Friday, September 20, 2019

Make Room for Hannibal







This is my entry in the Siskel and Ebert Blogathon hosted by 18 Cinema Lane



The Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert phenomenon was at the very least a compelling tête-à-tête that appeared weekly on TV.  As early as the 1970's in various formats, the two would come on and discuss the current batch of releases in the theater, famously giving either a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" rating for each movie.  Sometimes both would agree on the rating, but then at other times they would disagree.

In particular, as to the disagreement theme, was their view of The Silence of the Lambs.  While Siskel berated the movie for lack of compelling characters and the subject matter being a little too sensitive, Ebert actually liked the movie.




I wholeheartedly agree with Ebert's take.  Yes the movie does dip a little at the end, what with the "who's behind the next door" typical horror film trope, I feel, however, that both Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins deserved their gold statuettes from the Oscars.  Hopkins in particular is extremely memorable.  You'll probably never hear the word "liver" in the same way after viewing Hopkins tell of his encounter with a census taker.  (and BTW, just in case you didn't know, that "thhpthhpthhp" he utters at the end was improvised.  It wasn't in the script.  And yet his little slurping noise is probable the one most recognizable part of the entire film..)






Both Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert have gone on to do their reviews from "the other side" now.  Siskel passed away in 1999 and Ebert left us in 2013.





Silence of the Lambs (1991):

A serial killer is on the loose.  Known by the FBI as "Buffalo Bill", he has the habit of kidnapping young girls and cutting them up, removing certain body parts, primarily skin, before disposing of the bodies.

Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster), a young recruit, is given the task of interviewing Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), a former psychiatrist who has been imprisoned because of his taste for human flesh and his propensity for killing his prey to quench his tastes.





The task is given to her by her superior and mentor Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn).  John Kenneth Muir, in his book Horror Films FAQ, suggests that Crawford is in essence a surrogate father to Clarice, since she lost her father at an early age.  He also suggests that on some level that Lecter is also somewhat of a surrogate father (sick as that may seem).





Clarice interviews Lecter, but Lecter gains the upper hand immediately, by demanding a tit for tat.  He will only talk about "Buffalo Bill" if Clarice reveals some intimate details of her own life.  The most intriguing part of this movie is that tête-à-tête, as Clarice delves into her own past and psyche in order to appease Lecter and get him to open up about his insight into the current case.

Lecter also manages to convince Clarice that a "reward" is appropriate for his insight; that is he will tell her things to help her if she can manage to get him a better arrangement within the prison.  Of course Clarice doesn't have that kind of pull, but her boss does.  But the  deal is hampered by Lecter's nemesis within the prison, the doctor/warden.  Dr. Chilton (Anthony Heald) is reluctant to give any concessions to his prisoner.  Chilton is a smarmy self-satisfied jackass, and despite the presence of Lecter and "Buffalo Bill" is probably the least appealing character in the movie.  (it's almost gratifying when his imminent end is hinted at in the ending of the film).




Through Lecter's help and some luck, eventually Clarice is able to track down "Buffalo Bill", although her luck may just run out, as the film descends into the "who's behind the next door" sequence hinted at above.

One must approach Silence of the Lambs with a bit of an open mind.  The fact is that Lecter is alternately disturbing and, at some times, even appealing as a villain.  One cannot watch this movie and expect that all will be right in the end, even if one is an optimistic idealist.  If you like your movies to be on the dark side, however, it can be a good experience.  But don't fool yourself into believing that it will be uplifting.

Well folks, time to head home.  Drive safely.

Quiggy


Saturday, September 7, 2019

Old West Meets the Monsters




This is my entry in the Costume Drama Blogathon hosted by Moon in Gemini



If Abbott and Costello can be said to have been responsible for ringing the death knell on the Universal monsters (with their comic turns in such movies as Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein), then William Beaudine can be said to have dug up the bodies and poked them with a big stick.

