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


Operation Fly Trap

Rating: 2 bayonets

First aired: 10-27-64
Syndication order: 71
Season Three, Episode 7

Written by Don Tait
Directed by John Peyser
Produced by Gene Levitt



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Season 3 COMBAT! episodes:
[Season 3: Overview]
[Silver Service]
[The Long Walk]
[Mountain Man]
[The Duel]
[Vendetta]
[Operation Fly Trap]
[The Impostor]
[Losers Cry Deal]
[Point of View]
[Dateline]
[Brother, Brother]
[The Hard Way Back]
[The Little Carousel]
[Fly Away Home]
[A Rare Vintage]
[The Enemy]
[A Gift of Hope]
[A Walk with an Eagle]
[Birthday Cake]
[The Cassock]
[The Town that Went Away]
[The Convict]
[The Steeple]
[More than a Soldier]
[The Long Wait]
[The Tree of Moray]
[Cry in the Ruins]
[Heritage]
[The Hell Machine]
[Billy the Kid]
[Beneath the Ashes]
[Odyssey]

Synopsis

Trying to get a wounded Doc to safety, Saunders, Caje, and communication sergeant Meider (Gary Lockwood) stumble upon a German patrol setting up a radio center in a French farmhouse. When Saunders overhears that the Germans are expecting a visit from Colonel von Stolzing, the mastermind behind the battle at St. Lo, Saunders determines to lay a trap to catch the Colonel. Saunders captures the German headquarters, makes certain that it still looks operational, and waits for the Colonel. But the longer he waits, the weaker Doc becomes and the greater risk they run in being discovered. The German panzer post calls frequently demanding to speak with the German captain.

A dispatch rider falls into Saunders' trap, along with his detailed map of the German positions. Soon Saunders realizes that one German is missing. Meider does a slipshod search of the basement, failing to find the German corporal hiding there. Caje sees the German flee, but is unable to stop him. Just as Saunders decides that the risk is too great to remain, they get word on the radio that Colonel von Stolzing is en route to them. Saunders figures he can cut it close, knowing that the escaped corporal will take several minutes to reach help. But the corporal stumbles across a fallen soldier with a working radio on his back and calls ahead to the Panzer group. It's a race to see who will arrive at the farmhouse first: von Stolzing or the truck of German troops to the rescue. Do you need to be told who wins that race, or that Meider, who has been a complainer and me-firster through the whole episode, comes through for Saunders in the end?


Review

In his script for "Operation Fly Trap," Don Tait gives us a middle-of-the-road episode that entertains, but never quite moves. This episode trods familiar ground, both in its locales and its plot. Sergeant Saunders is again saddled with an uncooperative Sergeant who has special skills and an attitude. By the final act, he turns out to be a softie that saves the day ... been there, done that, but at least this time we do it with Gary Lockwood.

The story offers plenty of potential for interesting drama, but the script and John Peyser's direction merely gloss over the surface. There's no depth to the plot or the characterizations. Saunders is caught in the dilemma of pursuing a coup for the Allies that could cost Doc his life. Great drama, huh? Well, not in this case.

Conlan Carter as Doc is wonderfully pathetic when appropriate. Most of the time he lays forgotten behind the curtain, except when the script calls for him to make some noise that threatens to reveal the Americans. Doc is downright amiable when discussing with Saunders a decision that could mean his life. With Doc so meekly accepting the situation, it's hard for the audience to get emotionally wrapped up in it. I love how at the end, with some aid, Doc walks on both feet to the truck. Pretty good for someone who just moments later Caje describes as "falling apart." Couldn't they have carried him to the truck?

Caje is particularly macho in this episode as he man-handles German prisoners and brandishes his bayonet. But overall, our Cajun is wasted in this episode. He moves around a lot, but says and accomplishes little. Lots of closeups of Caje in this episode as he stands around listening to other people talk. Even Vic Morrow takes his classic stoicism a bit far in the episode, almost crossing that line into apathy. There's no passion in his performance, or anyone else's in this episode, except for the Germans. Compared to the similar situation in "Glow Against The Sky," Saunders and Caje are acting laidback and almost bored.

The performances I enjoy most in "Operation Fly Trap" are from our incidental players. The casting agent must have called out the reserves of "dialog Germans" for this episode. The script provided over a dozen speaking roles for the "enemy" actors. "Operation Fly Trap" presents viewers with a steady parade of bit players enjoying their moment in front of the camera. This episode is populated with wall-to-wall gorgeous blonds. Paul Busch is very chatty as the radio operator at the Panzer camp; Lee Millar is convincing as the nervous radioman trying to function under Saunders' Tommy gun; the beautiful Mike Krempels lingers in front of the camera as the lost half-track driver; and Jim Goodwin is deliciously befuddled as the poor dispatch driver caught in Saunders' snare. I should know the name of the actor playing the German corporal, since I've seen him killed in many an episode, but his name escapes me. As fun as these vanity moments are, their sheer number dooms this episode to mediocrity. Too much time is spent on minor characters and not enough is spent focusing on the drama happening in the farmhouse. I would have traded all the beautiful Germans in the episode for one impassioned PPT.

