Movie Review: Armored Command (1961)
“The Hell-To-Glory Story of the 7th Army!”
Armored Command (1961)
Director: Byron Haskin
Cast: Howard Keel, Tina Louise, Warner Anderson
Synopsis: An American army unit trapped in a small town under enemy fire discovers that a spy is relaying information to the enemy.
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WARNING! This review contains SPOILERS!
Earl Holliman (Broken Lance, The Bridges at Toko-Ri) is a sergeant in charge of a small group of soldiers during the Battle of the Bulge who discover a wounded woman (Tina Louise) in a snow-covered field. They take her with them to a deserted inn on the local town as they await orders, and inevitable tensions among the soldiers soon arise.
Armored Command is a pretty dull affair for the most part. It’s really two stories combined: one tells of the growing antipathy between Holliman and one of his men (played by a young Burt Reynolds – Sam Whiskey, Deliverance) as they both get the hots for their sexy guest, unaware that she is actually an undercover agent for the Nazis, while the other focuses on the increasingly urgent attempts of officer Howard Keel (Across the Wide Missouri, Waco) to persuade his superiors that enemy troops are about to burst through his under-manned defences. Obviously, the familiar triangle is of more interest – but not by much.
The best part – and the best performance – goes to Burt Reynolds as a swaggering, arrogant alpha male with little real regard for his comrades or Holliman, who decides he’s going to have himself a little taste of Tina Louise whether she likes it or not. He’s the only character in the film who feels even marginally fleshed out, and it’s hardly surprising he has no respect for Holliman’s Sergeant, who hardly has the mark of a leader about him. None of the men seem particularly impressed by Holliman’s character – at one point he tells them to move only to have to repeat himself a moment later when they simply stand around disconsolately – although they do at least pay deference to him, unlike Reynolds. Holliman also behaves like a jealous, lovesick juvenile towards Louise – not something you expect from the film’s hero. Had the script bothered to delve further into the insecurities by which Holliman is obviously plagued, the human interest element might have been a little more absorbing, but the film just drops this sub-plot completely when the Germans advance.
Tina Louise looks improbably glamorous for her surroundings. As far as I can recall none of the soldiers think to ask her what she was doing there in that field with a bullet inside her, but then they were probably distracted by the tight-fitting sweater they manage to rustle up for her. She’s pretty good in the part (and the sweater), but it’s difficult to judge whether the feelings she displays for Hoffman are genuine or simply another dead end pursued by the writers.
Howard Keel, obviously on his uppers in comparison to a decade earlier, is in a foul mood throughout, scowling and shouting, and only briefly lightening up long enough to swig some brandy donated by the local townsfolk before he starts wondering just why they’ve given liberal quantities of the stuff to every soldier in the town. That one’s still a mystery considering they were there to free the townsfolk from the grip of Nazi tyranny.
Anyway, the final battle scenes are pretty intense, and are by far the best part of the film. It’s just a shame we have to sit through ninety minutes of turgid drama to get to it…
(Reviewed 4th November 2011)