This, like "Thunder from the Hill," is an episode I usually skipped when I was a kid.  It contains almost no Saunders, so that was an instant mark against it in my adolescent mind.  Also, I seem to recall it being kind of irritating, but I've avoided it for so long, I don't really remember why.  Guess I'll just have to watch and see!

Hey look -- another ep that starts with an artillery barrage!  Complete with creepy dead cows.  How cheery and festive!

Hanley asks today's ENG, Stark, "Can you walk, soldier?"  Uh, dude, why do you think he's sprawling there hollering for a medic?  If he could walk, he'd probably be doing it right now.

The scene where Hanley and Stark are being chased by the tank is really quite scary.  But as soon as the Kraut flings himself yowling from the turret, I lose my scared-ness and just roll my eyes.

It sounds very hollow inside the pillbox -- great foley work on this show, eh?  You know, there was a time in my life when I wanted to be a foley artist when I grew up....

Anyway, I remember the first time I watched this, back in 1994-95 some time.  I was sitting on my parents' bed with my brother, since our only TV was in Mom and Dad's room, unless one of us was sick, at which time it was moved out to the living room.  And when the words "Directed by Vic Morrow" popped up on the screen, my brother and I were quite impressed.  Even at the tender ages of ten and fourteen respectively, he and I realized it was probably a pretty big deal to have the show's star directing an episode.  And I, as a burgeoning Vic Morrow fan, felt a glow of pride for his ability to stretch himself as an artist and do more than saunter about looking tasty.  I now return you to your regularly scheduled rambling....

Isn't that creaking pillbox door creeeepy?

Stark bleeds a lot more than I'm used to seeing on Combat!.  And his jacket does seem to get more and more sodden as the ep unspools.  But does every soldier and his dog have blood type O?  Remember back in "The Wounded Don't Cry" when a whole gang of people announced they had type O blood and could donate it to help save that guy Neumann?  Maybe this is why I always wished I had type O blood... alas, no such luck.

(DA!)--Mmm, isn't Hanley rather lovely when he takes charge, bandages Stark's wound, and cheerily says, "There you are, see?  Simple as that."  I know I would feel comforted.  I'd know he was faking it, but I'd feel better.

Hey, how come the onslaught of rain makes our guys look so happy?  Remember Doc in "What're the Bugles Blowin' For?"  Hanley looks like someone just dropped a load of bourbon on the doorstep or something.

I have to giggle when Hanley tells Stark he can look forward to "three weeks in a nice clean hospital."  Have I ever mentioned my theory that Hanley's mood is entirely set by how clean and dry he is?  If he's dirty or wet or even just kind of chilly, he gets very cranky.  Not that cranky is bad -- he can look perfectly delicious when he's like that, but he's not a happy camper.  But you let him get dry and warm and put some clean clothes on him, and he's twenty flavors of cheerful.

This ep is rather noir, isn't it?  Lots of shadows in the pillbox, we get that great shot of the Krauts silhouetted against the storm outside the doorway, Mr. Director provides us with plenty of odd camera angles, and everything about this situation screams:  "This can only end in tears!"  Quite noir indeed.  How delightful!

Ich kann diese Soldaten verstehen!  Nur ein Bisschen, selbstverständlich....

(DA!)--Oh, I say, no wonder Hanley gets all the stories about being a super-spy and doing crazy lone gunman assassinations and what have you.  Check out how sexy he is brandishing that pistol!  Lots better than when he's carrying a rifle around.

Hmm, you look familiar, Herr Kraut.  You say your name is Dorfmann?  You sure we haven't met before?  Although you look younger and scarier now than I remember....

That poor second German prisoner -- first Hanley tells him to put his hands behind his neck, then to take off his coat.  I'm sorry, but even the most talented contortionist in the Munich Circus is gonna have trouble doing those both at the same time.

How come Albert Paulsen is always in these eps where the easiest option is just to shoot him?  Did his agent paint a big target on him or something?

(DA!)--Hanley should go coatless more often.  This unbulky shirtsleeves-only look is divine!  Makes him look ten years younger and ten pounds lighter.  Besides, that three-day shadow is simply delicious.  Hanley fans, feast your eyes!

Exactly where does Hanley get shot?  He's sort of clutching his side, then his arm, then he says his hand won't work to tie up prisoners.  It's the magical traveling wound!

Okay, I figured out why I didn't like this episode as a kid:  ENG Stark.  He annoys me more than anyone since Cameron Diaz!  His twitchy eye muscles, his voice, his hair, even his eyebrows and teeth annoy me!  No wonder I rarely watch this.  I just want Hanley to whack Stark on the head and put me out of my misery.

Nice sticky moral situation in this episode.  Combat! deals with those so well!  Poor Hanley can either murder three Germans by shooting them or murder one of his own men by not shooting the three Germans.  Yuck!  Glad I'm not him!  But you know what?  Stark seems to have plenty of vinegar left in him, and I really don't think he's gonna die any time soon.  He should've been a little more on-the-way-out for the moral dilemma to really work perfectly.

Um, okay, Hanley's too weak to tie up the prisoners, but he can carry Stark out of the pillbox?  And Dorffman?  And hey, if Dorffman was alive all that time, why'd he only speak up after Hanley left?  Silly Kraut.

(DA!)--When Hanley's mocking Dorffman about the aid station, he looks so very delectable.  He should mock people more often, because not only does he look good when he's sarcastically angry, he gets a very sexy harsh voice going on.

(DA!)--Also, I love that soft "oh, fine, I'll do the right thing after all" look Hanley gets a minute later.  It's completely different from the previous look, and just as yummy.

You know, I always wanted to be taller than I am, but there are definite disadvantages to being as tall as Hanley -- see him lightly whack his head on the door jamb as he carries Dorffman out?  Maybe I'm glad I'm not 6'4" after all... cuz I have enough problems smacking into things as it is....

All in all, it's a cool ep with nice moral problems and some fantastic acting from Rick Jason (he acts best under Vic Morrow's direction, have you noticed?), but I'm so annoyed by Warren Oates' performance as ENG Stark that it probably won't be one I'll watch over and over.

 

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