The Sergeant

  • 1968
  • Movie
  • R
  • Drama

A flatulent attempt at social relevance and sexual frankness, THE SERGEANT comes off as nothing more than a misfired attempt that is supposed to be appreciated for its subject matter, regardless of its ineptitude. Steiger, who is normally a fine and perceptive actor, resorts to militaristic high camp in his role as an American sergeant stationed in France...read more

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A flatulent attempt at social relevance and sexual frankness, THE SERGEANT comes off as nothing more than a misfired attempt that is supposed to be appreciated for its subject matter, regardless of its ineptitude. Steiger, who is normally a fine and perceptive actor, resorts to

militaristic high camp in his role as an American sergeant stationed in France in 1952. In a useless black-and-white prolog, he is shown at his most heroic and inhumane, strangling a German soldier when his gun jams. After the war ends, Steiger brings this cold, impenetrable exterior to a camp run

by the boozing Latimore. Steiger takes over the command and strongly asserts his military ways on the lazy and unmotivated young soldiers. In turn, the soldiers resent the camp's strict new policies. Steiger soon finds himself taking notice of a handsome young private, Law. Before long Law has

become the sergeant's personal clerk, naively interpreting his possessiveness as loneliness. Steiger struggles with his latent homosexuality and continuously tries to repress it. When Steiger refuses to issue Law a pass to see his girl friend, Mikael, the private grows more distressed. Life gets

worse for Law when Steiger boldly kisses him. The private finally gets the hint and bucks the sergeant's orders to stop seeing Mikael. Steiger, once the rugged, distinguished career man, now begins to disintegrate and resorts to the bottle. After wallowing in some booze-induced sexual suffering,

Steiger puts a gun to his head and ends his miserable existence (something the German soldier from the prolog should have done 108 minutes earlier). Where THE SERGEANT fails most grossly is in its supposed understanding of its subject--attempting to portray its characters with sensitivity but

instead painting them as cardboard idiots in search of love and sex. Because of the director's insistence on ridiculous phallic symbols, Steiger seems most comfortable caressing a beer bottle (or maybe that's the point). Whatever the case, THE SERGEANT merely panders to audiences who want simple

clear-cut answers to the complexities of human nature and sexuality. The picture was shot entirely in France, with interiors using the facilities of Paris' Studios de Boulonge. A number of French players were recruited, including Comedie Francaise actress Mikael in what was inaccurately described

as her first film role (this was director Flynn's feature-film debut). One critic described Steiger's bravura performance as resembling the inflection and delivery of James Cagney.

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  • Rating: R
  • Review: A flatulent attempt at social relevance and sexual frankness, THE SERGEANT comes off as nothing more than a misfired attempt that is supposed to be appreciated for its subject matter, regardless of its ineptitude. Steiger, who is normally a fine and percep… (more)

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