Combat! reviews by Jo Davidsmeyer
Episodes rated from 0 to 4 bayonets
Rating: 3 bayonets
Written by Esther and Bob Mitchell
Directed by Michael Caffey
Produced by Richard Caffey
Aired September 13, 1966
Season 5, Episode 1
Syndication Order 128
The squad, backed by a half-track and a tank, must destroy a German field artillery
piece before the company moves forward. But Germans destroy the tank in first assault.
On foot, they attack an artillery piece and caputure it. The tanker Sgt. Hagen is a
liability to the squad. Not used to thinking like a foot soldier, Hagen acts like
"he's still got that tank wrapped around you." Saunders wants to use the
captured gun in place of the lost tank to destroy their initial target. But Hagen wants to
destroy the gun. The gun killed his crew and his tank.
In getting the gun across a rickety wooden bridge, Littlejohn falls and is injured.
They find a convenient stray plowhorse to replace Littlejohn and yoke it to the gun.
Meanwhile, a German patrol discovers their artillery piece is missing (don't you just
hate when that happens?). They track the patrol and engage them. During the fight the
horse bolts, dragging the gun over Pvt. Weed, killing him.
With only thirty minutes before the American advance, the squad still must drag the gun
up a steep hill. Half way up, the gun slips and rolls downhill, breaking the gunsight.
Saunders cajoles the despairing men to continue the backbreaking effort.
Finally dragging the gun to within range, the squad lays a barrage on the lakeside
targets, destroying the bunker. His mission accomplilshed, Saunders finally destroys the
gun that has caused him such grief. All are glad they don't have to drag it back to their
Three bayonets for this simple Man vs. Technology tale
beautifully embroidered with some stunning location photography and big- budget special
In this episode, the cast and crew escape the familiar backlots and travel to location.
Though the subject of the story is fairly intimate, the location shooting is broad and
expansive. Long shots of vineyards make the squad's struggling with the gun seem tiny and
insignificant against the vast landscape.
The final battle provides an opportunity for some spectacular pyrotechnics. The
multiple explosions by the lake spew flame, smoke and oil drums over 100 feet in the air.
The fiery display is truly lovely, a pyromaniac's delight, but was it really necessary? It
seems contrary to the spirit of the early season COMBAT! episodes where the drama was
character-based rather than special effects-based. This fiery episode started Combat!'s
only color season off with a bang!
Though the locations and effects were interesting to watch, they seem misplaced in this
story. The episode works best when the focus is narrower, looking at the grim battle of
the squad against this gun. The tank Sergeant, Hagen, wants at first to destroy the field
piece. He hates this weapon that killed his crew and destroyed his tank. Kirby doesn't
like the gun just for its size, "They couldn't have a 37, they had to have this big
moose!" He belittles Hagen's worry, "It's just a hunk of metal." But the
gun develops a personality of its own as the squad is forced to drag it up hills and
through the rough French terrain. It finally claims the life of Private Weed, almost as
though demanding a sacrifice beneath its wheels. Even the easy-going Littlejohn wants this
weapon destroyed. But Saunders is determined to make this gun do his bidding, even if it
kills the squad. Again, there's more at stake here, the lives of Lieutenant Hanley and the
rest of the company depend on it!
Notes, Oddities, and Bloopers
- funny how they wished for that 37mm when they had it all the time
- At the climax of this episode I'm always bothered by the niggling little question about
why a fuel depot is located right by the side of a lake, in soft sand that would certainly
swallow any truck or tank that tried to get near.
- Trek connection: Warren Stevens, Classic Trek "By Any Other Name".
as Sgt. Saunders
as Lt. Hanley
as Sgt. Hagen
Dick Peabody as Littlejohn
Pierre Jalbert as Caje
Tim Felix .....Weed