DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
BATTLE OF SAN PIETRO, THE (director/writer: John Huston; cinematographers: John Huston/Jules Buck; editor: Gene Fowler Jr.; music: Dimitri Tiomkin; cast: John Huston (Narrator); Runtime: 33; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Frank Capra/John Huston; Reel Classic Films; 1945)

 
"Gritty, realistic, extraordinary World War II documentary."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

This gritty, realistic, extraordinary World War II documentary was Major John Huston's ("The Maltese Falcon"/"Key Largo"/"The African Queen") second contribution to Frank Capra's “Why We Fight” series. It was shot by six Signal Corps cameramen under Huston's direction. His cameras follow the bloody battle of the 5th Army's December 1943 attack on the town of San Pietro, Italy, in the Liri Valley. The small farming community, with a population of 1,412, is where the camouflaged Germans are dug in and have to be moved out so that the Allied army can advance forward in the second phase of the Italian Operation.

From the end of October to the middle of December 1943, San Pietro and the surrounding hilly terrain is the scene of intense fighting, which Huston chronicles in its unsparing gory details. The Americans win the battle, but at a heavy price as over 1,100 U.S. soldiers were killed and over 1,000 replacements are needed in the 143rd regiment.

Huston is the passionate unseen narrator. His film was so grimly realistic in its showing of the bloody battle that the US Army refused to show it (then cut out more than half its content, reducing it to the current thirty-three minutes--believing it would be damaging to troop morale, hard on the family's of the dead soldiers and be construed as an anti-war film). The film was preserved by The National Archives and Records Administration. 

REVIEWED ON 5/2/2010       GRADE: A

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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