BULGING WITH ERRORS
The most damning publicity for Battle of the Bulge came from Dwight Eisenhower, who attacked the picture for its flagrant inaccuracies. Among his objections: the movie’s narrator (William Conrad) states Montgomery was in command of the British 8th Army at the time of the battle, when in fact the 8th Army, under another general’s leadership, was in Italy, no where near Ardennes, Belgium, the site of the 44 day-long clash; the movie fabricates about a strategic U.S. fuel dump having played a part in defeating the Germans; no German infiltrators actually ever managed to do anything more than briefly worry the Allies; and the German Tiger tanks depicted in the movie weren’t German but American tanks previously used in the Korean War. Eisenhower also noted the real battle took place in foresty environs during one of the coldest European winters on record. The movie doesn’t implicate the real culprit—Hitler’s maniacal war tactics—for the following losses: 120,00 Germans killed, wounded, or labeled missing; over 600 tanks, 1600 planes and 6,000 other vehicles destroyed; on the American side, 8,000 killed or missing, 48,000 wounded, 21,000 captured, 733 tanks and tank destroyers lost. We might want to blame director Ken Annakin for the messed up factoids, but someone else is more likely responsible—screenwriter Philip Yordan, who career-wise never considered factuality more persuasively dramatic than concoction. (He’s aided and abetted by John Melson and Milton Sperling.) Audiences know the movie is in trouble right away: Henry Fonda is taking what amounts to a joy ride in a small plane passing over the moving vehicle of German commander Robert Shaw. Insisting on taking a picture of him, Fonda demands the pilot repeatedly fly over Shaw and when we get to see the photo’s perspective a little later, we know it would have been impossible for Fonda to have taken it from the air. And we sense the movie will be a cheat: many of the shots of Fonda and Shaw are so obviously studio-processed we begin to laugh—a fatal kind of laugh for an Ultra-Panavision 70 roadshow. (Making the exposure of the shoddy worse is its projection via seamless .) Nothing about the action is convincing; everything about the acting is dishonorably discharged. With Robert Ryan, Dana Andrews, Ty Hardin, Pier Angeli, Charles Bronson, James MacArthur, Telly Savalas and George Montgomery. Jack Hildyard is listed as chief cinematographer, but there isn’t a single shot confirming it. Annakin’s interview over at in70mm.com reminds of the dangers in nostalgia—directors forgetting the realities of the bummers they made. The British version ran a 212 minutes; the American premiere was 170 minutes; other versions for wider release ran considerably shorter; the 2007 Blu-ray clocks in at 170 minutes. Budgeted at $6.5 million, its original box office gross was $4.5 million. Opened at the McVickers 12/22/1965, surviving 14 weeks.
Text COPYRIGHT © 2002 RALPH BENNER All Rights Reserved.