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Battleground
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Product Description

A squad of the 101st airborne division copes with being trapped in the besieged city of bastogne during the battle of the bulge. Studio: Warner Home Video Release Date: 02/14/2006 Starring: Van Johnson Ricardo Montalban Run time: 118 minutes Rating: Nr

Director William Wellman (The Big Heat) offered up this 1949 treatment of the Battle of the Bulge, which won Oscars for best screenplay and best cinematography. The film concentrates on the camaraderie and the divisions between the troops as they ready for the big offensive. Told in a taut narrative, the men of the 101st, led by Van Johnson, wait out the winter in the Ardennes forest to confront the German army in what would be the last major offensive of World War II. The men are demoralized and trapped, with no hope of support from the Allies as they are forced to band together and defend their position. A classically assembled war drama that nevertheless manages to be both engrossing and entertaining, Battleground is a mainstay of the genre. --Robert Lane

Customer Reviews:

  • The Original Band of Brothers
    Long before there was the miniseries "Band of Brothers", there was "Battleground." The story of the 101st Airborne's heroic stand against Germany's final massive assault in the Ardennes - commonly referred to as the "Battle of the Bulge" - and the effects of combat on regular GIs. This movie is as spectacular as it is underrated. Whereas movies such as "Patton" and "Battle of the Bulge" get much airplay and acclaim, "Battleground" sort of sneaks by under the radar, even though it was a fairly major film for its time. With stars such as James Whitmore, Richard Jaeckel, Van Johnson, Denise Darcel, and John Hodiak (did I forget a young Ricardo Montalban?), this film had a substantial talent pool. It also did what few films made today: it took a real event that was remarkable for its drama and importance, and did not overblow it. Rather, they "played it straight," and the result can be overwhelmingly powerful at times.

    "Battleground" is a black and white picture, and it makes the images of snow "feel" colder to the eye. The lack of bright red blood is not missed - you know it is there. It is conspicuous by its absence, but again, your mind knows it is there. And you get to like these guys - you really do. And it hurts when they die. Rarely do you really get to care about soldiers in a war movie, and here you really do. Maybe it's because in real life, my uncle was one of those guys at Bastogne - or perhaps it is because it is just an excellent film.

    In short, "Battleground" is easily my pick for the best film made about land combat in the European Theater (for air combat, I would say "12 O'Clock High," and for sea, it would most likely be "Das Boot.") It is simply that outstanding a movie, and if I could, I would replace the annual Patton-fest on Ted Turner's networks with it (not to short-change George C. Scott, even though he got the voice all wrong.)

    If you want a great WW2 movie, get "Battleground." You will thank me. ...more info
  • OMG! My dad is portrayed in this movie. Is yours?
    My father, Everest R. Kenne, died in the 1970's. I knew he'd served in the battle of the Bulge and had frozen feet in the process. He was made acting sergeant at the time and remained on the front lines despite his painful condition until he was made a cook. Can you imagine my surprise recently discovering he'd been portrayed by James Whitmore in this 1950 movie? Admittedly, he is depicted as a bit rougher character than the man I knew, and never chewed tobacco as depicted in the movie. His name is misspelled as well, in the credits as "Kinnie".

    I watched the film last night and though it doesn't compare to Band of Brothers, which more fully depicts men enduring the harshness and desperation of the same battle, Battleground is a worthy offering and stands the test of time.


    ...more info
  • Top Notch War Flick!
    Excellent story of the 101st Airborne at the Siege of Bastone. This was probably the most famous of the battles held by the Americans. The movie shows life in the filth, mud, and snow quite well. You of course, don't get the true story of the whole battle, movies don't do this well except in documentarys.

    Filmed in 1949 this movie stars a lot of people who had actually seen the elephant.

    Van Johnson didn't serve in the army due to a plate in his head from a motorcycle accident. But James Whitmore was (I believe) a Lt. in the USMC in the South Pacific. Some of the others had been in the war also.

    One of the three best war movies of all time, the others are Twelve O'Clock High and Command Decision....more info

