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JOHN AGAR AND FRANK LOVEJOY FIGHT IN 'BREAKTHROUGH'

Year: 1950 Rating: ****

It's refreshing to find an old B&W World War II flick that's more adventure than melodrama, despite the corny trope of the nicest guy on board showing-off a picture of his wife and kids, and winding up predictably dead...

There's also the 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... 

John Agar in BREAKTHROUGH

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... 

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...

Frank Lovejoy in BREAKTHROUGH

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. Mallory... wearing foggy glasses and speaking in a high-pitched voice... needs something to keep him optimistic for what's ahead...

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...

John Agar in BREAKTHROUGH and Frank Lovejoy

Unlike the more realistic SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, the soldiers 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 programmer blending 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. 

John Agar in BREAKTHROUGH with Brian Kelly
John Agar in BREAKTHROUGH

 

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