William Beaudine was a prolific director, although most of you may have never heard of him before.  He directed a number of the Bowery Boys films, a slew of low-budget westerns and even Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (famous for having been sued by Jerry Lewis for its characters who were deemed a knockoff of the Martin and Lewis pairings).

Beaudine's last two films featured Old West settings with characters in a battle of wits with the classic monsters of Frankenstein and Dracula.  Both films were released in 1966 as a double bill and toured the drive-in circuit.  Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter and Billy the Kid vs. Dracula may not be the top shelf fare that the originals were.  For one thing, Beaudine was not nicknamed "One Shot" for nothing.  (He apparently went to the can with the first shot no matter what happened during the shoot).

But Beaudine is not always as bad as say, Ed Wood or Ray Dennis Steckler.  Some of his output is pretty good.  Not Academy Award material, to be sure, but easily worth the investment of the hour and a half or so to check them out.  Neither of these is super great, and most of the acting is sub-par.  I'd save them for an afternoon when the lawn needs mowed but you just aren't ambitious enough to do it.  (You may decide mowing the lawn is not so bad an idea, afterwards, but be that as it may.)






















Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter and Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (1966):

The first in our double feature is a mash-up of horror and western.  In some border town there is a mysterious new neighbor, Maria von Frankenstein (Nardia Onyx), the granddaughter of the famous doctor  Frankenstein .  (so why is the title "Daughter" and not "Granddaughter"?  Your guess is as good as mine.  I lean towards budget concerns. It would have cost more money to add those 5 extra letters...)





Maria and her brother Rudolph (Steven Geray) have moved into a mansion on the hill near the town.  (and when you see the mansion from a distance you may be excused if you think of Monty Python and the Holy Grail... "It's only a model".  Actually I think its just a matte painting.)  Rudolph is Maria's brother, but looks like he might be her father.  (The actors were 27 years apart in terms of age).

The two are conducting evil experiments in which Maria is kidnapping local immigrants and replacing their brains with artificial ones in an effort to create slaves.  Which causes the immigrants to become a bit distressed.  Juanita (Estelita Rodriguez) and her parents decide to leave town.

Meanwhile the notorious outlaw Jesse James (John Lupton) and his henchman Hank (Cal Bolder) run into a bit of trouble in town.  They hook up with the remainder of the Curry gang, which includes Butch (Roger Creed) and Lonny (Rayford Barnes).  Jealous of Jesse's intervention in the gang, Lonny arranges with the sheriff (Jim Davis, yes the same actor who played Jock Ewing on "Dallas") to capture and kill Jesse for the reward on his head.

Injured, but not dead, Hank and Jesse end up meeting up with Juanita and her family.  Juanita takes Jesse and Hank to the doctor, although Juanita does have some reservations since she does not entirely trust Maria.

Which is a good thing, since Maria makes plans to use the injured Hank as her next experiment, and arranges to get Jesse out of the way by having him inadvertently turn himself in to the authorities.

You can't keep a good man down, and apparently you can't keep a bad man down either.  Jesse does his best to save the day and his friend and deal with the evil doctors, but he may not be entirely successful.






The second feature of our double feature involves another outlaw trying to hide from the authorities. In this case William "Billy the Kid" Bonney (Chuck Courtney) has gone straight and is trying to live a normal life as a ranch hand.  (Apparently no one knows William Bonney was really "Billy the Kid" as that is the name he uses.)

The only one who is aware of Billy's true identity is his fiancee' Betty (Melinda Plowman).  Betty is the daughter of the ranch owner.  Betty's uncle is on his way to take over the ranch until Betty becomes of age, but the stagecoach is attacked by Indians before it ever arrives.

As to why the stagecoach is attacked?  A vampire (he is never actually identified as "Dracula" within the movie)  killed one of the Indian maidens and they exact revenge on the riders of the stagecoach.  But the vampire was not among those killed.  Posing as Betty's uncle, the vampire becomes Mr. Underhill (John Carradine). 





