We open on an awesome wide shot -- we can tell right away that this is not going to be just any typical Combat! episode. Look at all those soldiers!
(DA!) All those soldiers with their shirts open at the collar, especially Saunders -- yummm! Hanley doesn't look bad either.
Nice work from the actor playing the wounded ENG whose eyes Doc bandages up during the initial fight. His jerky hand movements are such a compelling, yet simple, way to convey pain and fear.
Saunders seems to be in some confusion as to where he's been shot. First he clutches his left leg, but once he's up and running with Kirby's help, the wound is in his right leg. Must be some kind of shock-induced confusion. Or an old wound flaring up from the fall -- he's been shot in one leg or the other often enough, after all.
As a director, Vic Morrow gets a bit… dramatic with his camera work sometimes, but I think he really captures the panic of a rout as everyone flounders and scrambles down the hill that first time. Also, he does a marvelous job of framing multiple people in one shot, some in the foreground and some in the back, all being interesting.
Isn't this a fabulous episode for Hanley? As he stares down those two pillboxes, you can see the cogs meshing in his brain. He gets to do some real officer-ing here, not just handing out assignments or going on secret missions.
This has long been my go-to episode when I need some major cheering up. Whenever things in Real Life start really getting me down, I watch this ep, because it reminds me that as bad as things might seem, they could be far worse. At least no one is shooting at me, or ordering me to go get shot at, or ordering me to order other people to go get shot at. Very cathartic in that way, at least for me.
(DA!) Hanley's eyelashes look positively perfect today.
There's a very nifty shot, about 16 minutes into the ep, of Hanley and Littlejohn standing next to each other. I can't recall offhand any other times when we get to see the two of them just standing side-by-side. Holy tallness, Batman!
(DA!) Doc looks mighty studly, leaning against the wall as he listens and observes. Thumbs in his pockets, head to one side… get a good look, Doc fans, he's looking extra fine today.
This is a very noisy episode -- minute after minute of mortars and gunfire, so much of it we can barely catch the dialog sometimes. I have to think that this feels more like real war than a lot of our other eps where a handful of our guys tangle with a handful of Krauts for a few minutes.
(DA!) The nice thing about this hill is that it provides ample opportunities to study our guys' assets as they repeatedly run and crawl up and down it. Hey, every cloud has to have a silver lining, right?
(DA!) And rrrrrrow, is Caje ever looking lunchable today! He hasn't got even one hair out of place after all that exercise.
Rick Jason is spectacular in this episode, isn't he? I don't mean just to look at, I mean his acting is spectacular. There's a great moment where he turns to face the guys after hearing he has to send them up there to take that hill -- he hesitates a second before he turns all the way around, it's a great touch.
(DA!) Mmmmmmmmmmm, Saunders, you are completely gorgeous today, lying on that bunk and looking all snuggle-able. If you're in need of any aid or comfort, just let me know.
You know, when Hanley argues with Kirby about whether or not taking the hill is open to discussion, they sound exactly like me wrangling with my four-year-old. And I mean that as a compliment -- they're doing a really realistic job of arguing over an impossible situation. At one point, Hanley snaps, "I've about had it with you!" I say that at least once a week these days.
Hanley and Littlejohn have some really nice bits together in this ep -- at times, they're like the two grownups talking quietly in the kitchen while the kids are playing elsewhere. It's an interesting dynamic, and how nice to see Littlejohn not be entirely relegated to the Clumsy Tall Dude spot.
And ohhhhh, Hanley and Saunders' scenes together are the cream of the crop! When Hanley says, "I'll take care of it," and Saunders responds, "I never doubted it," I could hug them both. Such wonderful, wonderful guys.
I'm trying not to gush too much about this ep, as it gets plenty of praise, and I don't want the other eps to get jealous. But really, everyone is in top form here, don't you think? I wish that when someone mentioned Vic Morrow in a conversation, other people would say, "Oh, yeah, the guy on Combat! who directed 'Hills are for Heroes.'" Because really, things like this make up his legacy, not a horrific and avoidable accident. This is what he should be remembered for.
In part two, the old Kirby-Littlejohn antagonism resurfaces. Haven't seen that for a while, and it's a nice addition of extra conflict.
Okay, is it just me or does this exchange seem familiar:
Caje: "What's the matter with him?"
Kirby: "Morgan bought it up on that hill."
Littlejohn: "They were close."
Does that remind anyone else of a scene in "Far from the Brave?" Just insert Grady Long's name in place of Morgan's. Interesting.
(DA!) Doc does a lot of picturesque leeeeeeeeeeeeeaning in this ep. A lot. If there's a wall or a table or a post around, Doc will lean on it. I'm not complaining.
The scene where Saunders tosses Hanley's line about doing your job back at him is probably my favorite moment in the series. It says so much about their friendship, their military relationship, and their individual characters. And I love Hanley's momentary smile, how he sasses back that he should've had Doc give Saunders that shot. Just totally love that moment.
In contrast, the bit where most of the guys are outside and they hear the tank has always bugged me. They turn their heads one by one as the camera brings them into frame. Wouldn't they all hear it and turn their heads at about the same time? The way this shot works, the last guy either has really bad ears or is a lot farther away from the tank than the first guy.
Why does Caje pull back after the tank gets hit? It was still a pretty good shelter for them -- shouldn't he have stuck it out up there until Hanley could get him some new orders? Now they'll have to go all the way up there again. Is running back down that hill just a habit they've got now?
This is pretty close to the end of season four, and yet Caje says, "This war's just getting started." Gee, there's a happy thought.
I love Kirby's little foot stomp when he yells "No!" at Hanley at the end. A brilliant touch from Jack Hogan.
Finally, is it my imagination, or is Saunders walking precisely in time to the music during the final shot of them heading back down the road?