The Battle of the Bulge (1965) is a highly fictionalized account of the World War II battle. It features an ensemble cast of American and German actors. This movie is great afternoon entertainment.
Rough Script Battle of the Bulge (1965)
Welcome to today’s show, my name is John. As always you can subscribe to the show on iTunes or follows the links to social media in the podcast
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Today’s movie is the second of two that pay tribute to the Americans that fought in the Battle of Bulge December 16 – 25, 1944, 71 years ago this month. The Movie covers the battle around Ambleve. This movie and tell highly fictionalized but entertaining version of the brave men that fought to stop the Nazi winter attack.
Today’s movie is Battle of the Bulge (1965). I’ll jump right in and start with the crew, many we have heard from before. The first of these is
Robert Shaw played Nazi armor commander Col. Hessler. Robert Shaw was born in England in 1927. As an adult, Shaw began stage work in England. Shaw’s first credited film role was The Dam Busters (1955) followed by Hell in Korea (1956). The next movie that Shaw made that would be familiar to American audiences was From Russia with Love (1963) where he played a blonde-haired assassin. He went on to play a driven Nazi in the Battle of the Bulge (1965). One of his finest roles and there are many, was as an over the top Henry VIII A Man for All Seasons (1966). He was in the Battle of Britain (1969) as was every actor with a British accent.
As gangster Doyle Lonnegan, Shaw was extra evil in The Sting (1973). He played another bad guy in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974). However, it was the movie that came out the next year that made Shaw an icon. He played the role of fearless shark hunter Quint in Jaws (1975). He had a great role as the Sheriff of Nottingham in the totally forgettable Robin and Marian (1976). He was also in Swashbuckler (1976) a pirate flick with beauty Geneviève Bujold and James Earl Jones.
Next, Shaw was in the hugely popular Black Sunday (1977) playing the role of an Israeli intelligence agent trying to stop terrorists from blowing up the Super Bowl using the Goodyear blimp. His next movie The Deep (1977) was a bit of a flop but was, in reality, a pretty good movie. In need of money Shaw reprised Gregory Peck’s role from Guns of Navarone (1961) in its’ poorer sequel Force Ten from Navarone (1979). His final film was Avalanche Express (1979) where he played a defecting Russian General. While at home in 1978, Shaw died suddenly from a heart attack at the age of 51.
Robert Ryan played the role of American Major General Grey. Ryan was born in Chicago in 1909. Ryan severed in Marine Corps as a drill sergeant and was a military boxing champion.
Ryan was a gentle and caring man but you would not know it from the roles he was given. Ryan began making films in 1940 but he really got noticed as an anti-Semitic bully in Crossfire (1947). I personally enjoyed him as an over-the-hill boxer who wouldn’t take a dive in The Set-Up (1949). He was great as a hostile and cynical cop in On Dangerous Ground (1951).
Ryan’s build and rich voice lead him to be cast as the bad guy in films like The Naked Spur (1953), Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) with Spencer Tracy, and Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) with Harry Belafonte. He played pure hatred in Billy Budd (1962).
Ryan was a general in The Longest Day (1962) and the Battle of the Bulge (1965). After that, he was cast in some of the most important roles of the time such as The Professionals (1966) with Claudia Cardinale. He played the nemesis of Lee Marvin’s character in The Dirty Dozen (1967), and an angry bounty hunter hunting an old friend played by William Holden in Peckinpah western The Wild Bunch (1969). Ryan’s last film was The Iceman Cometh (1973) with Lee Marvin and Fredric March. Ryan died of lung cancer at the age of 63 in 1973.
Dana Andrews played Col. Pritchard. We discussed Andrews in Episode 4 In Harm’s Way (1963).
George Montgomery played a small role as Sgt. Duquesne. Montgomery was born in Montana in 1916. At the University of Montana, he was a boxing champion. He moved to California and began coaching ex-heavyweight world champion James J. Jeffries. Since he could ride he began to get work as a stuntman by 1935. By 1939, he was under contract with 20th Century Fox but was mostly confined to B-westerns. In 1942, he managed to get a couple of co-starring roles.
In 1947, he did get to play Philip Marlowe in The Brasher Doubloon (1947). He went back to westerns and adventure films with nothing really special. He died in 2000 at the age of 84.
