle with a German tank. He is replaced by the cocky showoff Sgt. Sullivan (Steve Cochran); virtually all the men clash with him over one thing or another. But Rawson respects his abilities enough to let him pick his own driver, a drunkard named Tucker (George O'Hanlon, later the voice of George Jetson) who vows to stay off the sauce until they get on German soil. This choice pisses off Davis' driver Kolowicz (Paul Picerni) who becomes Sullivan's chief adversary. Other platoon members we get to know include a German-American soldier known affectionately as "Heinie," the radio man who is nicknamed "Marconi," the blustery mechanic Lemcheck, and his wet-behind-the-ears assistant Pvt. George "Ike" Eisenhower (James Dobson). After a particularly dangerous battle which pits the American 75-mm guns against the superior German 88s, Ike runs away through the rain to find a general to complain to. He has the luck to meet up with the friendly Col. Matthews who listens to Ike and tells him that the Allies have tanks with 90-mm guns on the way, and the first one he gets, he'll send to Ike. Sure enough, weeks later, such a tank arrives with a note delivering it to Ike. As the platoon moves on, Sullivan slowly changes his reckless behavior, to the point where he risks his own life heading out to save Marconi, who had himself engaged in a risky maneuver to save his platoon. Eventually, they get into Germany, where Tucker allows himself some champagne, Heinie makes contact with his grandparents, and Sullivan is recommended for a promotion.

This is an average B-war film which uses stock footage for most of its big battle scenes, though a couple of the tank fights are staged effectively. The cast of characters is the usual mix of types, and certain characters go through their predictable changes of attitude, especially Sullivan and Kolowicz. Steve Cochran (pictured above on the left) looks like a WWII hero-type, but I don't know what's up with his speaking voice—it's like he’s trying to do an American regional accent but never settled on one so he ends up sounding just theatrically bombastic. Dobson (at right) gives a good performance as the na├»ve but not stupid runt of the litter. Picerni and Carey are also good in their stock roles. The screenplay was based on a story by future cult director Sam Fuller. The biggest surprise for me was that [SPOILER] none of the main characters die; even the wounded sergeant from the beginning apparently recovers. [TCM]

No comments: