Combat! reviews by Jo
Episodes rated from 0 to 4 bayonets
(051) The Pillbox
Teleplay by Don Tait *
Story by Ted Pettus
Directed by Vic Morrow
First aired 07-Jan-1964 *
Episode 17 of Season 2
Pausing to help a wounded G.I. from L Company, Hanley is
separated from his retreating troops. Caught behind the German offensive, Hanley and the
wounded soldier (Stark) take refuge in an abandoned pillbox. Hanley, after unwillingly
capturing three Germans, is wounded and unable to control his prisoners. Partially
crippled, the captor Hanley is as trapped as his prisoners. Stark must have get medical
care, but the only way Hanley can get that help, is to leave behind three murdered
Vic Morrow's first directing project for Combat!
was a solo acting effort for Hanley, "The Pillbox." Morrow did an excellent job
directing this taught morality play. He shows the influence of Altman's directing style
and tips his hat to the classic war film All Quiet on the Western Front. He also
shows an interesting personal directing style just developing.
He uses little background music inside the
pillbox. Leonard Rosenman's themes merely lead in and out of commercials. Instead of
music, Morrow relies on natural sounds to create the background: thunder, rain, trucks,
and labored breathing, something he owes to Altman's style.
". . . I loved working with Vic as a
director. He was so considerate of his fellow actors. Always knew what he wanted from you
and how to get it." says Rick Jason
Rick Jason is superb in "The Pillbox"
playing the multi-layered dilemmas tearing Hanley apart. Warren Oates (as Stark) is
outstanding as a soldier wanting to live at any cost. Director Morrow weaves a bond
between Hanley and Stark that is both tender and grueling. Albert Paulsen, as the
opportunistic Dorfmann, makes his third appearance on Combat! in two years. In his
first appearance in "Forgotten Front," he also played a prisoner (named
Dorfmann), whose fate Saunders had to decide.
By following the book and taking charge early in
the episode, Hanley boxes himself into a corner (both literally and figuratively). He
creates the moral quagmire and finds no satisfactory solution. Unlike Saunders in "Forgotten
Front," Hanley makes no decision. He
waits. A well-timed artillery barrage eventually takes the choice out of Hanley's hands.
NOTES, ODDITIES, AND BLOOPERS:
· Combat! often goes to extremes to
deprive the lead actor of weapons, but this is the most extreme: a tank to take out one carbine.
Stark's wife was born on Valentine's Day, just like Vic Morrow.
Lovely shot of Hanley flinging rain cape over the camera. Vic wanted that particular shot
to give a black screen for a cut.
ABOUT FILMING THE EPISODE:
Rick Jason remembers: "I have to pick up
Albert Paulsen and open up this big, heavy door, and walk away with him. That was the
closing shot of the show, walking into the distance carrying this guy who weighs about 190
pounds. As I walk away from the camera, I'm mumbling 'You heavy son-of-a-bitch ...' It's
the only thing that gave me the strength not to drop him in the middle of the shot."
Rick Jason as Lt. Hanley
Vic Morrow as Sgt. Saunders
Jack Hogan as Kirby
Conlan Carter as Doc
Henry Horman as Meisner
Glen Cannon as Runner
Paul Busch as German Lieutenant
Ray Baxter as German Trucker #1
Ed Deemer as German Trucker #2
Joseph Turkel as Klimmer
Warren Oates as Stark
Albert Paulsen as Dorfmann