Combat! reviews by Jo
Episodes rated from 0 to 4 bayonets
(011) Escape to Nowhere
First aired 20-Dec-1962 (Episode 7 of Season 1)
After falling prisoner, a bewildered Hanley finds himself both the ally and the
prisoner of Baron Friedrich von Strelitz, a Wehrmacht general who is flee Germany. With
Hanley in German uniform, the General hopes to reach the Allied lines before the Gestapo
catch up with him and arrest him for his participation in the failed plot to assisinate
I really dislike plotlines that make me feel stupid. I know that
scriptwriter Malvin Wald had an important point to make about war and the nature of
patriotism. I know, because the dialogue repeatedly said so. I'm just not sure what the
point was. I'm unsure why gun-toting children (including the adorable Bijou from the
episode "The Little Jewel") suddenly appear out of nowhere, shoot a priest, and
I cannot pinpoint where the story goes wrong. It has such possibilities: a moral
dilemma of a General who must choose between his oath of allegiance and the good of his
country, and a daughter who chooses patriotism over familial duty. Near the battlelines, a
remorseful and wounded General fears he is truly a traitor and is overcome by his shame at
killing fellow Germans. At gunpoint, he tries to force Hanley to return him to Germany.
But Hanley refuses, trying to convince the General that what he now views as treason is
really patriotism. The General dies before reaching the Allied lines, in limbo between two
great armies and still unresolved in his own mind as to whether he is a hero or a coward.
This is the stuff of great tragedy, but "Escape to Nowhere" fails to deliver any
This is Robert Altman's weakest outing as a director for Combat! The direction
is ordinary, matching the performances. Albert Paulsen as the General (also seen in "Forgotten Front" and "Retribution") looks ridiculous under a garish
blonde hairpiece with matching eyebrows and moustache. I was also bothered by the daughter
of a prominent General serving as an entertainer in a disreputable dive. Seems improbable.
Rick Jason is very watchable in this silly story. His
apprehension at passing himself off as a German at the club provide the best moments of
the episode. Sasha Hardin, whose first Combat! appearance was in the episode "The Prisoner," is wonderfully menacing as the Gestapo agent
bent on bringing the General to justice. He and Jason play off each other well in the
scene in the club where they both are working at not communicating the truth about
themselves to each other. The scene is a beautiful study in playing around an emotion.
ABOUT FILMING THE EPISODE:
This episode is among the favorites of producer Robert Blees. He came up with the
concept of the episode prior to the show going into production. He says, "They had
this wonderful train station and when I toured the lot with our art director it was
ramshackle and torn and ruined and all of the tarps had holes in them," says Blees.
He said we're gonna have to spend forty, fifty thousand bucks to fix this. But I said,
Come on, this is war time. This is a bombed out station. We'll write a story around
the set. It was a very very successful one with Rick as the star." The episode,
hyped by the network press, was well received and elevated Rick Jason among the female
viewers of the show.
NOTES, ODDITIES, AND BLOOPERS:
In the graveyard scene, the rain falls in front of Hanley and the General, not on them.
They never get wet.
Among the French children is actor Michel Petit, who plays Bijou in "The Little Jewel" and appeared earlier this
season in "Missing in Action"
Rick Jason as Lt. Hanley
Vic Morrow as Sgt. Saunders (does not appear in episode)
Albert Paulsen as General von Strelitz
Joyce Vanderveen as Maria
Sasha Hardin as Colonel Kleist
Roger Til as French Priest
Lester Fletcher as German Interrogator
William Speckman as Bower
Lou Robb as Mueller
Hans Difflip as German Major