Review: Combat – Season 3 / Cert: TBC/ Director: Various / Screenplay: Various / Starring: Vic Morrow, Rick Jason, Dick Peabody/ Release Date: June 4th (Region 1)
Certainly the longest running (5 years) and one of the best television shows depicting the lives of soldiers in World War II, Combat delivers the goods! The top-notch cast is headed by Vic Morrow as the tough, Thompson machine gun-wielding Sgt. Saunders and Rick Jason as the serious, Lt. Hanley. Together, this formidable duo lead their men through numerous dangerous missions.
Season 3 has more than its fair share of highlights. The Duel sees Saunders, on foot, single handedly engaging a German tank in a deadly game of cat and mouse. In The Little Carousel, a 13-year-old French nurse wants to help Saunders and his men after they infiltrate a German-held town. The Steeple is loosely based on the true story of American paratrooper John Steele whose chute caught on a church steeple during the battle of St. Mare Ingles. Hanley and Saunders have to rescue a soldier in the same predicament in a town overrun by the German army. In Cry in the Ruins, Hanley and a German lieutenant form a temporary truce in order to work together to rescue a woman’s baby. Well written, with lots of twists and turns, it’s a great character study of men in combat. Odyssey is about Saunders making his way back to his lines by pretending to be a shell-shocked German soldier, while The Enemy sees Hanley capturing a German demolitions expert (wonderfully played by Robert Duvall) who has booby-trapped the town they’re in. Lots of tense moments in this well-thought out story.
Guest stars were frequent on the show and, as well as Duvall, Season 3 is graced by the likes of Charles Bronson, Telly Savalas, James Whitmore and Frank Gorshin. The thirty-two hour-long episodes are in stunningly crisp black and white with great sound, and they look remarkably realistic given that they were shot on the MGM back lot in Culver City and in Thousand Oaks, California (sadly, all condos today). A great show, and if you want to learn more, check out Jo Davidsmeyer’s Combat: A Viewer’s Companion to the Television Series, an incredibly well written and researched book with a ton of behind-the-scenes stories.