Underhill has ulterior motives.  He doesn't really want the ranch.  What he wants is to ultimately make Betty his undead bride.

He is hampered in this endeavor by a pair of German immigrants Eva and Franz Oster (Virginia Christie, Walter Janovitz), both of which are suspicious of Underhill and quite sure he is a vampire.  Eva tries several times to expose him, as well as provide Betty with the accoutrements for warding off vampires (wolf's bane, crucifixes, mirrors) .

But she runs into a block by the fact that Betty doesn't believe in the foreign superstition.  And Billy is also skeptical.  Will they realize their error before it's too late?

With the monsters safely returned to heir graves (until next time) it's time to head home.  Drive safely, folks.

Quiggy





Friday, September 6, 2019

Are You Ready for Some Football? THe !st and 10 Blogathon is Underway






The football season is here.  College and high schoolfootball are in full swing and the pros just kicked off their season last night.  So Dubsism and I have a special treat to celebrate this great sport.  A blogathon.  We have several entries already, but if you have a last minute choice, go ahead and write it and we'll post it here.  Over the weekend just keep checking back to see all the football fanatics and their posts here or over at Dubsism's page;

Firstly, I give credit where credit is due to the only good version of The Longest Yard.








Realweegiemidget Reviews tells us about the football aspects of The Big Chill





Moviemovieblogblogii praises the football heroes in Popeye




The Stop Button discusses the negative side of Wildcats




Sports Chump brings us another Burt Reynolds gem Hooper







Silver Screenings gives us a look at the classic The Freshman




MovieRob gets with The Program




MovieRob also delves into The Express




MovieRob also gives us some insight  into John Wayne's Trouble Along the Way








MovieRob goes into overtime with The Fifth Quarter




My co-host Dubsism gets flagged for Necessary Roughness






More to come.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

A Yard in the Yard




This is my entry in the 1st and 10 Blogathon hosted by hosted by Dubsism and Me







Football.  My favorite sport.  And a contender for America's favorite sport.  Yes baseball is considered "America's Pastime" and maybe rightly so, but you don't see kids playing baseball in the middle of November.

In Texas football is almost a religion.  I remember some time ago there was an attempt to change the high school traditional Friday night football games to Saturday.  You would have thought they were trying to make churches change from worshiping God to worshiping Allah.  For the most part football remained the same through that todo. 

I could watch football all day long (and sometimes do).  So the uncultured female at the beginning of this movie thinks "only a moron can sit and watch two football games, one after the other" and football fanatics like myself can't help but feel a little vindicated when Crewe shoves her on her hoity-toity ass.

But, as much as this movie is about football, it's also about a guy who refuses to bend over when the man tells him to.  And Burt Reynolds is probably the only man who can pull that off with panache.  (Forget Adam Sandler and his punk-ass remake of this film.  Sandler couldn't shine Burt Reynolds' shoes...)




The Longest Yard (1974):

Paul Crewe (Burt Reynolds) is a renegade.  And a rebel.  And a misogynist.  He does what he wants, when he wants and to hell with what anyone else has to say about it.  But it gets him into trouble when he takes his girlfriend's car for a joyride after shoving her into a wall.  Which gets him arrested and sent to prison.



Warden Hazen (Eddie Albert) pulled every string in the book to get Crewe sentenced to his prison.  Because Crewe was a former NFL star and Hazen thinks Crewe could be an asset in getting his amateur prison guard team into shape.





Unfortunately, Chief Guard Capt. Knauer (Ed Lauter) doesn't want Crewe's help and uses force to convince Crewe to decline Hazen's offer.  Which leads to a battle of wills.  Hazen gives Crewe every crappy work detail he can think of to convince Crewe to change his mind.





Eventually they come to terms.  Crewe doesn't take the job of coaching the prison guards.  Instead he offers the warden an opportunity for a warm-up game.  Crewe will enlist a group of prisoners to form a team.  But Crewe is up against something else on that respect.  You see, as an NFL player he was involved in a gambling scheme in which he shaved points of off games to help win big bucks for the gamblers.

