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The early episodes are a bit shaky because the show is still trying to find its feet. The use of Shecky Greene for comedy relief was an interesting idea, but those situations don't really seem to fit the rest of the show. But as I progress, the shows keep getting stronger, more confident. Yes, more happens to this platoon than would happen to any other unit that size. But, it's TV after all and they keep trying to mix up the scenario to add different plot lines.
Some of the themes considered in what I've seen so far: -The struggle of a new man replacing an old vet. -Challenging a collaborationist to help the resistance (with a good ending!) -How the constant stress of war can break men (a popular theme). -A child trying to join the war, then finding out what that really means.
I also beg to differ with one of the comments made by another reviewer. The platoon doesn't always have what they need. On the contrary, many of the episodes have, at the their heart, the platoon struggling with what they don't have or can't do. I applaud the folks who put this show together. I especially applaud the fact that Germans regularly speak German and French characters regularly speak French and there are no subtitles. Yes, these characters speak English when needed. However, the show often has the men struggling with basic communication and "Caje" is always being asked to translate. A nice touch.
So, if you rent this show, you'll get a pretty decent experience. These episodes will not have the graphic violence of today's military pictures. But the show was perfectly ready to grapple with some pretty complex and tough questions. An admirable effort for its time!
I used to think that Rick Jason as Lt. Hanley was soooo handsome! But I best loved Pierre Jalbert as Caje - ruggedly handsome, stoical, lethal to Germans in a firefight. "Caje, take the point," said it all: when Chip Saunders's chips were down he put Caje out front. (Jalbert is a Québecois, not a Louisiana Cajun, which explains his squad-saving fluency in French.)
There was another WWII TV series, 'The Gallant Men', that debuted the same season as 'Combat!' Even as a child I picked up on the rifle fire sound effects paradox between the two shows: in 'Combat!' the M-1 Garands made the the sound of the German Mausers in 'The Gallant Men', but in 'The Gallant Men' the sound effects swapped weapons & armies! I always liked 'Combat!' better than 'The Gallant Men' so that when 'The Gallant Men' was cancelled after one season I thought the better show had survived.
'Combat!'s' writers & directors did well for their time. This was long before gore was shown graphically on TV or in cinema, but the scripts tried hard, and often succeeded, in conveying the privation, filth, & stress of infantry fighting. My uncle is a veteran of Omaha Beach & he didn't think 'Combat!' was realistic, though he never said a word about his own wartime experiences: I suspect they were more like those of the first thirty minutes of 'Saving Private Ryan' & that he wasn't eager to revisit those times even though it's certain they never left him.
'Combat!' often made the German soldiers look like robotic dolts - which they most certainly were not (stats tell grimly that German soldiers inflicted more casulaties per man than any other WWII army). But it's important to be mindful that 'Combat! is Hollywood, not the European Theater of Operations.
For now, gang: "Checkmate King Two to White Rook: Out." (Not bad for a girl, huh?!)
Jason has the most revealing comments. He was suppose to carry the machine gun that Saunders carried. Apparently it was common for the junior officers to have the machine gun. However as an avid hunter and gun user he knew how heavy it would be carry the gun around during the long shoots. Eventually they made a lighter wooden replica for Saunders to carry.
Morrow hated guns according to Jason and would not even shoot skeet with him. Jason said Morrow was one of the most talented directors on the show. Jason's best episodes he said are the ones that Morrow directed such as The Pillbox. My favorite story was Jason's retelling of Morrow's direction for the two parter Hills are for Heroes.
The two part episode took 21 extra days to shoot and cost ABC an extra $300,000. They sent memos complaining to Morrow about the extra time and money that the two part episode cost them. According to Jason, Morrow used the ABC memos to light his cigarettes!
Around Christmastime last year I rediscovered the series on the Encore Action Channel, just after becoming a DirecTV subscriber.
What incredible serendipity! Only weeks before I had been thinking about Combat! and the characters that were so familiar to me as a boy. When I saw the series on the listings I thought, "Maybe I'll tape it and see if it was really as good as I remember it. Can my cloudy kid's memory have inflated its quality, the way our reminiscences often do to the pleasant times of our youth?" I would find out.
