Paratroop Command (1959)


(director: William Witney; screenwriter: Stanley Shpetner; cinematographer: Gilbert Warrenton; editor: Robert S. Eisen; cast: Richard Bakalyan (Charlie), Jim Beck (Cowboy), Jack Hogan (Ace), Ken Lynch (Lieutenant), Jimmy Murphy (Sergeant), Jeff Morris (Pigpen); Runtime: 71; AIP; 1959)
“If you like a no-nonsense war story of all action, no big-name stars, and one that validates courage…you got it in this solid low-budget actioner.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A routine AIP action-packed WW11 drama. It stars Richard Bakalyan as Charlie, a screw up who joined the paratroopers to prove to himself that he can finish what he started, even if he has to die doing it.

The action begins in 1942, with the invasion of North Africa. There is a machine gun nest in the hills that must be taken out by the rough combat paratrooper company led by the Lieutenant (Ken Lynch).

Ace (Hogan) and Cowboy (Beck) who were friends from their hometown days, come up with a plan to distract the Nazis. Cowboy volunteers to don a dead Nazi’s uniform and the men in his company fire at him as he returns their fire, until he gets within range of the Nazi firepower and then he will turn on the Nazis. After this worked Charlie who fell behind the other men, fires at the Nazi not realizing that it was Cowboy playfully pointing a rifle at the Americans who had their hands raised. He mistakenly kills Cowboy. The men never forgave him for that accident, saying he killed Cowboy because he froze in action back at the start of the operation and Cowboy was the one who reported it.

The only one who treats him in a professional manner is the Lieutenant, as the other men refuse to have anything to do with him. Ace threatens to kill him. The next battle takes place with the invasion of Sicily, as Charlie can’t wait to prove himself in battle; but, he doesn’t get a chance, as the men successfully repel a contingent of Nazis who want to kill the Italian family that lives there. They refuse to have him participate in the operation. When things get so bad and the men treat Charlie as if were a pariah, it is suggested by the Lieutenant that he transfer out. But Charlie tells him that he won’t transfer out that he will find a way to redeem himself, even if it means he has to die.

Warning: spoiler to follow.

The third leg of the invasion for this rugged outfit, comes at the beach of Salerno. The men jump into the middle of heavy Nazi armor movements. They need the radio to get this information back to headquarters or else they will all be killed, but they can’t work it without the generator. Charlie is carrying the generator on the parachute drop, but he gets tangled in a tree. For the men to free him, they will have to clear-out the area. Meanwhile the Lieutenant gets hit and can’t move, as he calls for the generator from across the open road. The price was heavy to rescue Charlie, as the only one left from his company is the Sergeant (Murphy). Charlie now has to go across the road to reach the Lieutenant, but the road is right in the Nazis’ view. Somehow Charlie finds a way to get the generator there, giving up his life in doing so.

If you like a no-nonsense war story of all action, no big-name stars, and one that validates courage…you got it in this solid low-budget actioner.


REVIEWED ON 5/27/2000 GRADE: C +