EIGHT IRON MEN (director: Edward Dmytryk; screenwriter: Harry Brown/from the play A Sound of Hunting by Harry Brown; cinematographer: J. Roy Hunt; editor: Aaron Stell; music: Leith Stevens; cast: Bonar Colleano (Pvt. Collucci), Arthur Franz (Carter), Lee Marvin (Sgt. Joe Mooney, Squadleader), Richard Kiley (Pvt. Coke), Nick Dennis (Pvt. Sapiros aka The Greek), James Griffith (Pvt. Ferguson), Dick Moore (Pvt. Muller), George Cooper (Pvt. Small), Robert Nichols (Walsh, headquarter’s mailman), Mary Castle (Girl in Daydreams; Runtime: 80; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Stanley Kramer/Edna Anhalt; Columbia; 1952)
“A film liked by the critics but never able to find an audience.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A film liked by the critics but never able to find an audience. Edward Dmytryk (“The Caine Mutiny”/”The Sniper”/”Warlock”) helms this quickie low budget film that is a character driven WWII drama. It’s based on the 1945 play A Sound of Hunting by Harry Brown, who also handles the screenplay. Burt Lancaster and Frank Lovejoy were set to play the same roles they had in the Broadway play, but became unavailable when they had lined up other movie projects by the time this film was ready to roll. Mainly because of his success in the play, Burt went to Hollywood to star in the 1946 The Killers. A disappointed Dmytryk had to make the film with an unknown cast, as he got newcomer fresh from the Marine Corps Lee Marvin (in only his third credited film in bit roles) to play Burt’s starring role. Marvin did a great job, and only Burt’s star presence was missing from selling the pic to the public. To replace Lovejoy, Kramer got Bonar Colleano. He’s an American-born actor who grew up in England and spent almost his entire career there where he became a star during the war period, but in America was unknown. Colleano plays the always chatting about girls, goofy, unlikely hero Private Collucci. This was his last American screen appearance; he made a few more British movies and died in a car accident six years later. Also of note, Dick Moore, a former child actor, is one of the eight iron men.
The story tells of an eight man squad of weary infantrymen stuck in a destroyed Italian hamlet for the last seventeen days, who in order to advance have to take out a German machine-gun post blocking their way. The GIs under hard-boiled squad leader Sgt. Joe Mooney (Lee Marvin) decide to wait for relief. The squad also has to wrestle with the problem of rescuing Private Small (George Cooper), who is pinned down by enemy machine gun fire in a shell hole out in a town street.
The other members of the squad include: Arthur Franz, as a typical grunt, Nick Dennis, as a Greek, James Griffith, as a dour soldier, and Richard Kiley, as a soldier with a bad case of nerves.
There’s lots of tedium and chatter about the everyday doldrums of war, fantasizing about broads in daydreams and its theatrical roots show as it’s a one-set story (set in the cellar). Producer Kramer in his autobiography said “he tried to get the film to point at the elusive qualities of war such as what’s right and wrong, loyalty and honor.”
REVIEWED ON 9/9/2007 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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