Written by / 5/29/2017 / No comments / , , , , , ,

MEMORIAL DAY REVIEW OF 'BREAKTHROUGH' W/ JOHN AGAR

Warner Archives front and back of DVD Year: 1950
An unplanned writeup for Memorial Day since, as a collector of the Warner Archive DVDs, it's refreshing to find an old B&W World War II flick that's more an intriguing, suspenseful journey than cliché melodrama... 

Despite the fact the nicest guy on board shows-off a picture of his wife and kids, and winds up predictably dead: There's also the token jester i.e. comic relief; a kindhearted simpleton; a muscle-bound dolt; a nervous, really young small town kid; a wise, head-strong Sergeant; an educated Lieutenant who lacks actual fighting experience; and his jaded, too-experienced Captain, trying to get him ready to, in this particular story, lead men onto the beaches of Normandy...

BreakScore: ***1/2
All these examples aside, and despite pockets of timeworn dialogue, BREAKTHROUGH is original and entertaining enough to stand on its own merit, building up the plot within the action while in constant motion...

As future creature-feature icon John Agar plays Lt. Joe Mallory, bullied by first-billed David Brian as Capt. Hale outside a practice run, we soon enter the barracks where the privates reluctantly await their upcoming campaign: there's enough quirks and physical attributes to distinguish each person so that everything means more, later on, when the bullets fly...

In particular, Dick Wesson's Pvt. Hansen, doing imitations of Edward G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart, which are cleverly written and genuinely funny: not just because the very nervous and young Richard Monahan, as Lt. Joe "Four-Eff" Mallory  wearing foggy glasses and speaking in a high-pitched voice  needs something.. anything... to keep him optimistic for what's ahead. 

Getting ready... John Agar in back
With so many actor and character names, this review's turning into a phone book. But Frank Lovejoy is important enough as Sergeant Pete Bell, whose rock-hard countenance not only grounds the picture but his gravely voice convincingly narrates: from a crowded freight ship to Normandy Beach, thrusting the sand-crawling troops through heavy German gunfire, up and down pathways and hillsides where most of the suspense occurs, and the body count begins... 

Unlike SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, the main characters don't drop like flies along the way. But there's a feeling that anything can happen, at any time, and that no particular man is safe: Even when the survivors find harbor in a French village that seems too good to be true  winding up in a climax that would repeat itself thirty-six years later in Stanley Kubrick's FULL METAL JACKET... So someone must've been familiar with BREAKTHROUGH: a nice little WWII-programmer that blends stock footage without seeming phony, and there's always a place to go without malaise, allowing the audience to keep track of each and every move. 
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