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BATTLE CRY (Warner Archives)

By • Dec 23rd, 2017 •

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BluRay review by Roy Frumkes

Let’s start with WarnerColor.  Even as a child, blissfully ignorant of aesthetics, I noticed that WarnerColor wasn’t as dynamic as some of the other color processes out there.  However, the WB Archivists/Restorationists must have focused on Anne Francis’ blue eyes, which are absolutely luminous, and once they got those orbs perfectly color-balanced, the rest fell into place.  It’s one of the least damaging examples of WarnerColor I’ve seen. Kudos to them.

Something they couldn’t fix was the ratio of melodrama to action.  The film is perhaps 2/3 over before we see a gun fired in defense of our forces.  Referencing the title, someone may have cried ‘battle,’ but no one answered.  Wonder how that affected word-of-mouth back in the day?  The film did well financially, but audiences didn’t get what the moniker promised.  Particularly odd since Raoul Walsh produced and directed the film, and I’m sure he used the fact that he’d made an earlier 2h 22min war film, OBJECTIVE, BURMA! (1945) with Errol Flynn, to raise the cash.

I was moved, peripherally but powerfully, by how good the cast looked, and how well they performed.  Both Aldo Ray and Tab Hunter were the best they would ever be.  I was flabbergasted to see how fit Ray was, and how deftly he was able to navigate the nuances of his character. It was a smart idea on Walsh’s and Leon Uris’ parts to make him, the most buff and seemingly indestructible of the batch, to be the one who falls prey to PTSD.   I was happy for him, as I was for Tab Hunter, in the same way I was happy for Audie Murphy in UNFORGIVEN, or Andy Griffith in A FACE IN THE CROWD. They got their moment in cinema’s firmament.

There’s plenty of dubious regard for women in the narrative.  At one point, as they recede in a long shot, Ray actually squeezes Nancy Olson’s ass.  Outrageous. It had to be an improv on his part, and I wonder what transpired after Walsh called ‘cut.’

Interesting, if purely co-incidental, the character Ray plays is called Andy, and suggests another Andy in the Vietnam War/Monkey’s Paw horror flick DEATH DREAM.   Where Ray comes back with a case of shell shock, Richard Backus comes back dead.

Since this film is all characterization, the performances had better be uniformly good, and they are.  Van Heflin one a great scene – 1:37:30 – which stands out from an otherwise feature-long act of contained competence.  Dorothy Malone is radiant and effective, as is the aforementioned Anne Francis.  L. Q. Jones, long before he joined the Peckinpah rat-pack, acquits himself well.  Of lesser but historic interest is 6’ 5 1/2” Fess Parker, following his cameo in THEM, and just before stardom as Davey Crockett for Disney TV.

Raoul Walsh’s uniquely entertaining autobiography, ‘Each Man in His Time,’ adds no anecdotes of interest about the making of BATTLE CRY, but does mention that studio head Jack Warner wanted it shot quickly.  All of Hollywood at the time was economizing due to the commercial intrusion of TV.

The 2.55:1 scope image lends itself to encapsulating scenes, almost like stage vignettes.  And while there is no fancy camerawork, there is the occasional visual treat, such as 1:15:25, when cigarette smoke drifts by like blue ectoplasm. 

Directed by Raoul Walsh.  Screenplay by Leon Uris.  Produced by Walsh and Jack Warner.  Music by Max Steiner.  Cinematography by Sidney Hickox.  Edited by William Ziegler.  Art Direction by John Beckman.

With: Van Heflin, Aldo Ray, Tab Hunter, Dorothy Malone, Anne Francis, James Whitmore, Nancy Olson, L.Q. Jones, Fess Parker, Raymond Massey.

(To order, visit The Warner Archive Collection ( or online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays® are sold)

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