Saturday, November 13, 2010

Remembrance Day Special: The Devil's Brigade (1968)

Last year one of my roommates introduced me to “The Devil’s Brigade,” a 1968 World War 2 movie starring Willaim Holden, Vince Ewards, and Cliff Robertson. It’s his family tradition to watch “The Devil’s Brigade” and eat pizza on Remembrance Day. I didn’t ask him, but I’m assuming the movie is to honour the American and Canadian Soldiers and the pizza is because they successfully capture two Italian strongholds. It’s based on the true story of the 1st Special Service Force, a commando unit comprised of handpicked Canadian and American soldiers.
The highly trained Canadian military and the American yahoos don’t get along, of course, especially when the Canadian forces make an entrance like this:

...but the canny Lt. Col. Robert Frederick (William Holden) pits the two groups against each other to turn them into a sophisticated fighting force. He overcomes doubts from Washington, rivalries between the troops, and even a chewing out from Archie Bunker:

... who is actually General Maxwell Hunter (Carroll O’Connor).

It’s very strange to compare classic war films like “The Devil’s Brigade” with the modern breed like “Saving Private Ryan.” The members of the 1st Special Service Force barely curses in 1968 cinema. It’s a little bit corny, and the first half of the movie plays out exactly as you would expect, including a drunken bar brawl that unites the two quarreling groups. But it’s hard not to like this movie with its old time values and lack of modern gore fx. When they finally see combat, the war is fairly bloodless, and the blood is also fairly bloodless. Soldiers fall over when shot (instead of splattering), bullets leave elegant holes (instead of splattering), and bodies remain intact when heavy ordinance explodes nearby (instead of... say... splattering).

But in spite of its obvious age, I dare you not to like this movie. “The Devil’s Brigade” has real heart, and it’s now a part of my Remembrance Day tradition.


  1. Another favourite of mine is The Great Escape.

  2. I agree with the comment on The Great Escape. It's fantastic. Highly recommend it.