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Combat! Season 5



Season 5
COMBAT! episodes:
[The Gun]
[The Losers]
[Ollie Joe]
[The Brothers]
[The Chapel at Able Five]
[A Child's Game]
[The Letter]
[The Outsider]
[The Bankroll]
[Cry for Help]
[The Furlough]
[The Gantlet]
[The Masquers]
[A Little Jazz]
[Nightmare on the Red Ball Run]
[The Partisan]

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

A Child's Game

Rating: 1.5 bayonets

Teleplay by Gilbert Ralston
Story by Sidney Elliss
Directed by Bernard McEveety
Produced by Richard Caffey

Aired 10-18-66 - Season 5, Episode 6 - Syndication Order: 133


After taking the French village, the squad continues on to set up an OP in a French farmhouse. They find it occupied by Germans. In the firefight Littlejohn shoots one German in the leg; he and Saunders capture the wounded German and his leader. They discover they're kids in their teens, as are all the soldiers holding the house. Littlejohn is mortified that he's wounded a kid. The rest of the squad, including Saunders, are also disturbed about fighting kids, all except their German translator, Muller. He was born in Germany, but his parents got out when they saw what was coming. He has a particular fear and hatred for the Hitler youth. Saunders is given one hour to take the house, by any means. They try to scare the kids out with a blaze of bullets. One kid panics and runs out of the farmhouse. Mueller has him in his sights, but cannot shoot. The kid runs back into the house and the kids continue to protect it. The squad tries to panic them with grenades, again to no avail. Their sergeant hears the battle and fights his way into house to join his "men." During the fight Kurt is killed and the German sergeant is mortally wounded. Their sergeant orders them not to shoot, to surrender. The boys are terrified watching their sergeant die before their eyes. Dieter is broken over Kurt's death. He offers to go in to the farmhouse to talk the others out. He is now the eldest, their leader, and must take over. Once in the farmhouse, he orders them to fight. Their sergeant, with his last breath, tries to get them to surrender. All give up, Dieter last.


There's a lot to like in this episode directed by Bernard McEveety -- unfortunately, the script and the casting doesn't rank among them. Lots of good action sequences (which I've come to expect from McEveety, their strongest action director) and nice performances from the usual suspects. But the script is both thin and weak (and also features a premise that I don't agree with -- that sixteen-year-olds make lousy soldiers. Historically, teens have made excellent soldiers, unfortunately,) The numerous action sequences in this episode are far too long, since there is so little plot action to keep the actors busy.

The casting of the soldiers could have been better. These boys look no younger than the actor cast to play the young American soldier Danny in "Cry For Help". If we were supposed to feel for the plight of these kids, I'd have preferred them to really look like kids. These guys had all attained their full growth. Coming up against any of these "kids" in a dark alley, I'd have been frightened. Toward the end of the war, the Germans were putting thirteen-year-olds in uniform. A younger cast would have been more effective.

I find the reactions of the squad a bit odd. True, you don't want to blow away a youngster. But if somebody's shooting at you, you're going to shoot back, and shoot to kill. These may have been kids, but they're still trained soldiers. Our veteran squad seemed to be expressing the reactions of soldiers new to warfare. Littlejohn threatening to refuse to kill these "kids"? He knows better.

Unfortunately, this script has too many missed opportunities. This was the only script to deal head-on with the terror of the Hitler Youth and it was glossed over. Muller's reaction of hatred may well have been based on fear, fear of what he narrowly escaped. If his parents had been unable to escape Germany, he might have been one of those kids. But his hatred and his anger was presented to us in act one, resolved in act two, and never dealt with again in the rest of the episode. Also, the dilemma of Dieter, the reluctant orphan soldier who finds himself in command of a doomed squad is dealt with only superficially. The writer A for effort, but the execution is just too shallow.

