During WW II, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called upon Hollywood to pay tribute to America's valiant Russian allies, and Samuel Goldwyn Studios (of which Roosevelt's son James was then president) was the first to heed the call. Playwright Lillian Hellman was enlisted to write the
script, Lewis Milestone directed, and gifted cinematographer James Wong Howe took care of the cameras for this story of a Ukrainian farm collective, the North Star, and the gallant reaction of its people (including Walter Huston, Anne Baxter, Farley Granger, and Dana Andrews) when the Germans
invade. With the invaders' arrival, some of the villagers take to the hills to become guerrillas, while others torch stocks that would be of value to the enemy. Under the direction of Dr. Otto von Harden (Erich von Stroheim), who claims only to be carrying out his orders, the Germans forcibly take
blood from the children of the North Star for transfusions for wounded soldiers. In time, however, the guerrillas attack and, despite heavy losses, rout the Germans.
While certainly competent and reasonably entertaining, the film does come off a bit obviously as propaganda, and even at the time of its release Red-baiters were more than willing to take its Soviet advocacy to task. Moreover, at the height of the McCarthy witch-hunts in the 1950s, the filmmakers
were called before the House Un-American Activities Committee to explain their reasons for making the film. Then, in 1957, 22 minutes were cut from the film, including most of the character development and every mention of the word "comrade." A spokesman from NTA, the company that released this
politically corrected version under the title ARMORED ATTACK!, noted, "The only thing we couldn't take out was Dana Andrews running around in a damn Soviet uniform." Surprisingly, the film earned five Oscar nominations--for its screenplay, cinematography, sound, art direction, and score.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: During WW II, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt called upon Hollywood to pay tribute to America's valiant Russian allies, and Samuel Goldwyn Studios (of which Roosevelt's son James was then president) was the first to heed the call. Playwright Lillian He… (more)