4.8 10
Director: William Wellman

Cast: Van Johnson, John Hodiak, Ricardo Montalban


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Battleground (1949) was a movie that no one in charge at MGM, apart from newly installed production chief Dore Schary, wanted to make. He had brought it with him after being fired from RKO when Howard Hughes took over, and was allowed to make it by MGM president Louis B. Mayer, who hoped that it would bomb and get this interloper fired and out of his hair.


Battleground (1949) was a movie that no one in charge at MGM, apart from newly installed production chief Dore Schary, wanted to make. He had brought it with him after being fired from RKO when Howard Hughes took over, and was allowed to make it by MGM president Louis B. Mayer, who hoped that it would bomb and get this interloper fired and out of his hair. Instead, it became a surprise hit, getting six Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture and one for James Whitmore (for Best Supporting Actor, for his performance as the tobacco-chewing topkick), and -- along with Henry Hathaway's Twelve O'Clock High -- heralded a new round of movies dealing with World War II, including Lewis Milestone's Halls of Montezuma (1951) at Fox. It remains the best movie ever made about the Battle of the Bulge, capturing the confusion and terror that gripped most of the Allied soldiers involved on the ground, amid a German offensive that caught senior commanders flatfooted. Warner Home Video now controls the MGM library and has brought the movie out with a few half-hearted extras, but without even the original trailer to Battleground. The movie has gotten a full-frame (1.33:1) transfer so clean that it pushes the very limit of resolution -- the image shimmers with the minuscule flaws picked up in certain brief shots, but otherwise this looks as good as the movie has ever looked, and runs circles around the laserdisc edition; the scene in which the snow starts falling and Pvt. Roderigues (Ricardo Montalban) celebrates looks absolutely glorious, and the battles in the fog-shrouded woods are of almost demonstration quality. Where it is a little weak is on the soundtrack, which is mastered at a very low volume level. It can be set high on your monitor without distortion, but there's still not as much body to it as one would wish; given that someone bothered to program 29 chapter breaks, it's a shame that the audio ended up as the weak link. There are just two extras, the primary being a satirical Tex Avery cartoon of no special connection except its year of release, entitled Little Rural Riding Hood (1949), in which a wolf from the country discovers on visiting the city -- and seeing Miss Red Riding Hood as a cabaret singer (doing a number called "Oh Wolfie") -- that there are more subtle attractions than sustenance to such women. And from 1944 comes Let's Cogitate, a Pete Smith Specialty film starring Dave O'Brien as the butt of numerous sight gags. They're fun but nothing special, the Pete Smith short probably a better example of its series than the cartoon is of Tex Avery's overall output. The disc opens on a simple two-layer menu offering access to the bonus shorts separately.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Karl Williams
Hailed by critics, audiences, and veterans alike, William Wellman's Battleground (1949), together with such other war movies as Wellman's earlier Ernie Pyle biopic The Story of G.I. Joe (1945) and Lewis Milestone's A Walk in the Sun (1945), set a new standard of de-glamorization in war films that continued for decades. The common elements of this new veracity were sharply observed details about the life of the common serviceman, a nearly documentary-like portrayal of war's gore and harsh brutality, and a somewhat sardonic redefinition of heroism, patriotism, and duty. Many decades and several wars later, films as diverse as MASH (1970), Platoon (1986), Hamburger Hill (1987), and Saving Private Ryan (1998), just to name a few, shared these fundamentals and were, in turn, acclaimed as superior war films. Battleground's background story is nearly as interesting as its plot. Producer Dore Schary, who preferred his film projects to contain socially relevant messages, brought the project with him to MGM when he was lured away from RKO. But MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer resisted putting Battleground into production, believing the American public had gotten its fill of war movies. When the film was a box office smash and nominated for a half-dozen Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, Schary won the confrontation with one of Hollywood's most powerful men, and Mayer's career began to decline.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Warner Home Video
Region Code:
[Dolby Digital Mono]

Special Features

Closed Caption; Vintage cartoon "Little Rural Riding Hood"; Vintage featurette "Let's Cogitate"

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Van Johnson Holley
John Hodiak Jarvess
Ricardo Montalban Roderigues
George Murphy Ernest "Pop" Stazak
Marshall Thompson Jim Layton
James Whitmore Kinnie
Leon Ames The Chaplain
Jerome Courtland Abner Spudler
Don Taylor Standiferd
Bruce Cowling Wolowicz
Douglas Fowley Kipp Kippton
Thomas E. Breen Doc
Denise Darcel Denise
Richard Jaeckel Bettis
Scotty Beckett William J. Hooper
Brett King Lt. Teiss
101st Airborne Actor
Screaming Eagles Actor
Herbert Anderson Hansan
Edmon Ryan Major
James Arness Garby
Michael Brown Levenstein
Ian MacDonald Gen. McAuliffe
Roland Varno German Lieutenant

