Monday, May 31, 2021

Combat! “Hills are for Heroes”: Director Vic Morrow’s Masterpiece, Feature-Length, Two-Part Story (Presented Without Commerical Interruption)

By Nicholas Stix

At the time, the title of this 1966 story was an obvious allusion to the classic, 1962 World War II infantry movie, Hell is for Heroes. Here, the hell is on a hill.

The point is that it’s a meaningless yet untakeable hill, defended by two fortified cement German pillboxes, and yet Lt. Gil Hanley has been ordered to take it—with no artillery support. But his men can’t take it. And yet the order comes down again and again and again—just like hell might be.

Although someone was kind enough to upload both parts as one piece, he did so as an 84-minute story. As broadcast, the story ran 96 minutes, because the last, 12-minute scene at the end of Part I is re-run at the beginning of Part II as recapitulation, but also perhaps because it is one of the most powerful scenes in the modern history of war drama. It obviously influenced Steven Spielberg, when the latter made Saving Private Ryan.

The only version that was posted just as it was shown, over 96 minutes, was done in six parts, presumably out of fear of the Kopyright Kops. Anyone wanting to skip the recapitulation need only by pass Part 2/1.

Vic Morrow, who with Rick Jason co-starred in the series, was clearly not only a gifted actor, but an extremely talented director.

Note that this story came late in the series’ fourth season, as episodes 118 and 119, yet it was not flagging in the least, and is on the short list of the series’ greatest stories.

There’s a bittersweet quality to the title, because Combat! was created in 1962 by Robert Pirosh (1910-1989), who wrote and directed Hell is for Heroes the same year.

Before The War, Bob Pirosh was a successful, Hollywood comedy writer, writing films such as the Marx Brothers’ A Day at the Races (1937).

When The War came, Pirosh enlisted, and made it to master sergeant. He survived the Battle of the Bulge, the biggest battle in the entire war, as one of the “battered bastards of Bastogne.” In Bastogne, Belgium, members of the Army’s elite 101st Airborne, who had been converted to infantry troops, but whose ammo was just about out, and whose gas for tanks was gone, were besieged by well-supplied, crack German troops who outnumbered them 10-1. We had to hold Bastogne, in order to stop the Germans from splitting the American and British forces, and cutting off our path to supplies in Antwerp.

It’s the stuff of legends, yet it’s all true.

The Gerries demanded we surrender, and expected we would. Instead, Maj. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe’s response was, “Nuts!”

And we prevailed! It's one of the greatest stands in American military history.

After The War, Robert Pirosh devoted himself to singing the praises of the infantry. He wrote an original story and screenplay about his experiences in Bastogne, which as filmed by William “Wild Bill” Wellman, became the masterpiece and box-office smash, Battleground. Pirosh won an Oscar for best writing. It was nominated for six Oscars, all told, and won a second statuette for Paul Vogel’s black-and-white cinematography.

(Just about everything I know about Robert Pirosh, I know from Jo Davidsmeyer, the greatest source of knowledge about the show that is a leading contender for the title of the greatest dramatic TV series of them all.)

Unfortunately, once the suits at ABC took on Combat!, they dumped Pirosh.

Hell is for Heroes was another saga about infantrymen on an impossible mission, which unfortunately starred the King of Cruel, Steve McQueen. Pirosh almost wrapped the film but, driven to distraction by the insufferable McQueen, quit just before the finish line. Don Siegel finished the movie, and got full credit as director. Pirosh got no credit for directing his labor of love.

Robert Pirosh continued selling scripts, mostly for TV series, until 1981.
 

Combat! S04E25 - Hills are for Heroes (Part 1) 1/3



Uploaded on Feb 12, 2012 by VariousVideos2012.
 

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Combat! S04E26: “Hills are for Heroes” (Part 2) 1/3
 


 

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