Combat: Season 1 - Campaign 1

Combat: Season 1 - Campaign 1

5.0 1

Cast: Vic Morrow, Rick Jason, Pierre Jalbert, Jack Hogan

     
 

The series Combat! never made it to laserdisc in America, though it did in Japan. Now it has arrived in better than first-class treatment on DVD, courtesy of Image Entertainment, with lots of whistles and bells attached. Combat!: Season 1, Campaign 1 kicks off where there series did (and where most other series dealing with the World War II European groundSee more details below

Overview

The series Combat! never made it to laserdisc in America, though it did in Japan. Now it has arrived in better than first-class treatment on DVD, courtesy of Image Entertainment, with lots of whistles and bells attached. Combat!: Season 1, Campaign 1 kicks off where there series did (and where most other series dealing with the World War II European ground campaign did) with D-day. The series opener, "A Day in June, well directed by Boris Sagal, is a flashback show that starts off in the late spring of 1944 in London -- this episode has a cast worthy of a motion picture, including Henry Daniell in a small role as a minister, and it's the first of many episodes here that recall the most positive response to the series in its original run, which was that most installments of Combat played like movies rather than TV episodes. One begins to appreciate how revolutionary Combat was and why it lasted until 1967, listening to the dialogue and looking at the handling of the scenes and shots -- this was grittier than previous television versions of World War II, and the dialogue is more realistic and more taut than anything seen before in this genre; even the little bits of business in the barracks is more immediate and involving, and more complex than anything shown on television before it. Sagal and his director of photography, Phil Lathrop, kept that camera moving -- the program is almost too good for television. Vic Morrow is so good in his first scene that he should have received an Emmy for this one show. In this show, Robert Pirosh's script addresses the stuff of a half-dozen war movies in terms of drama, issues, and reality. Even more important, the show got better as it went along, as these discs reveal. The DVD set is loaded with extras, starting on disc one with the bonus documentary "Memories of Combat, a half-hour series of interviews (supported by relevant scenes) with surviving cast members, directors, and crew members, including Richard Donner, Tom Lowell, Sutton Roley, Joseph Campanella, Pierre Jalbert, Ben Cooper, Ted Post, and Eric Braeden, and further observations by Jo Davidsmeyer, the author of Combat!: A Viewer's Companion. Davidsmeyer gives an interesting observation on the dispute between the producers and the network, the former preferring anthology type programs isolating one or two key characters with a guest star or two, while the network preferred stories dealing with the entire squad, which was the shape the show ultimately took. Disc two's special features are limited to a set of still photographs, but disc three is a lot more interesting, highlighted by a commentary track from former actor Tom Lowell on the episode "The Celebrity, his first program through which he became a series regular. His observations aren't very profound, but they do tell about filmmaking from an actor's point-of-view, and he does tell us a lot about the other actors (including guest star Tab Hunter), many of whom are no longer here to speak for themselves. There are also certain ironies, such as Lowell's praise of cinematographer Robert Hauser (which is repeated by Altman on his track) for his abilities and thoroughness, which made the series look as good as it did in the first season; however, later, after Hauser was succeeded by a photographer who worked much faster using natural light, the series got even better. The other oddity, which Lowell relishes pointing out, is that his character dies at the end of the episode, but producer/director Burt Kennedy and ABC liked the character so much that he was written into three more episodes before the first one aired, even as he was seen to die in this show. Disc four contains two choice special features, commentary tracks by producer/director/writer Robert Altman and assistant director Michael Caffey, over the same episode, "Cat and Mouse." The Altman's commentary is the more alluring of the two, and he has a lot of fun recalling not just the episode at hand, but also his work generally on the series. His account of the preparation he did for this episode, including the exact specifications for the house and mill that make up the set for most of the show, are fascinating, especially as one sees the pay-off of the attention to detail in the totally convincing action on the screen. There are odd aspects to his remarks, including some extended periods of silence on the commentary track. Altman goes out of his way to praise Albert Salmi, his guest star, but has little or nothing to say until much later in the show about Vic Morrow, the series' star. Surprisingly, however, Caffey's commentary is, in many ways, much more informative, not only about how shows like this were shot, but how the movie and television industries worked in the late '50s and early '60s. His role as assistant director was to be Altman's right hand and make sure that everything was in place so that when Altman yelled "action," everyone was where they should be. Caffey gives us a picture of how this kind of show was made from the ground up, as well as the top down. The result, between the two tracks, is a pair of commentaries that are not only essential listening for serious fans of the program Combat, but also for anyone interested in movie and television production. One of the most fascinating elements of Caffey's talk is his recollection of a dispute between Morrow and Altman over the way the script was devised and shot -- it tells us a lot about the way two professionals totally dedicated to their work can come to an impasse. Altman reveals that he was fired for going against the producer and the network over a show entitled Survival, which he shot against their objections. The set contains 16 episodes, half of the first season (in those days, 32 shows was routine), all mastered off of what are generally pristine 35mm materials. The first episode does look slightly better than the second, which is slightly less sharp than the other shows, but the picture quality of all of the new footage (as opposed to the vintage stock footage of aircraft and artillery in action) is excellent, and the sound is a match for clarity, even though the volume is set a bit low (a flaw easily overcome). Apart from the unusually complex first episode, which gets seven chapters, each show gets six chapters. Each disc opens automatically to a multi-layered menu with easy access to bonus features and includes a "play all" function.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Donald Liebenson
Combat! -- the seminal black-and-white-era World War II drama -- falls in for inspection on DVD with this four-disc set containing the series' first 16 episodes, as well as thoughtfully compiled extras. These include "notes, oddities and bloopers" for each episode located on the scene selection menus and an affectionate 23-minute featurette about the making of the series. Robert Altman, then a fledgling director who earned his stripes behind the cameras of Combat!, provides audio commentary for the episode "Cat and Mouse." Altman was just one of the eager recruits mustered for this detail in the early '60s. The duty roster for these inaugural episodes also included director Burt Kennedy (Support Your Local Gunfighter), actors Harry Dean Stanton and Tom Skerritt, and comedian Shecky Green as the hustler Braddock, who enjoys his finest hour in "The Prisoner" -- an episode that finds him captured by Germans who mistake him for a colonel. Combat! succeeded in its mission to convey the sweat, fatigue, tension, and terror of war. The series followed the members of the King Two platoon, led by Lt. Gil Hanley (Rick Jason) and Sgt. Chip Saunders (breakout star Vic Morrow), as they battle their way across Europe following the Normandy invasion. Combat! did not glorify war. Some of the most memorable episodes tackled moral dilemmas. In "Forgotten Front" (written under a pseudonym by Twilight Zone scribe Richard Matheson), platoon member Caje (Pierre Jalbert) must decide whether or not to execute a personable German deserter. Fans of HBO's Band of Brothers will find some similarly stirring material in this wonderful TV classic.

