There seems to be this general mentality that if it’s old, it’s a classic. What most people sometimes forget is that there was just as much crap being spewed out of Hollywood as there is today. Of course, I’m talking about Battle of the Bulge, distributed by Warner Bros., a 1965 blockbuster in the truest sense, a real commercialized epic. You got your ‘pre-sold to the public’ A-list cast: Henry Fonda, Robert Shaw, Robert Ryan, Dana Andrews. You got your tank battles, thousands of extras. Yeah, you get it, it’s a spectacle with stars.
Set in the latter days of 1944, the film follows the eponymous battle in which Germany organized its last great offensive against the Allies. Robert Shaw plays the tank commander leading Jerry, and Henry Fonda essentially plays his U.S. counterpart, minus the tank. The Germans get the idea of sending in their own men dressed as Americans behind the Allied lines to disrupt communications, which is just hilarious. It’s a perfect metaphor for all the Germans in the film. They’re American anyway, some without German accents. The story, as with most Hollywood war films, centers on the characters and Battle in particular follows a number of arcs, but the main problem with the film is that it goes on forever. It’s 3 hours long, and despite an assortment of ambitious action set-pieces, it’s just too long, too tedious, and when the dust settles, there’s just not enough of a pay-off to justify your sore ass.
That said, your eyes will hardly be as painful as the splendor of the movie’s ultra-panorama, though not quite ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, boasts impressive visuals that, if nothing else, serve to keep your eyes from closing shut from boredom. Some of the backdrop effects during driving sequences can be kind of cheesy, but hey, it’s not a documentary… this is Hollywood. The battles are no Saving Private Ryan or, more relevantly, The Longest Day, but convincing enough for a ’60s epic, despite typically dramatic deaths involving soldiers uniformly raising their arms.
In sum, Battle of the Bulge doesn’t have enough to satisfy history buffs, film buffs, the casual moviegoer. Bottom line: it’s just not much fun to watch. Scratch that. It’s just plain boring. It’s got a bunch of fantastic actors who don’t really give any memorable performances and who are just there for the billing. It’s more fiction than fact, and it ends with very little in the way of fulfillment… a waste of your time for those who don’t care for jargon.