BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL
(director: Richard Fleischer; screenwriters: Harry Brown/based on a novel by Francis I. Gwaltney; cinematographer: Leo Tover; editor: James B. Clark; music: Hugo Friedhofer; cast: Robert Wagner (Sam Gifford), Terry Moore (Jenny Gifford), Buddy Ebsen (Pvt. Willie Crawford), Broderick Crawford (Capt. ‘Waco’ Grimes), Robert Keith (Col. Cousins), Harvey Lembeck (Pvt. Bernie Meleski), Frank Gorshin (Pvt. Millard Co.G), Scatman Crothers (George), Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer (Savage), Skip Homeier (Pvt. Swanson Co.G), I. Q. Jones (Pvt. Kenny Co.G), Mark Damon (Pvt. Terry Co. G), Brad Dexter (Lt. Joe ‘Little Joe’ Johnson), Tod Andrews (Lt. Ray Mosby), Frank Gerstle(Col. Miles); Runtime: 94; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: David Weisbart; Twentieth Century-Fox; 1956)
“Entertaining but not too believable psychological war drama.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Richard Fleischer (“Armed Car Robbery”/”The Narrow Margin”/”The Boston Strangler”)smoothly directs this entertaining but not too believable psychological war drama, that offers life lessons in getting along with others. It’s based on a novel by Francis I. Gwaltney and is written by Harry Brown.
Southern cotton farmer Sam Gifford (Robert Wagner) is arrogant and treats his sharecroppers like animals. His pretty wife Jenny (Terry Moore) objects to his mean-spirited treatment of the help.
After Pearl Harbor, the National Guard unit where Sam is a sergeant is called up to active duty. Colonel Cousins (Robert Keith), the company commander, is Sam’s father-in-law.The unit is sent to the Pacific, where Sam earns a Silver Medal for heroics during a beach landing. Cousins gets killed by a sniper and the inept Lt. Ray Mosby (Tod Andrews) takes command. When he mows down on a patrol, in a panic attack, three of Sam’s buddies, the sergeant furiously attacks the officer and nearly beats him to death. Colonel Miles (Frank Gerstle) busts him to private and decides not to send him to prison in Leavenworth but to fight the Japanese on an unnamed Pacific island in 1945. The George Company commander is the loudmouth, overbearing and psychopathic Capt. ‘Waco’ Grimes (Broderick Crawford), who runs an unorthodox operation.While on a dangerous mission atop a mountain outpost, Sam befriends Willie Crawford (Buddy Ebsen), a sharecropper in civilian life, and by talking with him openly realizes sharecroppers are also human beings. A reformed Sam now vows to treat his sharecroppers with more sensitivity.Meanwhile their squad was wiped out and the two lone survivors are being attacked by a large group of the enemy.
The life lessons were not interesting, but the action scenes were well-done and a brooding Wagner plays the part well. Under a less talented director, this pic might have gone astray and been overwhelmed by its sentimentality.
REVIEWED ON 6/28/2011 GRADE: B