Armored Command - Released July 9, 1969. Directed by Byron Haskin
I felt sorry for Howard Keel while watching Armored Command. For the most part, it seems like he's in a completely different Armored Command (a better one) than the other half which features Tina Louse, Burt Reynolds and Earl Holliman (in the not so good half).
This film's split-story style keeps the two separate pieces apart, only crossing paths in a few places, with Keels' no-nonsense Colonel Devlin using step-by-step detective skills to build a case to predict an imminent German Panzer attack 1 and this makes Armored Command move along like a pretty-good war film. The other Armored Command bogs down in melodrama about an army platoon with a female spy in their midst, with more than a bit of soap opera thrown in. 2
Director Haskin treats Tina Louise well with a lot of carefully-lighted and directed scenes to show off her beauty and acting, but the script (from Ron Alcorn) is loaded with predictable dialogue (some of it unintentionally laughable). Earl Holliman (as good-natured Sgt. Mike) has the thankless task of being cuckolded by Burt Reynolds (as Skee) who is a creepy rapist (but Alcorn's script gives him compensating values, such as being a good cook and skillful with a 50-calibre machine gun). In the end Burt gets shotgunned by his rape victim.
The script tries to deal intelligently with the human element of the platoon and its tragic story of betrayal, but when Colonel Devlin's prophesied German assault finally arrives 3 it is very welcome.
Armored Command can't make up it's mind whether Tina Louise's spy is to be pitied or loathed, whether Mike is too naive or too thick-headed, and whether Burt is a despicable rapist or a regular soldier who lost his way due to the rigors of war. Director Haskin and cinematographer Ernest Haller provide good visuals for the screen but there is too much confusion everywhere else.
Good stunt work and battle scenes, but there's repetition in footage (the same tank formation and muddy soldiers pass before our eyes doing the exact same movements) and the sound effects eventually sound like a stuck vinyl LP.
If you like Patton tanks there's plenty here to look at. This same anti-historical use of the M-48 shows up in the 1970 film titled, ironically, Patton.
Filming in Germany for Armored Command gives the film's scenery and combat sections authenticity (and Director Haskin is very good at lining up a camera). It looks cold out on the wintery landscape colored with a moody black and white chiaroscuro. I certainly enjoyed looking at Armored Command more than listening to it or trying to follow the story.
Howard Keel's clever Colonel Devlin saves the American flank from the German attack but he can't save this movie. Holliman, Louise and Reynolds are badly served by the script and editing.
1. [Actually, repainted Patton tanks]↩
2. [Tina is the spy, and the character isn't German, but Alcasian, from that strip of land that France and German fight over periodically century after century]↩
3. [Devlin's superiors listen to his carefully constructed and logical reasons for why the Germans are coming through his sector, but in the end they always respond "it's impossible!" and "Stop telling us!"]↩
Original Page August 18, 2017
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