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

(022) No Time for Pity

Rating: 3 bayonets
* * *

Written by Steven Rich
Directed by Bernard McEveety
Produced by Robert Blees

First aired February 26, 1963
Season 1, Episode 21
Syndication Order: 22

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[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]
[I Swear by Apollo]
[The Walking Wounded]
[The Medal]
[The Volunteer]
[No Time for Pity]
[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]


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.

Notes, Oddities, and Bloopers

  • Kirby's got that M1 again.
  • Last saw Hellstrom as the doctor in "I Swear By Apollo" and we'll see Denise Alexander again in "The General and the Sergeant"
  • Book burnings? Cliche, but boy it made for some pretty lighting effects.
  • Can't any of those Germans hear Hanley talking on his squawk box?
  • Hanley's call sign is "Badger." I'm not touching that one.
  • Saunders takes on the King Two call sign when the Lieutenant goes off on his own to badger.
  • Those darned German automatics! If it hadn't jammed on Hanley, he'd have been able to save the girl.
  • Starting a fine tradition, Paul Busch dies in his first appearance. Though this time the kill goes not to an American, but to a German, Gunnar Hellstrom.
  • The town of Bernay was bypassed five days ago by the 21st.
  • They're now in Saint Agot (sp?)
  • Captain Witlow in charge of King Company.

Cast Credits

Rick Jason
as Lt. Hanley

Vic Morrow
as Sgt. Saunders

Denise Alexander

Guest Star
Gunnar Hellstrom

Jack Hogan as Kirby
Pierre Jalbert as Caje
Dick Peabody as Littlejohn
Tom Lowell as Billy Nelson

Michael Davis ..... Jean
Robert Winston ..... Hoffman
William Phipps ..... Captain Witlow
Guy de Vestel ..... Marcel
Paul Busch ..... Mueller
Dennis Robertson ..... Baker

(Notes: Alexander and Hellstrom are credited only before the show.
Andrea Darvi and Raymond Cavaleri in uncredited appearances.)

Dialog Excerpts

You know, mopping up these dead towns really gives me the creeps, Kirby.
Yeah, like going to funerals.
What's wrong with funerals. Everything's always nice and quiet.

[sound clip] What's to like about funerals? (59 k)
Yeah, well personally, I'll take Paris. If the Krauts keep pulling back, we'll be there any day now.
Yeah, you ever see a can-can, kid?
A can-can?
You mean they never had any at those Sunday school picnics?

We got three hours. After it's dark, somebody's got to get into that building with a handy-talky, get a layout of the place, flash it back, and rest of us'll take it from there.
That makes sense. You want me to go?
No. You stay here. This is my idea and I'm stuck with it.
What, are you pullin' rank on me?
That's right.
Hey, Lieutenant, why don't you take me along with you. I'm the one who speaks French. I can help you.
No dice.

Thanks for coming.
I only came to tell you once more that you must go.
I couldn't go even if I wanted to. Not yet, anyway.
But you know what will happen if they find you here.
I know we'll all be dead we if don't get out of here.
No. The Germans will leave soon.
I heard him say the same thing. But he's lying. Finding you and the others here was a break they hadn't counted on. They grabbed it to get more time. But it's costing us lives.
What about my life? You have no right to cheat me of my life.
I'm trying to save it.
Please do nothing. Please.
Now listen to me. You're scared. So am I. If you'll only tell me where the Germans are and what they're doing --
No. No.
Look, you're a librarian. You can see what they do to books. If everybody felt the way you do, they'd win the war. Now those kids have got a right to live, too.
No, no. Those are only words.

You were right, what you said about me. I have had nothing but books and dreams. I always thought there would be time for other things. And now, when there's no time left, I realize that my life has been empty and wasted. And I do not wish to die with such regrets. You remember the toast you made in the wine shop? Shall we drink it together before it is too late?

You call your shots pretty close, Lieutenant.
Not me, Sergeant. A girl named Annette. Come on, let's go.
Wait a minute. Where are you going?
Goin' back to look for her.
After that barrage? If she didn't leave with you, she's not leaving.
I want to find out for myself.
Take over. We won't be long.
All right, Sarge.

(later,they find her corpse amid the rubble)

How old was she?
I don't know. Twenty maybe. She said I had no right to cheat her of her life.
You told me she called the shots. There was no other way. Just think of those kids. They're alive and safe.
Yeah, I guess there was no other way.

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