Ty Hardin played Nazi spy/commando, Schumacher. Hardin was born in New York but raised in Texas. He served in the Korean Conflict. After the war, he started in B-movies. He had a television show, “Bronco” from 1958 to 1962. He then made a spate of movies: Merrill’s Marauders (1962), The Chapman Report (1962), PT 109 (1963), Wall of Noise (1963), Palm Springs Weekend (1963), and Battle of the Bulge (1965). After this, Hardin’s career seemed to drift away. He moved to Arizona and became an evangelistic preacher.
Pier Angeli played the role of Louise, the only substantial female role in this movie. Pier was born in Sardinia in 1932. At the age of 16, she began working in Italian cinema. The film Miss Nitouche (1954) received Hollywood’s attention. Pier was cast in The Flame and the Flesh (1954) and The Silver Chalice (1954). She played the wife of boxer Rocky Graziano in Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956) opposite Paul Newman. She had other films but the next major production was Battle of the Bulge (1965).
Pier made films through the 1970s but never made it as a star. Her last film was Octaman (1971). On September 10 of that year, Pier was found dead from a barbiturate overdose. She was 39 years old.
Charles Bronson played American Major Wolenski. We covered Bronson in Episode 17 Hard Times (1975).
Hans Christian Blech played the war-wary German Sgt. Conrad. Blech was born in 1915 and spent 4 years fighting the Russians on the Eastern Front during WWII. It was during this time that he received the large facial scar he is known for. He also spent time in a Russian POW camp. Most of his films are German but in the late 1950s and 1960s he was popular in American war films. The two biggest were The Longest Day (1962) and Battle of the Bulge (1965). Blech did in Germany in 1993.
Werner Peters played the role of Nazi Gen. Kohler. Peters was born in Germany in 1918. He served in World War II as a German soldier. Following the war, he became a serious actor and moved to the west in 1955. He specialized in playing Nazis and spies. He had over 100 film and television credits when he died in 1971 at the age of 51.
James MacArthur played American Lt. Weaver. MacArthur was covered in Episode 27 The Bedford Incident (1965).
Karl-Otto Alberty played German infantry commander Von Diepel. Alberty was born in Germany in 1933. He was an amateur boxer before he started acting. He was a well-known star in German. When he started making movies for the west he remained a supporting player. Alberty is known for The Great Escape (1963), Battle of the Bulge (1965) and Raid on Rommel (1971).
Telly Savalas played American tank commander Sgt. Guffy. Savalas was covered in Episode 30 The Birdman of Alcatraz (1962).
This is a long movie. It has an overture and an intermission. The movie begins with Lt. Col. Dan Kiley (Henry Fonda) flying in a bird dog looking for the Germany army just prior to the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. The general feeling is that the war is over and the Germans are beaten. They see a German staff car driven by German Sgt. Conrad (Hans Christian Blech) and carrying Nazi Col. Hessler (Robert Shaw). Conrad’s nerves are shot from the war and he runs the car off the road as the plane buzzes the car.
Col. He’s sleeping goes to a bombed out German city and is taken into an underground complex. He meets with Nazi Gen. Kohler (Werner Peters). Kohler shows Hessler Germany jets and rockets that are in production and a model of the king tiger tank.
As the two men head down the hall American GIs run in and order the Germans to halt. It is actually a practice raid by German commandos headed by Schumacher (Ty Hardin). Hessler also meets commander Von Diepel (Karl-Otto Alberty) who will lead the infantry in the planned assault.
Kohler briefs Hessler on the mission and the timetable. He is also informed that the Allies won’t be able to fly because of the weather. When Hessler ask what he will fight with he is shown a motor pool full of King Tiger tanks. Like a great Nazi, he salutes and says “it can be done.”
We switch back to the town of Ambleve where the American HQ of Major General Gray (Robert Ryan) is located. Lt. Col. Dan Kiley (Henry Fonda) a draftee and former police investigator is trying to convince Gen. Gray that an attack is coming. Col. Pritchard (Dana Andrews) who is Regular Army shuts him down at every pass. Gray has an intelligence report that the Germans are gathering English speakers. Kiley’s photos show Tiger tanks in the woods. In the middle of the meeting, HQ sends a message that Patton is attacking in the south. Gray has enough sense to send Kiley to the front line to grab some prisoners.