Caretaker (James Hampton): "All I'm saying is that you could have robbed banks, sold dope or stole your grandmother's pension check and none of us would have minded.  But shaving points off a football game?  Man, that's un-American."



Crewe does manage to get a few recruits by using the promise that they could kick the crap out of the guards and exact some semblance of revenge for past indiscretions put on them by the guards.  But his team is not all that good, mainly because the black prisoners refuse to play with him.  All except one.  Granville (Harry Caesar) joins the team, despite the fact that his fellow black inmates accuse of him of being a sort of "Uncle Tom".




Eventually, however, Granville helps to recruit the others after the way he is treated by the racist members of the guards.  So Crewe has a team that can play.  And they are pretty good.  So good in fact that Hazen tries to convince Crewe to throw the game.  Initially Crewe agrees because the warden has promised that after a sufficient lead he will have his guards relax on their brutish play.  But Hazen has no intention of keeping his promise.

So Crewe is forced to show up Hazen and his guards.  Leading to a final 15 minutes of some great football play. 




A whole slew of then current and former NFL players appear on both sides of the field in this movie.  If you were a football fan in the late 60's and early 70's you will probably recognize quite a few of them:  Ray Ogden, Ernie Wheelwright, Pervis Atkins, Joe Kapp, Mike Henry, Joe Nicholson and of course the great Ray Nitschke, one of the players instrumental in helping the Green Bay Packers win the first two Super Bowls.

The Longest Yard was remade in the 2000's with Adam Sandler in the Burt Reynolds role. Don't make the mistake of confusing the two.  The Reynolds movie is the real deal.  Burt actually played football in college.  Sandler probably couldn't even have made the team as the waterboy.

Time to fire up the old Plymouth and head home.  Drive safely, folks.

Quiggy


 

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Book Review: Five Came Back


This is my third entry in the WW2 Blogathon hosted by Maddy Loves Her Classic Films and Cinematic Essentials





Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and The Second World War by Mark Harris: (2015)


I just love history books.  I also love reading about Hollywood and it's denizens.  Mark Harris has written an extremely intriguing book Five Came Back (2015) which chronicles the adventures of five Hollywood directors and their work in filming documentary film for the War Dept. during WWII.  I came across this book last year in the stacks of books at the library where my sister works when I was on Christmas vacation, and spent virtually every free hour devouring it.

I'm just guessing it must have sucked to be a gung-ho American patriot and be deemed too old to serve your country in the Armed Forces.  Many of Hollywood's elite men went off to fight the good fight, while older men like John Ford and Frank Capra had to basically watch from the sidelines with something like envy.

The five men whose work behind the lines chronicled here were all beyond the age of what was considered the upper scale for military service.  The young tyke, John Huston was 36, and possibly still eligible, but had been classed 4-F, while John Ford was virtually an old fogie at age 48.  Still these guys got to be used in support of the war effort, being drafted as officers and assigned to film the action (or in many cases to re-create the action) of the efforts of the military in the war effort.





At the very start of the war, directors like Capra and Ford were busy with the details of just filming the average movie (and dealing with the brass which were involved in trying to insure the film industry as well as the country remained neutral in their depiction of the war).  That is until the events of Dec. 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor catapulted the United States into the war.

All of the directors made appeals to be included in the mix, although the really gung-ho Frank Capra had probably the most pressing interest in being considered patriotic.  He had emigrated to the US as a young boy, but he was still considered an outsider because of his foreign origin.  He thus felt he had to strive harder to prove his patriotism.

John Ford, on the other hand, was as patriotic as they come, although he comes off (at least in the telling of his trials and travails by the author) as a bit of a glory-seeker.  (I mean, it seems a little self-seeking to actual petition to be given a Purple Heart, whether you actually deserve it or not...)

