Combat! reviews by Jo
Episodes rated from 0 to 4 bayonets
(017) I Swear By Apollo
Rating: 3.5 bayonets
Left photo: On the alert for trouble:
Caje, Bresson, Saunders, and Kirby
Right photo: Caje and Kirby check on the injured Bresson.
Written by Gene Levitt
Directed by Robert Altman
Produced by Robert Altman
First aired December 11, 1962
Season 1, Episode 10
Syndication Order: 17
Gene Levitt brings Combat! into an alien world stranger than most visited by your standard
sci-fi series. In "I Swear By Apollo", the squad takes refuge in a cloistered
convent inhabited by specter-like nuns who take little notice of the mortals passing
through their world. As directed by Robert Altman, these silent figures are unworldly
creatures. They are beyond the understanding of these fighting men who temporarily share
their space. The war moves around these sisters, but they are untouched by it. Whether
these men stay or go is of little concern to the nuns, just so long as they keep their war
outside. Robert Altman's direction emphasizes the alien-ness of the sisters. He hides the
nun's faces in shadow. They come and go silently, with barely a whisper of feet on stone.
The near absence of Combat's usual background music in the convent scenes also helps set
this world apart from the usual war-time settings our squad encounters.
The story by Gene Levitt has mythic qualities. A mighty wind
snatches papers from a Frenchman's grasp, bringing him into harm's way. A man is struck
down by a greater force en route to the convent. The squad traces the path of some holy
women to a place of safety. And beneath the overbearing presence of the crucifix we are
shown death threats, lies, and even the theft of light from the altar.
The sisters continue their duties, oblivious to the drama of men-at-arms and to the
mortal struggle of two wounded men. In the end, one man's life is saved, another's is
lost, and the sisters' existence continues unchanged, except for a fresh grave in their
Altman is inventive throughout with his direction, but the surgery scene goes on overly
long and is terribly "showy," with an excess of nicely framed shots of
determined men spying through dripping candles interspersed among clasps of crucifixes.
Though the use of soft breathing under the scene up until the blood pressure drops, is
quite effective. The long, Boticelli-like shots around the surgical "altar" were
quite pretty--but enough already! Too much style.
The acting in this episode is strong throughout. Morrow has a particularly gripping
scene as he explains to the doctor the price of a less-than-successful operation. Gunnar
Helstrom portrays Dr. Belzer as a creature almost as alien as the sisters. His German
doctor is devoid of emotion, even as he finds himself in the hands of the enemy. Helstrom
appears later in the season in No Time for Pity,
John Considine, in his second and final outing as Private Temple, plays the dying soldier
with a bittersweet calm.
Notes, Oddities, and Bloopers
- If the Frenchman had had a decent briefcase, this episode never would have taken place.
- In these credits we find out Crown and Temple's first names
- How does Caje have such detailed knowledge of the inner workings of a convent?
- If I was a captain, I definitely wouldn't want to go out in the field with Hanley or
Saunders--captains never come back once they leave with one of these two. A heart attack.
Sure! I'm beginning to suspect cover-up.
- Neither Temple nor the Frenchman are anywhere near the mine to trip it when it explodes.
- This marks Altman's first Combat! screen credit as producer
- Not a single firearm is discharged in this episode. The only wounds are inflicted by an
inanimate object (a mine) and by nature (a heart attack). There are no person-on-person
injuries in this episode -- though threats galore from Saunders as he bullies the doctor,
the Frenchman on the bicycle, and even Kirby.
- Hanley uses his name over an open radio. Definitely against SOP, King Two.
as Lt. Gil Hanley
as Sgt. Saunders
Gunnar Hellstrom as Dr. Belzer
Pierre Jalbert as Caje
Steven Rogers as Doc
Jack Hogan as Kirby
Dick Peabody as Littlejohn
John Considine ..... Wayne Temple
Arnold Merritt ..... Jerome Crown
Eugene Borden ..... Bresson
Maya Van Dorn ..... Mother Superior
Betty Tessman ..... Nun
John Neris ..... Frenchman
Philip Abbott as Capt. Correm
- They meditate over those skulls. This way they get used to the idea of death.
- I don't need that kind of reminder.
- I'm a soldier, not a doctor.
- The Lieutenant has certain rules and regulations to go by. He's an officer. Responsible to
a lot of people, for a lot of people. He has to be careful about the way he
words certain things. But I don't have that problem. You understand what I'm saying to
- German Doctor:
- Well, if this operation is unsuccessful, if this man dies, I'll kill you.