Hessler and Sgt. Conrad are having dinner and talking. Conrad has questions about the mission and Hessler gets pissed. Like Gen. Grey, Hessler listens to his subordinate enough to check out the commanders. When they sing a patriotic sound – “Der Panzerlied” Hessler is convinced the inexperienced troops can accomplish the mission.
Next, we see a tank heading down the road with wine, cigarettes, and other contraband tied to it. The commander of the tank is Sgt. Guffy (Telly Savalas). Guffy is more concerned with making a profit than winning the war.
Kiley goes to the front line and finds Maj. Wolenski (Charles Bronson) in a bunker. We also meet gung-ho Sgt. Duquesne (George Montgomery) and rookie Lt. Weaver (James MacArthur).
Kohler sent Hessler a prostitute but he got mad at her and tossed her out. Why was this put in?
Kiley and the patrol come back with prisoners. Pritchard is there waiting. He sees the prisoners as mere kids. All of the prisoners are carrying rubber hoses. Kiley says the troops could be plants put in the frontline to fool the Americans. Kiley gets the info on Hessler so he knows who their facing.
The German commandos parachute behind the American lines. The attack kicks off with Hessler in the lead. The bunker where Wolenski is stationed is overrun by the advance but the men fall back to a fighting position. Wolenski and Kiley blow up one Tiger and Kiley gets to look inside. The tanks quickly overwhelm the Americans. Many are killed but a large number are captured. The Americans are running like their tails were on fire and their asses were catching.
At another location, Guffy and his tank prepare for action. They come up against the Tigers but their rounds just bounce off. Duffy loses his tank.
Sgt. Duquesne and Lt. Weaver gets away in a jeep. Duquesne teaches the LT. to stay loose and take it easy.
Back at Gen. Gray’s HQ everything is in chaos. Hessler is briefing his commanders in a mobile trailer when it hits a mine and all but Hessler and Conrad are killed. Hessler makes the infantry go ahead of the tanks.
Hessler is expecting Schumacher and the commandos to capture the Our River Bridge.
Back at Gen. Gray’s HQ IN Ambleve the streets are crowded with military people going in every direction. Kiley makes it back and gives Gray the bad news that a full-scale German attack is under way.
Gen. Grey knows that the only place the tanks can cross is at the Our River Bridge. Kiley says he is heading there and Gray says he has ordered the bridge blown up. At the Our River Schumacher and his men are holding the bridge as the American stragglers come across. Guffy comes through in a truck and he and his driver jump out and head for the place where his merchandise is stored. Wolenski comes through in a truck and he sees military police setting charges on the bridge. He knows it’s wrong but it doesn’t register why. After the last of the Americans cross the engineers that were supposed to blow the bridge show up. When he see the men making safety mistakes he tries to help. The Germans then kill all the engineers.
Kiley and Wolenski meet at a road crossing and he realizes that the people at the bridge were military police and not engineers. An American tank comes to the bridge and kills a lot of the German commandos. They only hold it until the panzers arrive.
Kiley and Wolenski arrive at a hill above the Our River Bridge and sees the Germans crossing. Kiley takes a shot at Hessler but the bullet ricochets and hits a truck window. The truck swerved and barrels fell off into the river. Kiley watches them float away.
At another location, Duquesne and Weaver’s jeep has broken down. When they hear another vehicle coming and Duquesne forces Weaver to hide. It is a German patrol in a half-track and just before Duquesne attacks Weaver jumps up and surrenders.
Duquesne and Weaver along with other prisoners are herded into a field by Malmady. German trucks back up around the field. The backs open and machine guns begin firing on the American prisoners. Duquesne is killed by Weaver gets away because of the Sgt. Efforts. During the real battle 84, American prisoners were killed at Malmedy.
Back at Ambleve, a steady flow of Americans are coming through. Wolenski is rounding up his command, and Guffy visits the hotel to meet his partner. Guffy’s partner is the lovely Louise (Pier Angeli). When he tries to end the partnership she reveals she is in love with him. He gives her all the money and kisses her for the first time before he leaves to get a new tank.
Gen. Grey is evacuating his headquarters. When he sees an American private running but in total panic Gray realizes it is time for the Americans to make a stand. He orders all units to stop and fight where they are. Pritchard apologizes to Kiley for being a douche.
Grey orders some large artillery pieces and the movie does a speeding train montage. You can see Germans in the distance radioing the movement in. When the train tries to go through a tunnel a German tank blocks the exit and blows up the train.