Each of the directors is giving an equal amount of time in focus, but I found John Huston's story to be the most intriguing.  Perhaps because I find Huston's personality to be similar to my own.

Harris' writing makes for extremely entertaining reading.  He skips around, discussing each director in a linear fashion so you won't get bored just reading one long detail about one director at a time.  

All of the films chronicled in he book are available for your perusal.  I recommend the "50 Movie Pack: War Classics" available from Mill Creek.  While the quality of each is not consistent, you do get all of the documentaries in one volume.  I already had the entire Capra output ("Why We Fight") on a separate collection, but it was worth buying for the rest of them.  Especially if you are interested in the history as experienced first hand. 

If you find this book interesting enough, I highly recommend a Netflix series that was based on it.




Enjoy.

Quiggy



Monday, September 2, 2019

A Flawed Hero




This is my second entry in the WW2 Blogathon hosted by Maddy Loves Her Classic Films and Cinematic Essentials



Some of you may already know this story, but it bears repeating.

When I was growing up, a trip to the movies was a rare treat.  My father ran a gas station/convenience store/garage that catered to the lake crowd (at a time when Dallas had no lakes so they made the 75 mile trip north to Lake Texoma).  It was rare that he would close up early to go to the movies.  I personally can only recall three separate occasions.

I don't actually recall this one, but I have word from my father that we went.  In 1970 Patton was at the drive-in and we went.  I'm not sure if we stayed for the entire thing or if Dad got disgusted during the opening sequence and left.  (I meant to ask him before he passed away, but never got around to it...)  I do know that because of George C. Scott's foul language that Dad refused to let my sister and me go to any PG movies after that.  I had to actually beg and plead to be allowed to see Star Wars.

I never got to see the uncut version of Patton until I was well into my 20's, after it came out on video, although I had seen censored TV versions of it.  By then I had been exposed to the language in school.  And compared to such movies as Pulp Fiction and Brian de Palma's Scarface, the language is pretty tame.

Earlier this year, the local movie theater, as part of a series called Flashback Cinema released Patton again.   Flashback Cinema, which may be available at your local theater, has older movies that run on Sundays and Wednesdays, with a different movie every week.  (Just this year I have seen Gone with the Wind, The Princess Bride. Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Raiders of the Lost Ark just to name a few).


Experiencing Patton in a theater was a treat, in more ways than one.  Not only did I FINALLY get to see it on the big screen, but the showing I went to had one patron, me... it was like getting a private viewing.  These days I don't go to the theater all that often, and it usually requires some good special effects (like things blowing up) to get me to go.  If it's just a regular drama I'd much rather wait until it comes out on video.  (A far cry from 1984 when I went to no less than 43 movies, maybe more, over the course of the calendar year.)

Patton won big at the box office.  It was the 4th highest grossing movie of the year (behind Love Story, Airport and M*A*S*H).  It also garnered a buttload of Oscars.  It was nominated for 10 Oscars and won 7 of them.  (Note:  How it, or maybe Tora! Tora! Tora! didn't win Best Cinematography is beyond me.  That award went to Ryan's Daughter...)  George C. Scott, notably, was a no-show at the Oscars, having already stated if he won he would not accept the award.  He claimed that the Oscar ceremony was just a "two-hour meat parade".  (Back then it was just a two-hour ceremony, I guess, not the interminable 3½-4 hour extravaganza that Hollywood puts on today).  Anyway, he did win, and sure enough, producer Frank McCarthy had to go to the stage to accept on his behalf.




A couple of interesting notes about the film.  According to a DVD interview with Patton's grandson, Robert, the film studio tried to get permission from Patton's family to go more into detail about his life outside of his service in WWII.  But according to the legend, the day they chose to try to negotiate just happened to be the day of Patton's grandmother's funeral.  Oops, bad timing.  The Patton family dug its heels in and refused to allow any of his private affairs to be filmed.  So the film had to focus only on his accomplishments and actions during the War in Europe.

