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Combat! Season 1
Combat! Season 2
Combat! Season 3
Combat! Season 4
Combat! Season 5


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Season 4
COMBAT! episodes:

[A Day in June]
[Any Second Now]
[Just for the Record]
[The Squad]
[Lost Sheep, Lost Shepherd]
[Forgotten Front]
[Missing In Action]
[Rear Echelon Commandos]
[The Chateau]
[The Prisoner]
[Escape to Nowhere]
[The Celebrity]
[Far from the Brave]
[The Quiet Warrior]
[Cat and Mouse]
[Reunion]
[I Swear by Apollo]
[The Walking Wounded]
[The Medal]
[The Volunteer]
[No Time for Pity]
[Survival]
[Next in Command]
[Night Patrol]
[Off Limits]
[No Hallelujahs for Glory]
[Battle of the Roses]
[Hill 256]
[The Sniper]
[One More for the Road]
[High Named Today]
[No Trumpets, No Drums]

 

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Combat! reviews by Jo Davidsmeyer * Episodes rated from 0 to 4 bayonets 


(006) Forgotten Front

Rating: 4 bayonets

Teleplay by Logan Swanson
From the Story by Jerome Coopersmith
Directed by Robert Altman
Produced by Robert Blees

Aired Oct-02-1962 - Season 1, Episode 1
Syndication Order 5


Synopsis

Albert Paulsen as DorfmannSgt. McGraw and two privates establish an observation post in a dyeworks on the River Vire. They must provide coordinates to knock out the big gun hammering the American lines. But a booby- trapped explosive wounds Sgt. McGraw and kills the rest of the patrol. Hanley dispatches Saunders, Doc, Kirby, and Caje to replace the original patrol and provide aid to McGraw. But McGraw dies as the patrol arrives.

Saunders finds a terrified, middle-aged German deserter hiding in the facility's engine room. Doc is left to guard the German, Carl Dorfmann, as the others search for stray Germans. Dorfmann nervously talks with Doc. He was a magician, a carnival worker, and a song-and- dance man. He loved to sing American songs such as "Show Me The Way to Go Home." Singing for Doc, his energy and joy is contagious. Doc can't help but smile at this jovial man and tap his foot along with the merry song--and this is how the returning patrol finds Doc "guarding" the prisoner.

Vic Morrow and Albert PaulsenKirby is immune to Dorfmann's charm.

Dorfmann is anxious to help the Americans. When a German patrol enters town, Dorfmann sends them away. When Doc trips, accidentally dropping his carbine at Dorfmann's feet, the old German gives it back. But when Kirby lets slip in front of Dorffman that the company is advancing in the morning, he becomes a threat to the squad.

With the big gun destroyed, the squad starts to return to their lines, but find themselves pinned down by a German tank entering the town. They can't take Dorfmann with them, and because of his knowledge about the advance, they can't leave him behind. Saunders leaves Caje to take care of the German as the others sneak out of the town. Back at battalion headquarters Caje reveals that he couldn't look the old man in the eye and shoot him.

Review

The episode "Forgotten Front" provided America its first glimpse of the new action show Combat! This superb story tells of soldiers struggling with morality in the midst of war. Those tuning in expecting sweeping action scenes and lots of bang-bang- shoot-'em ups, may have been disappointed by this intimate look at a small corner of the war and the men who fought there.

In the series premiere, a squad of American soldiers come face-to- face with the enemy, only to discover that this enemy is merely a frightened little man. Worse, a nice man. Ultimately, events require that he be killed. And a single soldier must choose between following his orders and following his conscience.

This type of moral dilemma was at the heart of this exceptional television series. At its best, Combat! examined how soldiers struggle to keep (and sometimes find) their moral center. This was not a series that glorified war, but it certainly showed the kind of "glory" that men (and women) can rise to when tested under fire. Combat! showed war as a furnace that either tempered and strengthened soldiers or destroyed them.

Directed by Robert Altman, "Forgotten Front" deftly underplays the emotions and drama of this complex morality play. When death comes at the beginning of the episode, the emotions are fully felt, but not wallowed in. Saunders has lost a friend in McGraw. But his loss remains private and personal. The story has no villain, except for war itself. The closest thing we get to a "bad guy" in this episode is Kirby acting as a surly American jerk.

In his television debut, Albert Paulsen plays the German prisoner with an endearing charm and vulnerability. Jack Hogan as the Kirby-you-love-to-hate makes obnoxious an artform. This early episode is among Morrow's finest outings as Sergeant Saunders. Besides playing the many levels of a harried and exhausted soldier leading men who don't wish to be lead, he shows us a man at odds with his own actions and with what he must ask of his command. He also shows us a "dangerous" side of Saunders that's more than a little frightening as he confronts a prisoner whose life is in his hands and a GI who disobeys and order.

The ending as originally filmed had Caje executing Paulsen's character. Altman was later forced to add the scene that now ends the episode, where it's revealed the old man's life was spared--an ending I far prefer. I feel the producers made a good call by insisting on the alternate ending. I don't think viewers would have taken to heart a show that premiered with the willful murder of a kindly old man. And I doubt they would have accepted a character with innocent blood on his hands as one of the "good guys" among the regular cast.

