Combat! reviews by Jo
Episodes rated from 0 to 4 bayonets
(058) Mail Call
RATING: 4 bayonets
Written by Arnold Belgard
Directed by Bernard McEveety
Produced by Richard Goldstone
First aired 04-Feb-1964
Episode 21 of Season 2
The squad is concerned over Saunders' depression after receiving a letter from home.
They are surprised to see him take his frustration out on Pvt. Trenton, the new recruit.
Saunders sees past Trenton's good-natured act and faked injuries, and forces him to face
his own fears. Saunders is fearful, too, of the fate of his brother, who he just learns is
MIA at Okinawa.
The script for "Mail Call" is the epitome of what makes Combat!
work: the squad interactions, personalities, the human interest into the lives and
characters of the soldiers themselves, not just the blood and guts realities of the war.
To survive on the front, soldiers only had each other to depend on. Frontline squads
survived as a team, or they didn't survive at all. In "Mail Call," the squad
closes rank to protect one of its own.
This episode underscores the cohesiveness of the squad, that they genuinely care about
each other's welfare. They may have been clumsy in their attempts to help Saunders, but
they do try. Thankfully, these manly men of the sixties do not sit around and discuss
their inner feelings, as is common in nineties TV shows. They instead take action.
Combat!, too, survives today because of the teamwork of its cast. This strong
ensemble acting is very evident in "Mail Call." Each character has his place in
the squad, and in the story. The opening sequence is particularly delightful to watch, as
the squad gathers round the jeep, sharing equally in each other's mail and in their joy.
But not in their problems. Saunders keeps all at a distance, even Hanley, who fails to
draw him out by reminding him of their long-term friendship.
Guest star James Best has been a staple on series TV since the sixties. Including his
work as Sheriff Coltrane on "The Dukes of Hazzard," he has appeared in over 600
NOTES, ODDITIES, AND BLOOPERS:
· The squad fights 10th
regiment of the 25th Panzers.
· During exchange between Saunders and Billy, while Caje is standing in
the doorway, his boots are unbuckled. When Caje comes up to Saunders, the boots are
· The driver of the jeep in the opening sequence has an
· In the scene in Hanley's office, Hanley wants to send out Saunders'
patrol again in two hours, but Saunders buys them extra time. But when Saunders sees his
men, he says they're moving out in two hours.
· Chronology error: The battle for Okinawa was in '45. Since the
Americans are still fighting in Normandy, this episode takes place in '44. The only way
Saunders' brother could be MIA in Okinawa is if he was shot down there, not if he took
part in the landing.
ABOUT FILMING THE EPISODE:
Guest star James Best recalls, "Vic was a very nice guy, really friendly. It was a
pleasure to work with the whole cast. A very congenial shoot. Some of 'em aren't that
congenial. On those shows, you'd really look forward to going to work. Of course, the
Combat! thing was interesting to me, because I was in WWII. I was a radio gunner in a
Rick Jason as Lt. Hanley
Vic Morrow as Sgt. Saunders
Jack Hogan as Kirby
Pierre Jalbert as Caje
Dick Peabody as Littlejohn
Conlan Carter as Doc
Tom Lowell as Nelson
Ray Fulmer as Holmes
Fred Harris as Smitty
Ed Deemer as German #1
Mike Masters as Non Com
James Best as Trenton
Paul Busch (uncredited)