Cast a Giant Shadow (1966)    1 Stars

“Outnumbered – unarmed – unprepared – they stunned the world with their incredible victory!”

Cast a Giant Shadow (1966)
Cast a Giant Shadow (1966)

Director: Melville Shavelson

Cast:  Kirk Douglas, John Wayne, Frank Sinatra

Synopsis: The story of Col. David ‘Mickey’ Marcus, an American Army officer recruited by the yet to exist Israel to help them form an army.






With a mainly British cast supplemented by American guest stars, Cast a Giant Shadow is a big, sprawling movie that is strangely void of passion. Watching it is akin to reading an encyclopaedia entry on the subject, but with a few half-hearted domestic travails thrown in for good measure. It’s the story of Colonel David ‘Mickey’ Marcus (Kirk Douglas – Ace in the Hole, There Was a Crooked Man) and his attempts to help the newly-formed Israeli nation to form an Army to protect itself from the Arab neighbours who object to the foundation of the Jewish state on land that was once theirs. His long-suffering wife (Angie Dickinson – Sam Whiskey, Dressed to Kill) has a miscarriage while he’s away, and comely Israeli lass Magda Simon (Senta Berger) is quick to inform him that her husband, Andre “isn’t very good in bed.” Poor Andre isn’t very lucky on the battlefield either because it’s not long before he’s a casualty of war, leaving the way clear for Mickey and Magda to embark on an affair.

Israel’s battle to be recognised as a state in its own right was a difficult one, and its painful progress is reflected in Melville Shavelson’s workmanlike script for Cast a Giant Shadow. Moments of action are interspersed between all the talking, but they do little to liven up a sincere but plodding movie. The Israelis are timid, almost apologetic, fighters which bemuses and frustrates the virile, gung-ho young(ish) American. John Wayne (Stagecoach, The Shootist) gathers stars for his helmet between brief appearances during which he spars lightly with Douglas, while Yul Brynner (Anastasia, Escape from Zahrain) struggles to convince as an Israeli soldier and Frank Sinatra (The Devil at 4 O’Clock, Assault on a Queen) makes a flying visit. They’re small roles, perfect for character actors, and the presence of major stars takes us out of the story rather than adding anything to it.

Douglas gives it his best shot as Marcus, but he’s hampered by Cast a Giant Shadow’s poor script (at one point we have Marcus’s wife narrating a flashback about her husband’s exploits during WWII to her husband!) and a lack of flair.

(Reviewed 21st November 2014)

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