I shouldn't rail too much against this episode. It's a solid two-bayonetter. An enjoyable way to spend an hour, this episode doesn't tax your brain or emotions. It's great cotton candy; but it had the potential to be so much more.


Notes, Oddities, and Bloopers

  • More fun with chickens. How much trouble could our group have avoided if they'd developed the habit of machine-gunning any stray chickens on sight?
  • This has to be the most captured farmhouse in all of France.
  • Opening sequence is reused from "Anatomy of a Patrol". Just one problem with that: Saunders in that footage is leading a patrol of many men, but it's just four of them when the real episode starts. Pity they couldn't film Doc getting hit, he got wounded so rarely.
  • In the barn, Doc's uniform has little blood on it; but in the hayloft he's dripping blood down on the German.
  • The end of Act I bothers me. It's an odd shot of Saunders flinging his camo helmet into a corner, while turning away from three prisoners that he should be carefully watching.
  • The background music is particularly intrusive in this episode.
  • Don't mess with Saunders. The German Captain challenges Saunders orders and says "I'm afraid, sergeant, you're going to have to force me," Saunders does just that.
  • Trek connection: Star Trek fans will remember Gary Lockwood from the second pilot "Where No Man Has Gone Before."
  • Continuity error: Lockwood leaves the house with a carbine, but he doesn't have it when the battle begins. What did he do, fling it away at the first sign of trouble?
  • The final battle scene is poorly staged. That German behind the water barrel kept standing up before firing. How did Saunders continually miss such a good target?
  • For the female fans, note the great bun shot of the escaping German as seen through the wall of the cellar.
  • My goodness! The much captured French farmhouse is right on Euccy Road. The staff car pulls out past it as Saunders and company escape. But there's bad re-use of the same locale a few edits later; when the car is supposed to have progressed down the road, the car pulls into the same location (the only difference is that now the house isn't in the shot).

Cast Credits

Vic Morrow
as Sgt. Saunders

Rick Jason
as Lt. Hanley
(Note: does not appearin episode)

Guest Star
Gary Lockwood as Sgt. Meider

Conlan Carter as Doc
Pierre Jalbert as Caje

Leonard Bell .... Major Orcutt
Bob Garrett .... German Sgt.
Lee Millar .... German Radio Operator
Jim Goodwin .... Dispatch Rider
Mike Krempels .... Half Track Passenger
Lou Robb .... German #1
Herb Andreas .... German #2
and
Frank Marth
as German Captain

[Note: Paul Busch in uncredited appearance as the Major's radio operator.]


Dialog Excerpts

German Captain:
Sergeant, we have an old saying which goes, when a reckless hunter sets a trap, he often becomes its first victim.

Saunders:
Hey, Doc, can you hold out a little longer?
Doc:
Yeah, I heard.
Saunders:
See, if we can nail this Colonel, it'll be real important.
Doc:
It's okay, Sarge, I understand.
Meider:
Just beautiful, Sergeant, nearly choked me up. You should have really told him that it doesn't matter if he kicks off, long as you pull a Silver Star out of this and a couple of weeks in Piccadilly to show it off.
Saunders:
All right, shut up!

Meider:
This is absolutely screwy. The entire German army could be on its way here right now, and probably is. Now, what about us?
Captain:
He's right, Sergeant. Your first responsibility is the lives of the men in your charge, you know.
Meider:
Yeah. Well, it doesn't bother this guy yet if a handful of dogfaces get shot to bits. He's got some kind of a suicide complex.
Saunders:
Two more minutes.
Meider:
Eh! Two minutes. Do you realize a whole platoon can be mowed down in two minutes? Or even less.
Saunders:
Knock it off.
Captain:
Sergeant, may I say something?
Saunders:
You already said it. By now your corporal has already met up with his buddies and now your half-tracks and tanks are on their way, huh?
Captain:
No, no. Let us assume that I am wrong in that, eh? And let us further assume that you are correct and Colonel Stolzing will soon be here, ja?
Saunders:
Let us assume that.
Captain:
Now, Sergeant, do you think that German Colonels travel alone? Do you expect Colonel Stolzing to -- to walk in here with no aides, no driver, no protection at all? Sergeant, now what is the first thing they will see when they drive into that yard, heh? The telephone wires are not even connected. There is no sentry on duty. There is nothing. Now, Sergeant, do think that German field officers are stupid?
Meider:
Of course, they are. They are because Sergeant Saunders says so. He thinks we're going to take von Stoltzing just like Grant took ... [von Stolzing's car arrives ] There's your medal, Sergeant.

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