Though the episode is rife with technical flaws, the acting and script are so strong these defects barely detract from the raw power of the story. The well-crafted script lets us look at the situation from the viewpoint of Doc (Steven Rogers), the only non-combatant and a character new to this game of war. He feels that his reactions to the German are due to his inexperience. But through Saunders we see that even a war-weary veteran still struggles with the larger questions of morality and duty.

Notes, Oddities, and Bloopers

  • No prologue, starts with theme music and credits. These credits were unique to this show: no narrator and no moving bayonet background.
  • Continuity Problem: Scene with Saunders cooling himself under waterpipe, Saunders goes from damp to soaking wet in one edit. Within 30 seconds he's bone-dry again.
  • Lighting Problems: In the night scene in the engine room, what's the source of light? It's bright as day inside. Throughout the episode the lighting is dreadful. The squad's using flashlights down in the Engine room, so apparently we're supposed to think this room that is lit bright as day is dark. One nice bit is, unfortunately, not possible. As Saunders is outside waiting for Caje to shoot the German, we hear the gunshot and see the muzzle flash brighten the side of Saunders' face. Sorry, They weren't line-of-sight, and light doesn't travel well around corners.
  • Four men, including McGraw, were killed by the booby-trap. Unfortunately, only three men were in the room (the soldier giving cover never came inside).
  • Shall we discuss how medics shouldn't be handling weapons, let alone holding prisoners at gunpoint?
  • At night, when the tank comes rolling up to the dyeworks, they use a stock piece of footage of a tank approaching ... unfortunately its a *daylight* shot.
  • Both Kirby and Caje call Saunders "sir."
  • Why the heck didn't the tank just move forward, block the squad's escape, and blow them to smithereens? (Just where is smithereens?)
  • One of the few episodes where the German's outshoot the Americans. Body count in this episode: Americans dead, 4; Germans dead, none.

Cast Credits

Vic Morrow
as Sgt. Saunders

Rick Jason
as Lt. Hanley

Shecky Greene as Braddock
Jack Hogan as Kirby

Steven Rogers as Doc
Pierre Jalbert as Caje

And Introducing
Albert Paulsen ..... Carl Dorffman

(NOTE: Tom Skerritt appears in an uncredited role at end of show as soldier asksing after Saunders' Thomopson)


Dialog Excerpts

Doc:
How well did you know McGraw? Well, I asked you a question, Sergeant. How well did you know McGraw?
Saunders:
As well as I knew Crenshaw, Allen, Goldshlag, Lister, and fifteen other guys that got it.
Doc:
You know I didn't say more than ten words to him in maybe three weeks.
Saunders:
You never say much to anybody. That's your personality.

[sound clip] Doc and Saunders (124K)


Dorffman:
I know what you think. "This is the enemy." Well, I am no one's enemy. I never had any fight in me. Never. My mother was happy about this. "Oh, such a boy," she said. "So sweet, so gentle." But my father, he's disgusted. I say to my father, "It's easier to smile than to fight."
Saunders:
Did, uh, Doc say anything to you?
Caje:
No. Nothing.
Saunders:
Well, he talked to me. You know it's kinda rough on Doc. He got to know that German. He talked to him. He told me how he handed him back his carbine and how he was in vaudeville and... so don't say anything to Doc about what happened back there. There's no reason why he should know.
Caje:
I won't tell anything to Doc.
Saunders:
And don't you worry about it either. A decision had to be made. A tank looks down your throat, you do what you think is best. There was nothin' else to do.
Caje:
Yes there was. And I did it.
Saunders:
You did what? ... You did what?
Caje:
I didn't kill him. Look, do you think it's easy? You just pull a trigger and shoot an old man who's lookin' up at you?
Saunders:
I heard you fire.
Caje:
Yeah, I fired. But I didn't kill him. I just couldn't. They don't teach you that. Nobody ever taught me that!
Saunders:
All right. Forget it.
Caje:
I started to, but...
Saunders:
Forget it.
Caje:
I just couldn't. That's all.
Saunders:
Forget it. You...did right, Caje.
Caje:
Yeah, but if the old German told 'em.
Saunders:
I don't think he told 'em a thing. And even if he did, one piece of information isn't gonna win or lose this war. You did right. Well, if we're gonna move out I better scrounge me up a Tommy gun.
Caje:
Sarge.
Saunders:
Yeah?
Caje:
Don't you think you have to be pretty sure? Awfully positive before you start playing? Playing God with people's lives?
Saunders:
Yeah, that's for sure.

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Amazon.com logoRelated Reading:
We Were Each Other's Prisoners:
An Oral History of WWII American and German Prisoners of War
Compares the experiences of American and German POWs in WWII. Based on over 150 interviews with surviving prisoners, Lewis Carlson brings the stories of these men to life. From the anti-Nazi German soldier who surrendered rather than fight for Hitler, to the U.S. prisoner who thrice escaped his German captors--the last time to join Russian troops in the Battle of Berlin--to the Jewish-American prisoner sent to a slave labor camp, these moving accounts reveal the terror and anguish of being captured and celebrate the resilience that kept these soldiers alive.
Check price at Amazon for We Were Each Other's Prisoners

Nazi Prisoners of War in America by Arnold Krammer
Nearly a half million Germans prisoners were transported to the United States as enemy alien prisoners during WWII. Here is their story, told in their own words, in their letters, and the stories of the Americans who interacted with them.
Read more... 

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