Battle Of The Bulge


Battle Of The Bulge Review

This is the kind of a film around which rumors of a 212-minute print swirl, on the net, in chat rooms, and message boards. Only films that have garnered either cult or classic appeal can claim "hype" like that. No one talks about footage missing from the domestic release cut of Battlefield Earth, no one gripes about a supposed 245-minute version of The Cat in the Hat. But a quick Internet search will reveal endless web pages devoted to the missing scenes in Blade Runner, the 5-hour print of Apocalypse Now, and apparently the 212-minute cut of Battle of the Bulge. That tells you something. This 1965 war "classic" is a war film buff's The Third Man, Casablanca, or Some Like It Hot. It might not be the best WWII epic ever made (that honor, according to the same fans, is allotted to either The Longest Day, Patton, or Cross of Iron) but it is one of the most popular. Well, now we have a 170-minute cut of the film, and it's been heralded with a gorgeous DVD transfer. And you've got to wonder why.

Sure, there's a star-studded cast. Let's see, we've got: Henry Fonda, Robert Shaw, Dana Andrews, Robert Ryan, Telly Savalas, and Charles Bronson. And it is an epic. We're talking a cast of thousands with battle scene recreations that make modern warfare flicks pale in comparison. But when all the dust settles, Battle of the Bulge is a really long, really talky movie. And that's fine for history buffs, WWII film fans, and their ilk, but for the casual Friday night viewer it's a cure for insomnia.

The Americans, certain that the war will be over soon, have gotten hasty. Their careless attitude has given Nazi Germany the chance to assemble a surprise offensive, a push into Belgium with a battalion of tanks and possibly even a future atomic attack. While General Gray (Ryan) is doubtful of a German move, Lt. Col. Daniel Kiley (Fonda) thinks otherwise. History was on Kiley's side and the German's did indeed break American lines on December 16, 1944. The showdown in the Ardennes was the largest land battle of the war, both hard won and brutal.

Hollywood has always had a fascination with jingoistic tales of war. Our entire military is built on the American ideal of "an army of one." That's the American way, we're not a social beehive, not faceless drones, and we're individuals doing our part for the team but never losing sight of our own goals, our own desires. Hollywood makes war movies that show us this with a mind-numbing repetitiveness. It's not about the army, not about the war, or even the battle, it's about the men - those individuals - who fought it. That's why we have the star-studded cast. Audiences can't identify with faceless hordes; they don't want to watch over two hours of highly detailed battle recreations. They want personal stories, the faces, the sweat! And Battle of the Bulge delivers in spades. Oh yes, and they want tanks - lots and lots of tanks.

Thing is, according to the buffs, Battle of Bulge really isn't as historical as it should be. Apparently many of the facts in the film are distorted, or downright fiction. But that really doesn't matter here - this is an epic. And epics don't abide by the laws of the real world; if they did they'd feel grounded. They'd be tangible, in some sense. When Battle of the Bulge was released to theatres, it toured with a road show, complete with intermission. It was always intended as an experience, not a lesson. For the most part, it succeeds as a larger than life spectacle, but it's the very essence of the spectacle that negates any of the harder won truths buried in its showy meat.

And the 212-minute print that the web denizens dream about, it probably never existed in the first place.

Battle Of The Bulge

Facts and Figures

Genre: War

Run time: 167 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 16th December 1965


Production compaines: Warner Bros. Pictures, Cinerama Productions Corp., United States Pictures

Reviews 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 67%
Fresh: 4 Rotten: 2

IMDB: 6.8 / 10

Cast & Crew


Starring: as Lt Col Kiley, as Col Hessler, as General Grey, as Colonel Pritchard, as Sgt. Duquesne, as Schumacher, Pier Angeli as Louise, Barbara Werle as Elena, as Maj. Wolenski, as Conrad, as Gen. Kohler, as Lt. Weaver, Karl-Otto Alberty as Von Diepel, as Sgt. Guffy, Steve Rowland as Eddy, Robert Woods as Joe (Kiley's pilot), Charles Stalmaker as Maj. Burke