Battle Cry (1955) Blu-ray Review: Former A-List Hit with Future B-Grade Stars

The Warner Archive Collection digs up another wartime relic with a nice cast of cult favorites.
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Battle Cry's cast is enough to send shivers up the spine of any classic B-movie enthusiast from sheer excitement. The film itself, on the other hand, may cause one to shudder from entirely different reasons. For, despite the impressive gathering of actors who would later gain fame (or perhaps, infamy) from appearing in some of the greatest cult movies of all time (as well as a heap of television work), there simply isn't enough to keep the average viewer's attention throughout the bulk of this equally bulky World War II drama. And, frankly, that says an awful lot ‒ especially since the talent on display here includes Van Heflin, Aldo Ray, Mona Freeman, Nancy Olson, James Whitmore, Raymond Massey, Tab Hunter, Dorothy Malone, Anne Francis, William Campbell, L.Q. Jones, Perry Lopez, Tommy Cook, and Gregory Walcott.

Those names will undoubtedly seem inconsequential to most contemporary audiences. Heck, they probably seemed the same way to the moviegoers of 1955 when Raoul Walsh's lengthy two-and-a-half-hour epic first sprawled across CinemaScope screens. Ultimately, however, there's something to be said about a film which opens with the hero from Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space training the future stars of movies by John Waters, Sam Peckinpah, and Roger Corman to be Marines. To say nothing of the fact that that very same regiment is spearheaded by one of the impending kings of B-movie filmdom ‒ the great Aldo Ray himself ‒ and features the lovely ladies from Forbidden Planet, TV's Peyton Place, and several Disney classics like The Absent Minded Professor and Pollyanna.

Alas, even these up-and-coming TV players, cult faves, and marquee value stars cannot save Battle Cry from its own story. Like many (good) war movies, this one centers on its characters rather than its action sequences. Not that there are many of the latter, mind you ‒ as our central boys to men are part of a regiment that always receives the clean-up duties. Even the ones who die in action do so off-screen. And with so many different people to focus on (and so many who are just sort of there, such as a couple of Latino and Navajo characters), it's easy to lose track of who you're supposed to give a damn about in this adaptation of Leon (Exodus) Uris' novel, as written for the screen by the aforementioned author himself. The great Max Steiner composed the score, and Sidney Hickox (To Have and Have Not) served as cinematographer in this so-so saga from producer Jack L. Warner.

Battle Cry breaches Blu-ray via a new MPEG-4 AVC 1080p restoration. Once again, the Warner Archive Collection has put a lot of effort into a faded single-strip color title which has been fading away in a vault somewhere. And though the resulting transfer may be a little too heavy on reddish hues (in my opinion), the mere fact that we're able to see this forgotten one-hit wonder in its original aspect ratio and devoid of most aging artifacts. A fine DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack accompanies the troop to their respective fates, and English (SDH) subtitles are available. Special features for this title are about as limited as can be, consisting of nothing more than the original theatrical trailer. Considering the age and relative obscurity of Battle Cry itself, this is more than enough: ultimately, the greatest appeal of the film is its odd, variable cast itself.

Recommended for that reason alone.

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