According to an article by Paul Fussell, in the collection Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies, there are a few details that were left out, primarily due to the theme of the movie, that of a flawed but ultimately heroic man.  One incident, he tells, that was left out was an ill-fated attempt to rescue his son-in-law from a German P.O.W. camp.  Not only did a number of American soldiers end up either killed or wounded, Patton did not succeed in his rescue attempt either.  While it may have fit in with the theme of George Patton as a man who does things as he wants, with or without his superiors'  approval, the failure of the attempt would probably have detracted from the overall theme.






Patton (1970):

Patton opens with an iconic scene.  Backed by a huge American  flag, and bedecked in all his glory, George S. Patton (George C. Scott) delivers an address to an unseen audience of soldiers (and by inclusion, the audience in the theater).  {And it is here that I can imagine my father packing up the car and leaving the theater in disgust, but again, I really don't know.}  Patton delivers an address that defines his character for the rest of the movie, that of a man who glories in the fight and relishes the coming defeat of his enemies.





The movie then cuts to the real action.  Gen. Omar Bradley (Karl Malden) surveys the devastation of a recent battle, and expresses dismay at how the American forces fought in their first foray in the war.  He tells his aide that they need a good commander to whip the boys in to shape, to which the aide replies "Patton?  God help us!"




The arrival of Patton at the base sets the stage.  Within the first 15 minutes of his arrival he establishes some hard rules about the conduct of his officers, dresses down a cook for not wearing a proper uniform and tells a doctor that he must wear a helmet even if he has to drill two holes in it so the doctor can use his stethoscope.  He also demands that two soldiers who are in the hospital from self-inflicted wounds be removed, even if they die as a result, thus establishing his view of cowardice.




During the course of the film we are treated to some of the most excellent battle sequences, thus proving Patton's expertise in battle.  But Patton's personality often gets in the way.  As portrayed by Scott, Patton was apparently an egotist of the highest caliber.  He fights with the Army brass every step of the way, trying to get the glory which he views is being siphoned away from him by British General Bernard Montgomery (Michael Bates).



 

At one point he takes the lead and arrives in Messina on the island of Sicily prior to Montgomery's arrival (which was supposed to be Montgomery's privilege.)  This doesn't set well with General Eisenhower and the top army brass.  But Patton's own ego is his downfall in another area.  At a field hospital he reprimands and slaps a soldier whose only "injury" is that he is suffering from battle fatigue, which Patton views as cowardice.  When the press gets wind of it, Eisenhower demands that Patton make a public apology.

But that isn't the only humiliation to which Patton is subjected.  He is also relieved of his command and is used as a decoy to convince the Germans that he will be leading an invasion at Calais, rather than the real objective of Normandy for the real D-Day invasion.  Eventually Patton does get a command again, despite the fact that he continues to do things that gets him in trouble with the brass, including a slight against the Russian allies by omitting their future in a world that will exist after Germany's defeat.





The real Patton died shortly after the defeat of Germany (although the film ends with Patton walking off into the sunset with a statement that "All glory is fleeting.").  One wonders how Patton would have dealt with a world at peace, although the Korean Conflict may have been some source of salvation.  I imagine Patton would not have been happy without a battle to look forward to.  For further research, if you are of a mind, I recommend the book Patton: Ordeal and Triumph by Ladislas Farago.  I read it at as a teenager and it still remains in my memory.  (I have yet to read the other book that was used for source material, A Soldier's Story by Omar Bradley, but I imagine it is just as good.)






One of the most interesting facts about Patton is the fact that Francis Ford Coppola was one of the scriptwriters.  His original script, which included the iconic opening, was misunderstood by the studio heads and he was subsequently fired.  He still got co-writing credit and when the movie won the Oscar for Best Screenplay it turned out to be a salvation for Coppola who was on the verge of being fired as director for The Godfather at the time.  Plus, the opening is probably the most well known part of the whole movie...

