Tail Slate suggests a few ‘war films’ for Memorial Day Viewing

A quick check of television listings for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend shows pretty much the same tried and true war movies will air this year that are shown year in and year out.  Not that there is anything really wrong with these films, but for those who want something a bit different, TailSlate suggests the following, in no particular order.

Robert Mitchum and Ann Blyth in 'One Minute to Zero'
Robert Mitchum and Ann Blyth in ‘One Minute to Zero’

One Minute to Zero is a film about the Korean War and noteworthy for two things.  One is that it was the last of the RKO Studios films produced while Howard Hughes was in charge.  The other is that it generated controversy regarding footage of the shelling of refugees being forced through the UN lines by North Koreans attempting to infiltrate.  While not a great film it is a favorite among aviation fans for its depiction of air power in war.

Nearly three decades before writer/director Samuel Fuller’s The Big Red One attacked the big screen in 1980, the decorated WWII veteran (Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart) gave us 1951’s Fixed Bayonets!.  It is also a film about the Korean War.  It was the big screen debut of James Dean (uncredited) and was the initial collaboration of Fuller and Medal of Honor recipient Raymond Harvey who served as the film’s technical advisor.

Rescue Dawn is a 2006 film based on the true story of how Dieter Dengler escaped from a Pathet Lao POW camp in Laos.  Starring Christian Bale and Steve Zahn it won raves from the critics.  It is raw and extremely engrossing.  The real Dieter Dengler received the nation’s second highest medal for valor, the Navy Cross, for his heroism in surviving six  months of torture and the 23 day ordeal he endured in his escape.

Christian Bale and Steve Zahn in 'Rescue Dawn'
Christian Bale and Steve Zahn in ‘Rescue Dawn’

Neil Sheehan won a Pulitizer Prize for non-fiction for writing A Bright Shining Lie which told the story of John Paul Vann, a U.S. Army office who was an advisor to the South Vietnamese during the early days of the Vietnam War.  It was made into an HBO film starring Bill Paxton and Amy Madigan.

Benjamin Bratt as Lt Colonel Henry Mucci in 'The Great Raid'
Benjamin Bratt as Lt Colonel Henry Mucci in ‘The Great Raid’
Benjamin Bratt side by side with the real Lt Colonel Henry Mucci
Benjamin Bratt side by side with the real Lt Colonel Henry Mucci

In the waning days of World War II in the Pacific Theater, over 500 POWs (mostly Americans) were held in a camp in the Philippines by the Japanese.  The Allies were afraid the Japanese were going to kill these prisoners so a daring rescue was planned and carried out.  This mission became the 2005 film The Great Raid.  When the mustache was added to Benjamin Bratt he looked very much like the man he was portraying.

Seven-time Academy Award nominee Richard Burton starred in Raid on Rommel, a 1971 film that reuses some footage from 1967’s Tobruk and the plot is basically the same.  Burton served as a RAF navigator toward the end of World War II.  He also starred in many other war films, most notably Where Eagles Dare, The Longest Day, Desert Rats and Breakthrough.

Linda Cardellini in 'Return'
Linda Cardellini in ‘Return’

When Coming Home was released in 1978 it was hailed as a great film about life after war and along with 1989’s Born on the Fourth of July, is considered among the best in this war film niche.  The lesser known 2011 movie Return is an indie film about how a female soldier deals with the aftermath of her deployment in the Middle East.  Best known for her work on television, Linda Cardellini shines in this film.

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