I played back an episode "Any Second Now," where Lt. Hanley was trapped in a bomb-damaged church, next to the very unexploded bomb that cratered the interior of the sanctuary. His only hope for release lay in the unsteady hand of a British bomb defuser who had lost his nerve. While this episode turned out to be far from the best Combat! episode filmed, it was good enough to eclipse most of the finest episodes of television dramas of the last 30+ years. I was so impressed with my re-introduction to this WWII drama that I had to share it with my wife. She, as I, had become hooked.
Over the last three months we have seen nearly every episode of this classic series. We are left with many impressions, among them the sad thought of what an immense artistic talent was lost when Vic Morrow met his untimely death. His direction of several Combat! episodes shows as much cinematic vision as three Spielbergs put together. The two-part Combat story "Hills are for Heroes," which Morrow directed, is more solid and inspired than even most theatrical movies of the last three decades.
That said, "Hills are for Heroes" has to be the finest two hours ever written (by Gene L. Coon) and filmed for television. This is not hyperbole. I challenge anyone who has seen it to confess to me that they were NOT totally emotionally drained after sitting through it. The performances of both the regulars and the guest stars are far more gripping and immediate than conventional TV performances of the day, or even today. Even better than most performances in theatrical movies, as well.
(A special note must go to the performance of Jack Hogan as the emotionally harried Private William G. Kirby, who truly let us, the audience, feel what it was like to be ordered to take a hill that you knew only God and His angels could take.)
There are dozens of Combat! episodes that deserve status nearly as high on my list as "Hills are for Heroes," but I could ramble even further if I try to name them here. Better to see the show for yourself. No show captured the human side of World War II the way Combat! did.
I encourage anyone who has not yet seen this superb classic war drama to give it a try. You WILL be hooked. And you will feel that, for a brief time, you really were a member of King Company's heroic Second Platoon, serving under Lt. Hanley and Sgt. Saunders, driving the Germans from occupied France in the summer and fall of 1944.
As of this writing, you can see two episodes back-to-back per weekday on the Encore Action Channel, noon Eastern (USA), 9:00 a.m. Pacific (USA).
"Combat!" was one of ABC's most successful show and went on to develop a huge following of loyal fans which remains to this day. The series regulars were superb and believable especially with the main characters of Vic Morrow,Rick Jason,along with Jack Hogan(Kirby),Conlan Carter(Doc),Dick Peabody(Littlejohn),Pierre Jalbert(Caje)were in some aspects lifelong brothers in the fight,depending on each other each week to get through some of the tightest situations even when they were assigned to dangerous missions. Not to mention a line-up of guest stars that came on board each week ranging from additional squad members or playing evil Nazi villains. The guest stars ranged from Frank Gorshin,to Lee Marvin,Charles Bronson,Sal Mineo,Roddy McDowell,Terry Carter,Frankie Avalon,Dennis Weaver,to Claude Akins,James Whitmore to Robert Duvall and Richard Basehart among others. Even after 50 years,this was the show that had non stop action and incredible drama,and it shows in the number of Emmy nominations and wins this show received. Don't miss the best episodes of "Combat!" from the premiere episode "A Day In June" to "The Long Walk Home"(Season 2), "The Hostages"(Season 2),"The Hard Way Back"(Season 3), "Hills Are For Heroes"(Season 4),to "Ollie Joe"(Season 5),and the final episode of the series "The Partisian"(Season 5).
Happy Anniversary....for now "Checkmate King Two To White Rook:Out"
It has plenty of action as well as personal interrest. I HIGHLY recommend this show.
Also, if you are into this sort of thing, the uniforms, equipment, and vehicles are extremely accurate in detail
If you are a WWII buff or a fan of action, this definately will hit the mark. It's a shame they don't make T.V. shows like this anymore.
student. "Combat!" seemed to constantly be putting Sergeant Saunders'
squad in neat little situations wherein they would flank a German
foxhole and finish off the bumbling Germans with tossed grenades.