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Product Details

Release Date:
07/20/2004
UPC:
0014381242621
Rating:
NR
Source:
Image Entertainment
Region Code:
1
Time:
12:28:00

Special Features

Notes, oddities, and bloopers by Jo Davidsmeyer; Disc 1: Memories of Combat!: An all-new; documentary featuring cast members, guest stars, and directors; Disc 2: Photo gallery; Disc 3: Audio commentary by Tom Lowell (the Celebrity); Disc 4: Audio commentary by Michael Caffey (Cat and Mouse) and audio commentary by Robert Altman (Cat and Mouse)

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Cast & Crew

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Scene Index

Side #1 -- Disc 1
1. D-Day Pool [4:23]
2. Raw Nerves [13:29]
3. The Mission [7:31]
4. Panic-Stricken Cajun [9:48]
5. Local Heroes [8:34]
6. Off to Paris [1:25]
7. End Credits [:58]
1. Lore [2:30]
2. The Cave [14:31]
3. A Time Bomb [5:59]
4. Tough Decision [14:05]
5. A Matter of Time [9:37]
6. End Credits [:49]
1. A Farm in Normandy [3:38]
2. Just a Civilian [10:36]
3. Love and War [15:27]
4. Sudden Change of Plans [10:56]
5. Missing Home [4:38]
6. End Credits [:57]
1. Squad Replacement [3:29]
2. Moseby Lovelace [13:08]
3. Recon Patrol [7:54]
4. The Southern Sky [9:00]
5. Think on His Feet [11:43]
6. End Credits [:57]
Side #2 -- Disc 2
1. Sitting Ducks [4:44]
2. Next Stop Gavray [10:04]
3. Church Prisoners [6:30]
4. A Spoiled Priest [15:18]
5. Act of Contrition [8:39]
6. End Credits [:57]
1. Main Title [:50]
2. Booby-Trap [3:02]
3. Too Little, Too Late [9:55]
4. Carl Dorffman [17:33]
5. Friend or Foe? [7:48]
6. Caje's Orders [9:34]
7. End Credits [1:01]
1. Just Another Milk Run [4:06]
2. Saving Colonel Jabko [8:31]
3. The Checkpoint [5:03]
4. Getting Personal [16:12]
5. A Spy [11:24]
6. End Credits [:57]
1. Three New Replacements [6:56]
2. Crash Course in Combat [7:16]
3. Reconnaissance Patrol [7:07]
4. Smoke Signals [8:57]
5. Unlikely Heroes [16:02]
6. End Credits [1:01]
Side #3 -- Disc 3
1. Behind German Lines [3:20]
2. The Age of Comprimise [7:33]
3. Dinner With the Major [12:59]
4. For Safekeeping [17:51]
5. A Moral Quandary [4:19]
6. End Credits [:58]
0. Notes, Oddities, Bloopers
1. Hanley's Runner [3:33]
2. The New Driver [12:15]
3. Reckless Officer [12:39]
4. Colonel Braddock [9:55]
5. The Exchange [7:40]
6. End Credits [:57]
1. Sole Survivor [4:09]
2. Interrogating Hanley [11:06]
3. Strange Alliance [12:28]
4. The Right Thing [9:12]
5. A Beaten Man [8:23]
6. End Credits [:48]
1. Well-Deserved Rest [5:00]
2. Del Packer [7:11]
3. A Panicked Pitcher [7:22]
4. Special Services [17:03]
5. A Private War [9:25]
6. End Credits [:58]
Side #4 -- Disc 4
1. Ultimate Sacrifice [5:36]
2. New B.A.R. Man [9:27]
3. A Rock and a Hard Place [15:33]
4. Sudden Evacuation [11:21]
5. Behind the Decision [4:07]
6. End Credits [:58]
1. Special Orders [4:08]
2. Secret Agent Hanley [7:29]
3. Welcome to Occupied France [15:39]
4. Fitting In [6:35]
5. The Mole [12:11]
6. End Credits [:48]
0. Notes, Oddities and Bloopers
1. Nothing to Report [2:35]
2. Land Mines and Snipers [11:39]
3. More Than a Millhouse [14:16]
4. Jenkin's Sacrifice [6:59]
5. The Information [9:46]
6. End Credits [:57]
1. Unending Search [3:17]
2. Getting Aquainted [14:53]
3. The Doctor's Reputation [10:24]
4. Disenchanted Son [9:02]
5. The True Emile Villers [7:38]
6. End Credits [:56]

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