Notes, Oddities, and Bloopers

  • In the opening sequence it's Super-Caje, leaping through and over burning debris in a single bound. I hope they paid him well for this episode. I wouldn't come that close to fire without a lot of inducement.
  • Sure looks like Saunders is shot by the German Sergeant, but when next we see him, no blood and nobody seems to be treating his wound. What happened?
  • Is the dog the same one from "Hear No Evil"?
  • How'd the wounded German sergeant manage to drag himself across the open farmyard into the house without the squad shooting him?
  • McEveety has a couple trademark shots: a series of crisp pans and stops on faces (all in one camerashot, with appropriate martial music), soldiers firing almost directly into the camera, and filming through the sights of a rifle. You'll see several instances of these in this McEveety episode. An example of the first is when he pans to each of the young German soldiers standing guard in the windows of the house quite early in the show (he did almost exactly the same series of camera movements showing the Germans standing guard in the win- dows at the top of "Bridgehead").
  • Gee, not just one, but two prisoners who speak flawless Eng- lish. Interesting that the one learned in the Gymnasium. Isn't he, though, too young to have graduated? Must be a fast learner.
  • Serial # of Dieter 17654328, Kurt 11547114.
  • I believe this is the only episode to credit a dialogue director.

Cast Credits

Vic Morrow
as Sgt. Saunders

Rick Jason
as Lt. Hanley

Peter Haskell
as Carl Muller

Henry Brandon ..... Hans
John Maurer ..... Kurt
John Walker ..... Heinrich
Jim Henaghan ..... Gunther
David Loring ..... Karl
Eric Vaughn ..... Wilhelm
Mark de Vries ..... Ernest
Dennis Olivieri as Dieter

Dialog Excerpts

Hey, Mueller, don't let those kids get to you.
You just think we're playin' around with a bunch of tough kids, don't you Kirby? Well, you're wrong, we're not. Those aren't kids, those are professionals. They didn't play, they marched. Went to meetings, beat up old people. These kids you know, they spy on their own parents? Turn 'em in to the police? Burn churches, bomb homes? My parents are from Germany. I was born there. My father was a lawyer and judge. He left because he couldn't stomach what he saw. They haven't changed. You'll see. You don't kill them, they're gonna kill you.

How long you been in the war? (no answer from Dieter) Well, don't your parents worry about you?
My mother, my father, were killed in Berlin. American bombers.
Is that why you're here?
He's here because it is his duty.
At your age?
At birth.
Let me give you a little tip.
Advice. The sergeant may not have any choice. And if you don't want to see your buddies killed, you better do what you can to get them out of here.
Then why doesn't he attack? Perhaps it is not they who will die?
Don't you bet on it.

Doc: Sarge, those kids are not --

Saunders: Not now, Doc.

Kirby: They're not gonna come out.

Littlejohn: I'm not gonna do it. Nobody can make me.

Caje: Take it easy, Littlejohn.

Littlejohn: Take it easy, nothing. I'm not gonna do it and I mean it. I'm not gonna kill a bunch of kids. Sarge!

Saunders: Littlejohn, I heard you. And you're gonna do just what you have to do, just like the rest of us.

Dieter: Sergeant? I will talk to them and ask them to come out. Not because they are so young, but because the situation is so hopeless.

Saunders: Will they listen to you?

Dieter: Yes, yes. They will listen to me. I am their leader. But I must go to them. They will not trust you unless they can be assured of my safety and theirs. (Saunders unties him.) Sometimes it is hard to know what to do.

Other Voices

  • 3.5 bayonets -- Bill Jensen (King Six)
  • 3.0 bayonets -- Rob Lingelbach (King's Bishop) "This episode's story is about some German soldier/kids of 16 or so who are defending a farmhouse in a futile patriotism, and Saunders' and the squad's dilemma in not wanting to kill them. Many scenes are shot in the farmhouse with the Germans, these are beautifully shot and acted, and though all the dialogue is in German, it didn't detract too much that I didn't know what they were saying. These scenes in the farmhouse bring you right into the Germans' world in a way that I don't remember seeing in any other episode. I'll give this splendid directing/cinematography 3.0 bayonets, it loses some points only because I'm a little skeptical about the story, 8 - 10 teenage German soldiers together in a farmhouse."

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