Private Kirby was forever looking over the dead Germans and reporting,
"They've had it." So I suppose the series gave me the urge to
participate in the bite size, video game-like challenges of war. But
when I was a sergeant in Vietnam during that war, "Combat!" was
actually shown on the military television network along with re-runs of
"Star Trek" and other shows which would offer homey nostalgia value and
escapism from the harsh realities of the war zone. Sergeant Saunders and his squad never seemed to be lugging any
equipment around while on patrol. But whenever they were in a combat
situation, Sergeant Saunders always had exactly the ordinance that was
needed. Like Mandrake the Magician, he was forever pulling out of his
open field jacket extra clips for his Thompson submachine gun, hand
grenades, and other varieties of primed explosives for the job at hand. The only time I can remember Sergeant Saunders as not having
precisely the equipment needed for the given situation was the episode
in which he participates in a cat and mouse game in an abandoned
village with a German sniper. The German is fluent in English and
attempts to persuade Saunders to surrender by calling out to him to
watch "that sign over there hanging by one hook." Then he whips out
from his position and shoots the thin piece of metal so that the sign
drops. The episode explains why Saunders does not have his Thompson
but not why he is also without his sidearm for the only time ever
during the entire five year run of the series.
I'd have to pick Combat as the better show because it's more consistently good but they shows are by their nature very similar and a good "Gallant Men" is as good as a good Combat. It's just that there are fewer of them. The writing, directing and acting on Combat is more consistently good. The characters are a little stronger overall, as well. Vic Morrow's Sgt. Chip Saunders is one of the classic TV characters of all time. Rick Jason's Lt. Gil Hanley is almost as good, (but forgotten by many, for some reason). Jack Hogan's Kirby is also memorable. Pierre Jalbert as Caje and Dick Peabody as Littlejohn, (and he's the right size for it), offer strong support.
The one thing The Gallant Men has is a sardonic narrator, Robert McQueeney's war correspondent, Conley Wright. William Reynolds is a forceful Captain Benedict. Robert Ridgely is OK as Lt. Kimbro. Eddie Fontaine is good as the wheeler's dealer of the unit, Pvt. DeAngelo, but not as good as Hogan's similar Pvt. Kirby on Combat. Roland LaStarza, a former boxer who once got KO'ed by Rocky Marciano, has some good comic moments as Lucavich, but isn't much of an actor. (In one show, the soldiers talk about what they expected war to be like. Lucavich said he thought they might name a country after him. "A country named Lucavich?!?", says DeAngelo.)
Both shows were popular at the time but ABC decided they needed only one war show on it's schedule and Combat was getting the better ratings at the time so The Gallant Men was canceled after only one year. It was very disappointing to me. I had hopes that the two shows would work their way to the end of the war and meet up with each other in Germany. As it was The Gallant Men never made it to the end of the war and the Combat crew fought on for 5 years, which hardly seems fair, considering that the actually length of time from the Normandy invasion to V-E Day was only ten months. No wonder they complained about the war dragging on.
One thing the two shows had in common was the dilemma they faced in each battle. Obviously, a fire fight between a squad of American soldiers who are regulars in a TV show and a squad of German troops who are not is going to be rather one sided. The war could not have been that easy. So, if you see a guy in an American uniform who isn't one of the regulars, kiss him goodbye...
It was better than 95% of anything Hollywood has put out in the decades since.
Incredible acting, direction, the whole deal was so advanced for the time and frankly more advanced than most things out today.
This has to rank in any honest top ten list of the best episodes of any series ever filmed.
From what I read, ABC spent over $300,000 on this one episode, a great deal of money in the mid 60s for a TV series.
It was an investment that should be remembered. ABC should consider running this again, in prime time as a movie.
The show was really about humanity and drama which was aptly displayed. They must have been doing things right or people would not have tuned in every season from 1962 to 1967. My own observation is that when they changed over to color filming 2 things happened. The tactics became more unbelievable and the missions as well.
Strangely enough both the lead characters died untimely deaths.