  • Battleground. "A see again movie"
    Battleground is a very unique W.W.II movie. It shows the suffering and determination of the men of the 101st Airborne division. Surrounded by the enemy. Totally cut off. See how they survive. It' U.S.A. all the way! the Characters in this movie are unforgettable. Each, their own definite personality. Hardy and tough. Then showing both compassion and lightheartedness to downright funny to brave their anxiety in the dilemma they were hoisted to. Great acting. great casting! It is truly a must see movie....more info
  • Triumph under fire
    Being entitled Battleground you might think this film to be non-stop combat, but it isn't. It is so much more than an ordinary "war" film. One won't spy a tank in this film, for instance, until more than 90 minutes into this story; the story of the boys of the 101st who held out in Bastogne until the skies permitted aerial support to come to the rescue in this Battle of the Bulge. Skirmishes there are, however, up until this point, as a prelude---seemingly---to that which will ultimately test them; in which these soldiers show their individual mettle as well as insecurities. It's the story of a historically significant moment, but told from the vantage point of foxholes, in other words, and the GIs that dug them, holed up in them, and sprung from them to engage hostile German combatants. Van Johnson and company are convincing & the direction in this film is commendable. A number of scenes and/or specific camera shots are simply well framed & thus add to the dramatic effect of the lines being delivered by members of this fine cast. There are not that many World War Two-era films as well presented as this one. Do give it a chance (but keep in mind that it's a measured film---almost 2 hours in length, & more dramatic than action-packed). My only complaint herein or rather wish would be that they would've filmed more of Battleground beyond MGM's sound stage doors---dialogue in one particular street scene, for instance (wherein troop trucks roll into a town) bares the traces of an indoor echo. In addition, the artificial snow utilized is no better than passably realistic at times. (Do also catch another fine 'Bulge' story entitled Saints and Soldiers). (04Dec) Cheers!...more info
  • A film to know Van Johnson
    When I heard of Van Johnson's passing, I immediately recalled seeing this film on TCM a couple of times. This was a great war film and a very fine performance for Van Johnson. He was an actor who was hard for me to pin down and he suffered from some poor films, but he always conveyed the look of a person whom you would be glad to know. This is true for this film too. The other cast members were also effective. This is a story that does not try to make false heroes. I got the feeling that the emotions were true for someone caught in this type of extreme stress. For many reasons, this is a film worth keeping....more info
  • So-So WWII Film
    I was really looking forward to watching this movie when I received a VHS copy as a Birthday present.
    Unfortunately, there are only a couple of combat scenes in BATTLEGROUND.
    Where are the 7 crack German Divisions that surrounded Bastogne during late December of 1944? Where are the German Tanks, vehicles, and equipment?
    All we get to see are a handful of Germans, and most of them are disguised as American Soldiers!
    The entire movie is centered around a platoon of 101st GIs who wisecrack bad jokes all day.
    Van Johnson is a Terrible lead actor.
    To me, the only good war films are ones that portray the Enemy as well as the Friendlies.
    BATTLEGROUND is simply another post-WWII Hollywood film that celebrates American ego and arrogance....more info
  • Battleground Blew Me Away
    I'm not sure how acurate this film is but it gives the same feel as the "Band of Brothers" version, which I also liked very much. This 1949 version is less gory but still portrays a very anti-war message. "Battleground" is well directed and as realistic as they come. I have been watching war films for twenty-five years and I wonder why I have never seen this film until today? Definitely waiting for the DVD....more info
  • Still the classic World War II movies about American G.I.s
    The first twenty minutes of "Saving Private Ryan" raised the bar on the realism of war film in terms of the portrayal of the violent hell of combat. But in terms of showing us in a movie what it was like to be combat troops in World War II, the standard still remains the 1949 film "Battleground," directed by William Wellman (and I say this having loved "Band of Brothers"). The film won Oscars in 1950 for Robert Pirosh's script and Paul Vogel's black & white cinematography, and was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (James Whitmore), and Best Editing (John D. Dunning).

    The setting for "Battleground" is the besieged city of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge and focuses on I Company of the 101st Airborne. Pirosh had based the story on his own experiences during the battle, which including the details like Private Kippton (Douglas Fowley) always losing his false teeth and Private Rodriguez (Ricardo Montalban), who came from L.A. and had never seen snow before he got to Belgium. The situation was pretty simple: the Germans have Bastogne surrounded and the 101st is short on food and ammunition. Sgt. Kinnie (Whitmore) and the men of I Company have there sector to control, so they sit in the freezing cold, waiting for the Germans to attack and praying for the cloud cover to lift so they can get air support and supplies.

    I am sure I am not the other kid from my generation who learned to do the cadence call of "Sound off," not knowing that it came from older kids who had seen this movie. This is a movie full of memorable scenes: Private Holley (Van Johnson) trying to make eggs, a checkpoint exchange that shows the importance of knowing baseball terminology like "Texas Leaguer," and a befuddled German officer trying to understand if General McAulliffe's infamous reply of "Nuts" to the demand for the 101st's surrender is a negative or an affirmative response.

    For me the key moment in the film comes when I Company finally receives supplies dropped from C-47s. These guys have been freezing and pretty much starving for a week, and when they open up crates of SPAM and K-Rations, they are clearly disappointed. It is not until they find ammunition that they finally get excited. The montage of defeating the Germans is superfluous at that point, because the look in the eyes of these guys captures the moment even better.

