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Cinerama 'Battle of the Bulge' a Dramatic Spectacle

By Bob Halliday, Tribune Staff Writer
Salt Lake Tribune, 03 March 1966, page A21
As a dramatic spectacle, "Battle of the Bulge" is one of the best.  As a historical document, it's a synthesized facsimile.  As for technical plausibility, there are holes big enough for several panzer divisions.

Drama of Battle

The Cinerama film premiered Wednesday evening at the Villa Theatre for what probably will be a long run.  It's a bang-up entertainment.  Tanks make an ideal vehicle for Cinerama and this is a titanic struggle of tanks vs. tanks and tanks vs. infantry.

There is the drama of the battle against almost hopeless odds, the thin line of American troops trying to stem the puncture of the Allied front by an armada of 70-ton Tiger tanks flanked by Nazi infantry.

And there are the typical vignettes - Telly Savalas as the tough, practical sergeant making money on the side in a black market operation; James MacArthur, a timid lieutenant who gained backbone under fire; the sweetheart of Savalas, played by Piere Angeli in a fleeting scene just long enough to prove that war also has its bisexual moments.

The film is anachronistic in that, except for minor philosophical dissent by an aide to the German panzer commander, it dramatizes war in the way the Western glorifies the Old West.

To do this, it had to scrub away a lot of the dirt and grime, the terror and stupidity, the blood and viscera of truth.  This is a right-about-face from the trend of war films, starting with "Bridge on the River Kwai," and culminating in recent anti-hero films such as "The Americanization of Emily" and other human documents.

Destruction Scene

Robert Ryan, as Gen. Grey, feeds his force of medium tanks to certain destruction by the Tiger Tanks with only a second's pause for self-reflection, and gives the impression throughout of a light-hearted football coach, with a 35-point lead, sending in his lightweights on the bench to give them experience.  Henry Fonda does a great job with his role as a former New York policeman, smelling out German tactics.

Almost all of the operation was supposed to have taken place with cloud cover and fog, weather used by the Germans as a shield against Allied air attack, and some of the misty forest scenes are photographic gems.  But much of the tank fighting and panzer progress across country were made in bright sunlight - and the only plane in the film is a two-place reconaissance craft.