After rescuing captive French resistance fighters, the squad regroups in an abandoned
mine. When the Germans attack, they retreat inside. A German grenade creates a cave-in,
trapping Germans, Frenchman, and Americans all with the roof threatening to cave in. The
Germans propose an uneasy truce. Each soldier keeps their weapon.
While seeking another exit, someone hidden deeper in the mine fires upon them. In three
languages the person is ordered to cut it out. a beautiful French girl, Marianne, emerges
from the shadows. She was hiding their with a sick German infantryman, Johann Schiller.
They're in love and were running away to find a place where the could be left alone. The
French resistance fighter, Jacques, hates the collaborator, since a collaborator was
responsible for his brother's death.
One group starts to dig the front entrance out with bayonets and the others search for
exits. Water and food are rationed. When they determine that no other exits exist, all
begin digging, except Marianne and her deserter. He is dehydrated because of his
pneumonia; all but Jacques give up their water ration for him.
The two privates (the German Wexler and American Pfc. Bishop)become close. While
digging, the German Lt. Mauer confesses to admiring the deserter, that he has found
something to live for. The attentions of Marianne to her lover finally moves Jacques and
softens his heart (if not his
With hope of digging their way to freedom abandoned, they use grenades to try to blow
entrance open. Doesn't work. Meanwhile, the deserter has died and they all return to
digging. Hopeless, Mauer decides to kill himself to avoid a lingering death, not knowing
an exit has been discovered. Hanley tries to stop him. In struggle over gun, Hanley is
shot. Bishop, thinking it was deliberate, kills Mauer. His friend Wexler is about to shoot
Bishop, but he is himself killed. Poor Bishop is left crying, "Why did he have to
break the truce? Why? Why?" -- conveniently forgetting that he himself just shot the
It's truly amazing what strong acting, evocative
directing, and very tight editing can do for a thin and goofy plotline. This script is a
half-bayonetter, but Director Bernard McEveety's deft touch saves the day. Like a skilled
magician, the director distracts you from the idiocy of the dialogue and action with some
striking mood pieces.
McEveety draws some fine performances from Rick Jason, Skip Homeier, and especially
from Michael Constantine as French Resistance fighter Jacques. (Constantine may be best
remembered as the friendly High School principal in ROOM 222). His underplaying of what
could have been a heavy-handed, predictable speech is quite moving. "Do not talk to
me of hating. I have seen too much to forgive. I have seen too many Frenchmen die. I have
seen too many homes burned. I have seen too many friends tortured. I have stopped fighting
this war for one minute. But I will never stop hating."
Of course, ten minutes later, when all the French girl has to do is hum prettily to her
German lover to finally melt the hardened heart of this soldier, I felt cheated by being
moved by his original emotion. I applaud the casting choice of Margaret O'Brien, an
angelic child actress from the forties, as the hated French collaborator.
Though well performed, the emotion and sentiment of the Lieutenant Mauer character
seems oddly out-of-place in the COMBAT! milieu. A professional soldier admiring a deserter
who chooses his lover over his country? Is this somehow noble in a German officer? Would
we have accepted this sentiment if Hanley was talking about an American deserter? COMBAT!
usually deals with the big sacrifice, putting others before yourself. These two lovers
seemed to think that the little problems of two people in this world amounted to much more
than a hill of beans. Oh, where is Bogie when we need him?
as Lt. Hanley
as Sgt. Saunders
(NOTE: Morrow does not appear in episode)
as Lt. Karl Mauer
as Jacques Patron
as Marianne Fraisnet
King Moody .....Toulon
Mark de Vries .....Pvt. Wexler
Michael Hausserman .....Johann Schiller
Barry Ford .....German Captain
Beau Vann den Ecker .....Emile
Tom Fielding as Pfc. Tommy Bishop