Hessler’s tanks have taken up bombardment positions outside of Ambleve. Wolenski is heading the American defense. Wolenski recruits cooks and others for infantry.
Hessler’ first assault on the town is repealed. He shows Kohler a cake that was flown across the Atlantic for a private. Hessler thinks he must break the Americans will. Hessler is approved for a night assault on the town. Grey is ordered out and he tells Wolenski to cover their retreat. In one of my favorite lines, Wolenski says” their coming down the chimney now, sir”.
The hotel where Louise lived was flattened and Wolenski and the remaining Americans were taken, prisoner.
Hessler lets the nuns have captured medical supplies for the town folks. But he has a real Darth Vader moment in the town square when they capture a teenager sniper that took a shot at him. The father and the nuns beg for the boy’s life. Hessler says “release the boy Shoot the father.” Wolenski now a prisoner comes to see Hessler and tries to provoke him. Wolenski knows about the massacre and he is trying to see that the same thing doesn’t happen to his men. This is the first Hessler hears of the massacre and he believes the murder has undone everything that he did taking the town and has harsh words with Kohler.
Gen. Gray is getting ready to make a stand at the next river. They see Guffy’s tank run out of gas and when they see the barrels and the hoses it clicks that the Germans are low on gas. With information from higher HQ they figure where the Germans are headed – towards the American fuel depot.
The scene switches to Bastogne and the Germans are demanding the American surrender. McAuliffe’s reply of nuts confuses the Germans.
Weaver is hiding in an abandoned farm when he is discovered by a handful of lost American privates. They ask if they should surrender and he replies “surrender No stay loose.” He now knows how to command and he takes charge making the lost privates into a fighting force.
Grey establishes a new HQ and finds out that Louise is probably dead. Grey finally commits the American tanks to the battle. He knows the American tanks are inferior but he wants to run them out of gas.
Hessler and Conrad have another fight. Conrad is reassigned to the fuel detail. During the night the German column changes direction and the Americans can’t find them. Kiley takes a flight in the overcast conditions. They cut the engine and hear the German column. The plane is hit by tank fire and crashes near the fuel depot. The pilot is killed and Kiley is knocked out. The men at the dump rescue Kiley and put him in a tent.
The tank battle stars because Kiley called in the position before the crash. Grey’s plan is working until Hessler realizes they are trying to run them out of gas. He and a number of tanks break off and head for the fuel dump. The turret is blown of Guffy’s tank but he is unhurt although the driver is wounded. Guffy drives the broken tank down the road until he runs into LT. Weaver and the men from the abandoned farm. Guffy resists but the new take charge Weaver takes command. The two groups join under Weaver’s command and head for the fuel depot.
When Guffy’s broken tank and Weaver’s men get to the fuel dump they find that Schumacher and his remaining commandos have taken the fuel dump for the Germans. Guffy asks for fuel and then on Weaver’s signal the Americans open fire and kill all the Germans. Hessler’s tanks are moving up the hill towards the dump. Weaver orders the men to destroy the dump.
Kiley staggers out of the tent and almost gets shot. Kiley says to burn it and Weaver says don’t worry I know what to do. They start rolling opened fuel barrels down the hill, they open the gas valve on the fuel trucks, and Guffy’s tank pushes over a stack of barrels. Weaver sets the hill on fire with a grenade. Guffy happily shoots the tankers as they run from their burning tanks as revenge for Louise.
Hessler’s tank is the final one moving up the hill but the tracks are becoming mired in the gas soaked mud. When a barrel hits his tank he melts. Gen. Grey shows up just after the action ends. A staff officer says they have abandoned their tanks and are walking back to Germany. Conrad throws away his rifle and slings his pack over his back like a school boy as he heads home.
There is a ton of stuff wrong with this movie like wrong equipment, blue sky, rolling hills instead of a forest but I don’t care. Most of the stuff that they showed in this movie never really happened. There were German commandos, a massacre at Malmedy, McAuliffe said nuts, the Germans attacked, and the Americans won was about all they got right. I don’t care. To me, this is a coming of age story and I enjoy it every time I watch it. Or it could be that American draftees are better than Nazi professionals.
World-Famous Short Summary – Guy comes of age set against the backdrop of the Battle of the Bulge
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Beware the moors