|Combat! episode reviews by Jo Davidsmeyer
Episodes are rated from 0 to 4 bayonets
(022) No Time for Pity
Rating: 3 bayonets
While mopping up in the town of Bernay, the squad discovers that German paratroopers have set up an observation post and are holding a young girl, old man, and five children as hostages. The squad pulls out of town, but are given only three hours to rescue the hostages before the town is bombed. Hanley sneaks into town alone and finds the German soldiers on their suicide mission in the town library. Their lieutenant spends time between spotting targets for his artillery trying to seduce the beautiful town librarian, Annette. When Hanley tries to get Annette to help him, she refuses, believing the Germans' promise that when their mission is done, they will leave the children unharmed. After the old man is killed and the German Lieutenant threatens to retaliate on the old man's grandson, Annette makes her decision. She gives Hanley the information he needs and accedes to the German Lieutenant's advances, removing him from his men and out of Hanley's way. Hanley disposes of most of the German guards, freeing the children. As he sneaks them out, he is spotted. His gun jams, so he can't answer the fire. He rushes the children out of town safely, thanks to the German soldier who holds his fire, unwilling to shoot at children. For his kindness, he is shot by his superior officer. Before the German Lieutenant can also take his vengeance on Annette, the barrage destroys the town. Hanley has gotten the children to safety, but Annette dies in the bombing.
* sigh *
This episode is my guilty pleasure for season one. It's a phenomenal episode: it has phenomenally abysmal dialog, and some phenomenally unbelievable action -- all presented in a fast-paced, strongly directed episode that manages to overcome all its defects with verve. I adore it. The episode is out-of-character with such flair and confidence that I enjoy watching it more each time I see it. It's a triumph of strong directing and crisp acting over such minor flaws as bad writing.
Steven Rich wrote this, his first and last, Combat! episode. It features Hanley in a characterization that makes this suave, educated gentleman sound like one of the Bowery boys. This script gifts us with such delightful moments as Hanley talking about "the entire enchilada," "get a layout of the place and flash it back," and disclaiming that "this *joint* would be rubble if it wasn't for those children." Even in his angriest PPTs (patented pep talks), Hanley always used the grammatically correct phrase "if it weren't." Perhaps Steven Rich had a GI slang dictionary in front of him when he wrote this episode. Hanley refers to the field radios alternately as "chatterbox," "handy-talky," and "squawk box."
Bernard McEveety made his Combat! directorial debut with "No Time For Pity." Saddled with a goofy script, a roomful of child actors, and an amazingly bad day-player portraying the Captain, McEveety quickly zeroed in on his assets. A great action director, McEveety opens the show with an exciting battle sequence, focusing in on hardware and men (watch those shots, they'll become part of the package of standard action footage we'll see again and again in the next three seasons). Thankfully, he doesn't linger long on the bad dialog, and moves us quickly to Hanley infiltrating the German-held town. With his usual fine sense of pacing, McEveety artistically covers the fact that nothing much happens for about a half hour in the middle of this episode. He creates fine moments of tension focusing on Hanley scurrying about the dark corners of this town, narrowly evading detection. And he creates some delicious moments of sexual tension between Gunnar Hellstrom as a German officer and Denise Alexander as the repressed town librarian. Hellstrom does great seduction, with confidence and an unrepentant hedonism. Alexander gives a remarkable performance as the frightened girl out of her element who finds the courage to change her own destiny.
Time is used to good effect in the script and in the filming. Once Hanley is in the town, the episode proceeds in real time: the minutes left to the barrage are the minutes left to the end of the episode. With the recurring close-ups on clocks and watches and poignant dialog about lost moments and wasted years, this episode moves despite its lack of action.
The plot is a rehash of "The Chateau," with a beautiful, innocent young woman held captive by an amorous German officer. The innocent uses her feminine wiles to bring about the German's destruction in a thunderous barrage (at the sacrifice of her own life). It's an example of the big sacrifice story, but without the sacrifice. If a female character is going to put her virtue on the line, she should be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice--but in classic '60s TV morality, the women are ennobled by only "thinking" about giving up their virtue.
Besides McEveety, the episode brings us some other Combat! firsts. This is the first featured appearance by Paul Busch. He's got all the good German dialog and is amusing fumbling through a German/French dictionary. He lurks outside the wine shop, trying to get a glimpse of the German Lieutenant "entertaining" the librarian. Despite being a voyeur, he turns out to be a good guy who is unwilling to slaughter fleeing French children. Portraying captured French children, we have first Combat! appearances by Andrea Darvi ("Gitty") and Raymond Cavaleri (Michel from "The Casket").
Rick Jason, when he isn't spouting inane drivel, is wonderful in this episode. Especially the scene in the basement with Annette as he tries to comfort, soothe, and coerce the frightened librarian into helping him. And he looks absolutely delicious throughout. The scenes between him and Saunders are somewhat out of character -- it's a throwback to their characters from "A Day In June" though, so I don't really mind.
Jack Hogan as Kirby
(Notes: Alexander and Hellstrom are credited only before the show.
(later,they find her corpse amid the rubble)
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