    In terms of realism I do have one slight knock on this film, in that I Company is atypical because they had winter coats (compare with the Bastogne episode of "Bad of Brothers"), but that is rather secondary to the point of this film, which is to celebrate the citizen soldier. As Holley explains to a major, "PFC" means "praying for civilian." Even when the Chaplain (Leon Ames) answers the big question, as to why these guys had to leave their families and jobs to fight in Europe, in has less to do with fascist ideology and more with the idea that the Germans were bullies throwing their weight around and killing a lot of people.

    Still, "Battleground" comes down to the guys in I Company, Jarvess (John Hodiak), "Pop" (George Murphy), Layton (Marshall Thompson), Spudler (Jerome Courtland), Standiferd (Don Taylor), Hansan (Herbert Anderson), Bettis (Richard Jaeckel), Doc (Thomas E. Breen), and Sgt. Walowizc (Bruce Cowling). There is a tendency to make fun of the idea of the melting pot nature of these units, but we are talking diversity in terms of ethnicity more than racial lines and is certainly in keeping with everything I have read about the 101st. The humor in the trenches is a lot grimmer than you hear in most of these movies, an advantage of being made several years after the war ended (compare it with Wellman's 1945 film "Story of G.I. Joe").

    This film is more about the psychology of war, putting up with the weather, the lack of supplies, the Germans trying to get them to surrender and showing up dressed in American uniforms, and keeping up morale than it is about actual fighting. That makes it rather unique in terms of movies about World War II in general or the Battle of the Bulge in particular. "Battleground" remains one of the classic films about grunts in the army....more info

  • Collection of the best
    Battleground is a true classic about WWII made only a few years after the war. It boasts an all-star cast of Van Johnson, Marshall Thompson, John Hodiak, James Whitmore, Don Taylor, Ricardo Montalban and many other notable faces. The story follows members of the 101st Division before and during the battle of the Bulge, especially the seige of Bastogne. All the performances are great. The movie gives an excellent idea of what being a soldier is actually like. These men aren't gung-ho soldiers bent on killing. They are just hoping to survive the war. Excellent movie, not to be missed....more info
  • Best B&W war film!
    Others have given good informational reviews in regard to the story -- it's about The Battle of The Bulge during WWII (I actually had an uncle killed there!). This is, in my opinion, the finest B&W war film ever made. It's realistic and fairly historically accurate, especially regarding the misery that the soldiers endured. Buy it -- it's a fine movie....more info
  • It only gets better
    I have seen this movie MANY times over the years of my life and I just appreciate it more and more. The star studded cast is too long to mention but is a plus in aiding a storyline worth only 4 stars. If you read your history books then you know this movie is based on the 'Battle of the Bulge' in WWII France.

    Keeping my reviews pragmatic, as usual, I will say that it is truly amazing how humorous scenes are blended into what is really a horrific wartime situation for the American G.I. With death and destruction all around them the American soldiers manage to maintain some sensibilty and step up to face each and every enemy encounter. This is even a good movie that the whole family can watch and get something out of. Time well spent. Buy it. Enjoy it. I did....more info
  • The Best WW II Movie Ever Made
    "Battleground" is the best movie of WW II ever made. The characters are strongly and clearly drawn and the action is, for the most part, realistic. The realism of the movie is also due to it being filmed in black & white, with some inserts near the end of actual combat footage. The interesting fact is that while it continues to be seen on the movie channels and remains popular, a restored DVD version has yet to be produced and marketed....more info
  • Defending Bastogne!
    I'm a fan of WWII films and in these last days I was able to see & enjoy some gems of the genre that I've been searching for a long time.

    "Battleground" (1949) is a great World War II movie, directed by William Wellman, who is also responsible of such great movies as "A Star is Born" (1937) winning an Oscar as writer and was nominated for best director; "Beau Geste" (1939) and "The Ox-Bow Incident" (1943). IMHO "Battleground" is his best movie.
    The present film, represents a new approach to war movies, stark reality is shown, almost as realistic as in "Saving Private Ryan" (1998) or "Band of Brothers" (2001), with less gory but equal drama.

    The story is about a Company of the famous "Screaming Eagles" marched to fill a gap in the front pending the last German intent at the western front.
    They end at Bastogne surrounded by German troops in the hardest winter in years & without aerial support.
    Heroic yet every-day man the troops resist whatever the enemy throw them, starting a legend of endurance and sacrifice.

    Playacting is really good with Van Johnson as Holley, George Murphy as Pop Stazak, Ricardo Montalban as Roderigues and Denise Darcel as Denise.

    B&W photography in charge of Oscar winner Paul Vogel enhances the film by accentuating the desolate winter landscape and music composed by Lennie Hayton is top notch. Another high-point of the film is the excellent script done by Robert Pirosh.

