If you're going to watch only one movie about the
of the Bulge, BATTLEGROUND is probably the one to see, even though it deals with a small but decisive part of the story, the 101st Airborne's efforts to hold the vital crossroads town of Battle despite being surrounded by German armored divisions. Bastogne
This 1948 film has a good pedigree. It was written by Robert Pirosh, who wrote HELL IS FOR HEROES and many of the best episodes of COMBAT!, and directed by William Wellman, a fine hardboiled action director. Pirosh's script, in fact, won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. It also has an excellent cast going for it. Van Johnson and John Hodiak are the leads, but it's really an ensemble picture with James Whitmore, Ricardo Montalban, George Murphy, Douglas Fowley, and others turning in fine performances as GIs. A very young James Arness is even in a couple of scenes.
The story follows a fictional platoon in the 101st, but other than that it strikes me as very accurate historically, including German soldiers masquerading as Americans, General McAuliffe's famous reply to the German demand for a surrender, and at least a mention of the Malmedy Massacre. Not only that, but the film looks right, with most of it set in a snow-covered forest rather than the dusty plains of last week's BATTLE OF THE BULGE. And even though I knew the outcome, of course, I still got caught up in what was going on, and the ending is very effective.
The mini-series BAND OF BROTHERS also covered this story and did a fine job of it, and it's probably slightly better. But not by much, and that doesn't mean if you've seen that version, you shouldn't watch BATTLEGROUND. I think it's a splendid movie and without a doubt one of the best war films I've seen.