Well, folks, the Plymouth isn't exactly a tank (although it's built like one..)  Time to head home.  Drive safely.

Quiggy




Sunday, September 1, 2019

Train to Freedom







This is my first entry in the WW2 Blogathon hosted by Cinematic Essentials and Maddy Loves Her Classic Films.





The best WWII P.O.W. movie ever, hands down, in my opinion, is The Great Escape.  But any number of P.O.W. movies can easily take the #2 spot on my list.  It all depends on my mood at the time.  Re-watch-ability is the key factor in a P.O.W. movie, and great acting has to be top of the list in judging that factor.  Therefore, at times, my second favorite WWII P.O.W. movie has been, alternately,  Stalag 17, The Bridge on the River Kwai, King Rat, and even, on occasion, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence.

But more often than not, that second place is occupied by Von Ryan's Express.  I have a soft spot in my heart for the Frank Sinatra film because a) I like Sinatra as an actor, and b) the novel by David Westheimer on which the movie was based was one of the first adult novels I ever read.  Although there are a few significant changes in the film version, including the final denouement for Sinatra's Col. Ryan, the film adaptation is at least well done, and well acted. Especially by Sinatra and Trevor Howard as Ryan's camp nemesis, Maj. Fincham.





Von Ryan's Express (1965):

Col. Joseph Ryan (Frank Sinatra) has to ditch his plane in Italian territory.  He is taken prisoner to the local Italian P.O.W. camp run by the ruthless and sadistic Maj. Battaglia (Adolfo Celi) and currently being led on the prisoners side by ranking officer Maj. Fincham (Trevor Howard).

Ryan takes over command of the prisoners, being the ranking officer, and immediately starts to butt heads with Fincham.  Ryan, knowing that the Italian liberation is just days away, insists on doing the best to cooperate with their captors, which includes revealing an escape tunnel to Battaglia.  Although Ryan has ulterior motives, such as better treatment for the prisoners, Fincham and his 9th Fusiliers cadre immediately start derogatorily calling him "von Ryan", implying that Ryan's sympathies are more aligned with the enemy.

When Ryan has the prisoners strip and have the lice ridden dirty uniforms set on fire, ostensibly to get the clean clothes Battaglia has been hoarding, the commandant issues the uniforms, but has his revenge by putting Ryan in the camp "sweat box" (the same place where the camp's previous prisoners'  commander had died).  But a short time later news  of Italy's surrender causes all the Italian soldiers to desert.  Ryan is released from his prison to find that Fincham and his cadre intend to conduct a court martial of Battaglia in the field.

Instead of letting this happen, Ryan insists that Battaglia be allowed to live and put in the "sweat box".  Then Ryan and the P.O.W.s head out for freedom, accompanied by Battaglia's second-in-command, Capt. Oriani (Sergio Fantoni), whom it is revealed actually has sympathies for the Allies.  With Oriani's help the men make it to a deserted fortress and Oriani goes to scout out the territory ahead.

But the Germans, who have been to the deserted camp, and freed Battaglia, capture them.  Initially Fincham thinks Oriani betrayed them, but he is revealed to also be a prisoner of the Germans.  The Germans put all the prisoners on board a train (minus the wounded which they kill) and bound the train towards the homeland.

Ryan comes up with an idea how they can escape, which involves tunneling through the floorboards of the train, attacking each guard and replacing them with a P.O.W. and then later escaping at an opportune moment.  This plan is thrown into havoc at one point however, and thus Ryan has to revise the plan.  Instead they commandeer the train and systematically begin to reroute it so it heads to neutral Switzerland.

As stated above, there are several changes between the novel and the actual film.  But the film can be viewed as an entity of its own if you have not read the book, with no after effects.  It should be noted that the ending is different, and the ending you see in the movie was done at the behest of Sinatra himself.  I won't reveal the final scene here, but it was done that way because Sinatra had some big pull to get it done his way.

Drive safely, folks.


Quiggy