Technical Credits
William Wellman Director
Peter Ballbusch Special Effects
Jack Dawn Makeup
John D. Dunning Editor
Cedric Gibbons Art Director
Lennie Hayton Score Composer
Hans Peters Art Director
Robert Pirosh Associate Producer,Screenwriter
Dore Schary Producer
Alfred E. Spencer Set Decoration/Design
Paul Vogel Cinematographer
Edwin B. Willis Set Decoration/Design

Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Credits and Dedication [2:06]
2. The Drill [4:21]
3. Tent Talk [5:31]
4. Secret Move [4:38]
5. Bastogne [3:08]
6. Good Night, Soldier [5:25]
7. Strategic Withdrawals [3:00]
8. Digging In [5:42]
9. Shared Egg [4:15]
10. Sad News [4:29]
11. Incoming Mail [4:40]
12. What's the Password? [2:35]
13. Pitching Snowballs [3:05]
14. Enemy in Their Midst [4:18]
15. Passing of the Helmet [4:04]
16. Returning for Rodriguez [3:49]
17. Against the Rules [:11]
18. By the Embankment [4:44]
19. Under Attack [4:07]
20. Surprising the Enemy [4:22]
21. Wanting to Remember [2:59]
22. Answer: "Nuts" [4:50]
23. Christmas Card [6:01]
24. Was This Trip Necessary? [2:56]
25. Bombing Bastogne [3:38]
26. Sunlight and Supplies [4:47]
27. About Face [7:16]
28. Drill to the Rear [4:30]
29. Cast List [1:35]


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Battleground 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This film has always been on my Best of Lists. Definitely gritty for it's time and probably one of the first American Films to deal with combat in a realistic way that would set the standard for later war films. Great cast all round. I heard this film was a major influence on Spielburg when he was making 'Saving Private Ryan'. I've been waiting for this DVD release since the format was introduced!
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Battleground' is the all-star grim depiction of an Allied offensive in the Ardennes forest during WWII. It's remarkably hard edged by 1949 standards - a tribute to the tough, hard-hitting directorial style of director, William A. Wellman. Starring Van Johnson, Ricardo Montalban, James Whitmore, Scotty Beckett and John Hodiak the on camera camaraderie amongst the men seems genuine, in part because Wellman insisted that his actors train with real soldiers to fully appreciate their brief tenure in military service. MGM refrigerated a cyclorama built inside one of their sound stages to recreate the unsettling and terribly cold atmosphere of winter. This is a top flight, ensemble war drama that engrosses and entertains. Oscars given for screenplay and cinematography. Warner gives us a much improved transfer from previously available versions. The gray scale is nicely balanced. Blacks are generally solid. Some scenes have a bit more film grain and grit that one would like to see, but over all the image quality is very smooth and consistent. While previously issued versions of this film suffered from a misregistration - resulting in ghostly halos around objects and a general blurring of the image quality, this DVD is remarkably solid and sharp. Edge enhancement crops up but is minimal. Pixelization is also present but only marginally. The audio is MONO but very nicely remastered. 'Battleground' is one of the best war dramas ever made. It is tops in action, establishing taut tension, providing serious storytelling and detailed character development, and truthfully - how many of the more recent war films (Peal Harbor, anyone?) can you say that about?
Guest More than 1 year ago
Yes Ive see this move a few times because I do own it. Yes its the true story of the 101st Airborne done in less than 2 hours, but I did love Band of Brothers also and I own that one. This movie is great because it wasnt a glorified account with romance big names and done with a high budjet. Think about this, look into the story that happened behind the scenes look at the awards that this movie won
Guest More than 1 year ago
Of course I am partial to this movie because my father was in it. The 82nd Airborne Division from Ft. Bragg, N.C. was sent to Hollywood to star in the movie. Watching the film I could even see my father and uncle. What a great feeling and a great time for history!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Battleground dipicts the 101st airbourne's ''battle of the buldge'' experience as accurate and as similar as the recent mini-series Band of Brother's. If you liked Band of Brother's you'll enjoy this movie.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Rob1941 More than 1 year ago
This film has beenone of my favorites since I was a kid. I chose the headline "Heroes" becausse it is the subject of this film.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This movie gives a good synopsis of what the 101st Airborne went through during the Battle of the Bulge in Bastogne. As that generation dies out we younger people need to remember the pride these soldiers had and the hell they went through to help win the war in Europe against one of the most notorious villians in the world. My father served in the Army during WW2, and was in Bastogne the week before it was surrounded by the Germans. I am a proud American and fully support our troops. After all the men serving today are just like the men that served in WW2 and their sacrifices help us to be free.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The army unit that I was in from 1966 to 1968 had received a Presidential Unit Citation for service during the Battle of the Bulge. I wore that unit citation on my uniform during my time of service; but, I did not fully appreciate what the members of that unit went through until I saw this movie. The cinematography is great and the Oscars that were awarded for this film were deserved.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago