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The Victors (1963)


stjohnrv
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I first saw it in the the theater in the 60s and read somewhere the Pentagon wanted it banned because it was very anti war. They apparently objected to the scene where the deserter was shot (eddy Kovacs). There were objections to the butal manner the GI's were portrayed, the exploitation of women by both sides (there's a scene where George Peppard goes into a bar in France & the bar maid comes on to him & when shes not paying attention he propositions her in German to which she instinctively responds positive, the French don't like their citizens portrayed as collaborators), objections were made about the brutality during the occupation of Berlin. This movie was hated by the establishment, maybe that explains why it so seldom ever makes it to TV( did it ever?) and is so far as I know unavailable on DVD.

 

Does anyone know if it has ever showed up on TV or TCM and if there are DVDs available.

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A film ahead of its time. It was released in the U.S. just a few weeks after the JFK assassination, and Americans just weren't in the mood for such an unheroic depiction of GIs in World War II. It showed up on the CBS Late Movie series a few times in the late 1960s, and I think it was on HBO or Cinemax once back in the 1990s. But it definitely has never been available on DVD (or on VHS, as far as I know).

 

Does anyone have any definitive documentation that the U.S. government tried to suppress this film? It definitely was made (in Europe) without the cooperation of the Defense Department or any other government, and one can understand why the Pentagon would want to see it disappear in a hurry. But its rapid box-office demise had far more to do with the temperament of the movie-going public in December 1963 than with official opposition. Too bad Foreman or someone didn't think to re-release it c. 1970 or so.

 

Since the film was released by Columbia, and TCM has been showing a lot of Columbia product recently, TCM should definitely air it. Soon!

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This was not a war film. It was a flesh film.

The soldiers in this film were more involved with females than war. Indeed, the three up and coming female heart throbs (Edwards, Peppard and Hamilton) were romancing the three up and coming male heart throbs Schnieder, Sommer and Moreau).

"The Victors" was made solely to promote the above-names actors and exploit the huge (and surprising) commercial success of the TV series "Combat!" which ran for four years and only ended because Vic Morrow wanted to move on.

The Victors is not a serious film, and should not be taken seriously.

It was intended for a specific star-gawking audience and not intended to reflect wartime reality... a reality in which any of us would have a difficult time finding any rifleman in France or Germany who had time to cultivate a romance with a beautiful female... who wasn't selling herself to anyone with money in order to feed herself and her siblings... or the children of German soldiers who raped them.

 

Also, because Carl ran up a tremendously expensive prop bill during the filming of "Guns of Navarone" two years prior, his making a sex-star driven vehicle enabled him reap box-office dividends (mostly in Europe where the young women craved to see male Hollywood throbs) to amortize 'Gun's' huge prop debt.

 

Edited by: PhillColeman on Nov 22, 2009 9:35 PM

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Carl Foreman undoubtedly wanted people to see the film and engaged in some good-old Hollywood-style star casting in hopes that Hamilton, Peppard, Moreau, Mercouri et al. would boost the box office, in both the United States and in Europe. Indeed, without star casting it's unlikely such a grim film project would have found financing. The cast may not be too all tastes, but the actors fit the characters very well. If Foreman had wanted to make a blatantly commercial and audience-pleasing film, he would have created characters who were decidedly more likeable, heroic, and overtly patriotic.

 

The "Combat" TV series went on the air in October 1962, "The Victors" went into theaters in December 1963. I'm sure the film was in pre-production long before "Combat" became a hit. Actually, I have long been convinced that Foreman made "The Victors" as a personal reaction to "The Guns of Navarone." I surmise he wanted to make a World War II movie that more realistically depicted the experience of the average GI. The average GI in WWII Europe probably did not meet Elke Sommer or Romy Schneider, true, but it's pretty well-known that many American soldiers interacted with European women at any number of levels. The star casting of "The Victors' is hardly less realistic than plumping down John Wayne, Burt Lancaster, Mel Gibson or Gene Hackman into Southeast Asia -- not to mention Chuck Norris and Sylvester Stallone.

 

"The Victors" was based on a novel (actually, a sequential series of short stories) entitled "The Human Kind," by Alexander Baron, who has been called the greatest British novelist to come out of WWII. The book did not emphasize combat so much as the war's moral wear-and-tear on combatants and noncombatants alike. There are numerous scenes from the novel and the film in which females do not figure, but the "romantic" episodes of "The Victors" also are taken directly from the book. Actually, when you think about the female characters in "The Victors," there's nothing romantic about them. As PhilColeman suggests, they are women who are trying to survive. That they should be portrayed by movie stars, in a movie, shouldn't be surprising, or condemned.

 

So -- yes, "The Victors" was/is a serious film. Not flawless, and not to the taste of those who equate "war movie" with "combat movie." "The Victors" is one of the great war films of all time, however, a "serious" commentary on the moral injuries that war inflicts on all that it touches, including the winners.

 

And, no, I'm not a combat veteran. I am an informed and relatively intelligent human being who is well-read regarding war, so please don't tell me that I have no right to an opinion in this matter. I have been there many times in my heart and mind, if not in the flesh.

 

Edited by: EdisonMcIntyre on Nov 22, 2009 10:34 PM

 

Edited by: EdisonMcIntyre on Nov 22, 2009 10:38 PM

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Thank you for a serious commentary on this rare and under appreciated film. I was particularly struck by your choice of words when you commented that the Victors was "a serious commentary upon the moral injuries of war" I believe you captured the essence of this film with those few words.

 

Edited by: stjohnrv on Nov 23, 2009 3:41 PM

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