The Devil's Brigade
MGM // Unrated // $14.95 // May 7, 2002
Review by Gil Jawetz | posted June 12, 2002
M O V I E
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Recommended
E - M A I L
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R E V I E W S
Graphical Version
THE STRAIGHT DOPE:
The late-sixties were the last years for a few decades when truly patriotic war movies could draw audiences. Within a couple of years films like Bonnie and Clyde, Easy Rider, and Midnight Cowboy would usher in a new kind of masculinity (as well as new levels of ratings permissiveness) that would make a film like The Devil's Brigade look positively old-fashioned.

The story, about a Lieutenant Colonel (William Holden) who's been forced to whip a combined unit of elite Canadian soldiers and confrontational American knuckleheads into shape before their time to serve in World War II arrives, offers an opportunity for some interesting reflections on the way men treat each other. Still, the film is filled with every cliche in the war movie book: The men are hateful towards each other at first, then find themselves joining forces in a drunken barroom brawl, and eventually find equal ground and dignity in collaboration.

The film doesn't aim for the complexity of a masterpiece like The Bridge on the River Kwai, and is happy just to show off it's "based on a true story" pedigree. But if Americans and Canadians being able to overcome their differences and get along is something to brag about then we're all in trouble.

Still, The Devil's Brigade is a solid war movie. The characters are pretty standard rough-around-the-edges goons who get whipped into shape, but the dialog is snappy and the story, which documents the formation of the first Special Forces Unit, is worthwhile. William Holden is, as always, excellent and the cast of soldiers, both on the American and Canadian sides, is filled with fine performances. Despite the fact that the film follows several decades filled with just this sort of film it still manages to rouse the audience's sense of patriotism.

VIDEO:
The widescreen video looks quite good. It's not anamorphic for some reason, but the elements are in reasonably good shape for a film of this age and the transfer has been handled well.

AUDIO:
The 2.0 mono track is quite good, with clear dialog, bold musical score, and good atmosphere. The disc also includes French and Spanish 2.0 mono tracks, as well as English, French, and Spanish subtitles.

EXTRAS:
A Trailer is included.

FINAL THOUGHTS:
Not as original as the best war films, The Devil's Brigade is a fine film with strong performances and a good, patriotic tone. With all the uncertainty of war, there's strength in teamwork and The Devil's Brigade shows soldiers under some of the worst conditions learning how to function at their best.

Email Gil Jawetz at buskerdog@yahoo.com



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