    It is a very commendable movie for all those interested in war films.
    Reviewed by Max Yofre.
    ...more info
  • one of the best depictions of what it was like during the Battle of the Bulge from the American point of view
    What I really liked was the acting by the veteran actors (meaning experienced in the acting, not necessarily in the military sense). My favorite was James Whitmore as the tobacco chewing, gritty sergeant who kept going although his feet were frozen. Van Johnson, Ricardo Montalban, Jim Arness, Richard Jaekel and others were fantastic in their memorable roles. I will always remember Van Johnson's character with the raw eggs dripping off his steel pot. That scene where the GI is blowing smoke rings in the face of the German soldier while negotiations were going on with General McAuliffe (who answered the Germans with "Nuts!) showed the termity and stubborness of the 101st Airborne at Bastogne. I remembered those scenes when I saw it back in the 1950's as a kid. They always will be with me. They showed how human the GI was.

    Technically, it is not at the same level as Saving Private Ryan, but at that time the expertise. This was before Stephen Ambrose got veterans involved in telling their stories and in the making of movies. Sure I would have liked to see more of the German soldiers and tanks, but the movie reflected the times....more info
  • A classic war movie
    I have watched this movie so often that I had to buy a new tape recently. This is an excellent story about the 101st AirBorne, giving us a glimpse at what it was possibly like at that time. This film deserves the title Classic, and should be put on DVD....more info
  • Still the classic World War II movies about American G.I.'s
    The first twenty minutes of "Saving Private Ryan" raised the bar on the realism of war film in terms of the portrayal of the violent hell of combat. But in terms of showing us in a movie what it was like to be combat troops in World War II, the standard still remains the 1949 film "Battleground," directed by William Wellman (and I say this having loved "Band of Brothers"). The film won Oscars in 1950 for Robert Pirosh's script and Paul Vogel's black & white cinematography, and was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (James Whitmore), and Best Editing (John D. Dunning).

    The setting for "Battleground" is the besieged city of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge and focuses on I Company of the 101st Airborne. Pirosh had based the story on his own experiences during the battle, which including the details like Private Kippton (Douglas Fowley) always losing his false teeth and Private Rodriguez (Ricardo Montalban), who came from L.A. and had never seen snow before he got to Belgium. The situation was pretty simple: the Germans have Bastogne surrounded and the 101st is short on food and ammunition. Sgt. Kinnie (Whitmore) and the men of I Company have there sector to control, so they sit in the freezing cold, waiting for the Germans to attack and praying for the cloud cover to lift so they can get air support and supplies.

    I am sure I am not the other kid from my generation who learned to do the cadence call of "Sound off," not knowing that it came from older kids who had seen this movie. This is a movie full of memorable scenes: Private Holley (Van Johnson) trying to make eggs, a checkpoint exchange that shows the importance of knowing baseball terminology like "Texas Leaguer," and a befuddled German officer trying to understand if General McAulliffe's infamous reply of "Nuts" to the demand for the 101st's surrender is a negative or an affirmative response.

    For me the key moment in the film comes when I Company finally receives supplies dropped from C-47s. These guys have been freezing and pretty much starving for a week, and when they open up crates of SPAM and K-Rations, they are clearly disappointed. It is not until they find ammunition that they finally get excited. The montage of defeating the Germans is superfluous at that point, because the look in the eyes of these guys captures the moment even better.

    In terms of realism I do have one slight knock on this film, in that I Company is atypical because they had winter coats (compare with the Bastogne episode of "Bad of Brothers"), but that is rather secondary to the point of this film, which is to celebrate the citizen soldier. As Holley explains to a major, "PFC" means "praying for civilian." Even when the Chaplain (Leon Ames) answers the big question, as to why these guys had to leave their families and jobs to fight in Europe, in has less to do with fascist ideology and more with the idea that the Germans were bullies throwing their weight around and killing a lot of people.

    Still, "Battleground" comes down to the guys in I Company, Jarvess (John Hodiak), "Pop" (George Murphy), Layton (Marshall Thompson), Spudler (Jerome Courtland), Standiferd (Don Taylor), Hansan (Herbert Anderson), Bettis (Richard Jaeckel), Doc (Thomas E. Breen), and Sgt. Walowizc (Bruce Cowling). There is a tendency to make fun of the idea of the melting pot nature of these units, but we are talking diversity in terms of ethnicity more than racial lines and is certainly in keeping with everything I have read about the 101st. The humor in the trenches is a lot grimmer than you hear in most of these movies, an advantage of being made several years after the war ended (compare it with Wellman's 1945 film "Story of G.I. Joe").

    This film is more about the psychology of war, putting up with the weather, the lack of supplies, the Germans trying to get them to surrender and showing up dressed in American uniforms, and keeping up morale than it is about actual fighting. That makes it rather unique in terms of movies about World War II in general or the Battle of the Bulge in particular. "Battleground" remains one of the classic films about grunts in the army....more info