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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

BREAKTHROUGH (1950)

D-Day was only six years back when this B-list dramatization came out. Yet, the story already feels secondhand, an infantry tale told by rote and held together with stock war footage, a familiar cast of character types, voice-over narration for all the missing bits and one-size-fits-all story construction. (That ‘one-size-fits-all’ idea does have a military ring to it.) Still, except for some lame comic relief, it’s decent formula stuff, and proficiently helmed by Lewis Seiler with some neatly handled action sequences that stand up nicely. David Brian gets the one fresh character note as the C.O. who’s starting to wear out, and John Agar, fresh off SANDS OF IWO JIMA/’49, certainly looks the part of a ‘90 day wonder’ officer who’s too green to trust. But the main interest comes in seeing how little has changed over the years in these things. Here, a newly trained unit ships off to Normandy; battles on the beach; shit their pants; make a slow, dangerous crawl East (thanks to the shit in their pants); run into a few tanks along the way; liberate a small village, but miss that deadly sniper in the tower; earn a slice of R&R, and some feminine attention; then head back to battle after an unexpected change in command. Heck, it might be SAVING PRIVATE RYAN/’98.   . . . and that’s why mere plot synopses aren't much help.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: The not so original script was a debut credit for Joseph Breen, Jr., son of Motion Picture Production Code chief, Joseph Breen, Hollywood’s top censor. Could Warner Bros have been currying favor (or was it leverage?) for their upcoming fight to get A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE/’51 approved for release?

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