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Between Heaven and Hell (1956)

This WW2 saga from screenwriter Harry Brown (Sands of Iwo Jima) was directed by workhorse Richard Fleischer. Fleischer is a guy who directed feature films from  1948 to 1987 and despite directing some major productions and well remembered flicks he hasn’t really become a director that has garnered a following. He is responsible for films ranging from The Narrow Margin to Soylent Green, 20000 Leagues Beneath the Sea to Conan the Barbarian and worked with many stars ranging from Robert Mitchum to Charles Bronson.

This well made war film from 20th Century Fox in cinemascope has Robert Wagner on a Pacific Island outpost in 1945 under the command of Broderick Crawford. Crawford seems to be on cruise control as he runs this platoon like he’s a gangster with a young Frank Gorshin as his gunsel. The film is backed up by many familiar faces ranging from Buddy Ebsen to L.Q. Jones with Robert Keith, Brad Dexter and Harvey Lembeck thrown in for good measure. The token female role for box office purposes goes to Terry Moore in a couple of flashback scenes. Explosions run rampant from landing on the beaches to defending a hill from invading Japanese forces on the island. There is steady stream of action in the films 93 minute running time and Wagner handles himself well overall in one of his earliest lead roles having already appeared opposite the likes of Cagney and Tracy.

Coming off best in the film would be Buddy Ebsen in an early Jed Clampett type of role that he would perfect on t.v. in just a few short years. Robert Keith is another actor who always handles himself perfectly and adds an extra something to any film he appears in. As for our leading man Robert Wagner, considering he was still just starting out, he was no stranger to the military film having already appeared in The Frogmen, Halls of Montezuma and What Price Glory? among others. As for this one, it’s another good effort from journeyman director Richard Fleischer.

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