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  • Can't recall when I've seen a better war picture. I've seen lots of them with more action, as this is mainly a talking picture, but this one features extraordinarily good acting performances from the entire cast. Especially good was Bonar Colleano, who is the central figure in the story. He is the Wise-Guy-From-The-Bronx, a character movie directors and writers liked to insert into their work, and Colleano makes the most of his star turn.

    As with all movies reviewed on the website, the plot has been restated by all contributors, but just let me say it seems mainly like a filmed stage play. But the film is not static and the action moves at a brisk pace, if you can imagine this in a movie with basically one set. We get to learn about each platoon member as characters are fleshed out to a remarkable degree, so that we understand what motivates each one.

    Noteworthy, apart from Colleano is Lee Marvin, here honing his tough guy credentials, and Nick Dennis with much more of a part than he normally was used to. I thought Barney Phillips, a good actor himself, was miscast as the Captain. He was just too old for the part - if you have been in the service you would spot it right away. Ol' reliable TCM aired this one the other day, and it is very worth watching.
  • howdymax21 August 2006
    This is a tense little war drama from Columbia. The production values aren't much, but they really don't have to be. Released in 1952 and directed by Edward Dmytryck, it deals more with the personal than the patriotic. It is a WW2 drama that tried to find an audience during the Korean War. That couldn't have been easy.

    It deals with the inter-personal relations between eight war weary GI's stuck up on the line in war torn European town. The lead is an ex-pat New Yorker named Bonar Colleano. He isn't well known in the states, but he was a big star in England during the war. Always playing the wise cracking Yank. His co-lead is Lee Marvin. He plays the squad leader and the glue that keeps these dogfaces together. The cast is rounded out by Arthur Franz, Dick(ie) Moore, and Richar Kiley. None of them big names in 1952, but all of them up to the job.

    We find this beat up group jammed in a cellar while one of them is pinned down in a foxhole by a German machine gun. The squad is told they will be pulled off the line and they have to decide if or how they are going to rescue their buddy. Each squad member faces his own moment of truth. Some show bravery, some cowardice, some indecision, and one is just trigger happy and about ready to go over the edge.

    I like this movie, but it does have a couple of problems. I mentioned the production values. It's a little set bound - almost like a stage play. Most of the action takes place in the cellar, and the exteriors are stock WW2 war torn European street. The dialogue does get a little corny in spots. But the main problem I have with this movie is the basic premise. I can understand an isolated group of guys, faced with the prospect of being pulled out of combat having mixed emotions about putting themselves back in harm's way to rescue a comrade, but that's the dilemma. How could they, in good conscience, leave him behind? Besides, this is an experienced infantry squad loaded with weapons. How could they not figure out a way to successfully assault a single machine gun nest. Despite these criticisms, the movie holds up well. The characters are human - not cartoons.

    It's hard to find, but if you're a war movie buff, keep looking.
  • bkoganbing4 September 2007
    Producer Stanley Kramer and Director Edward Dmytryk deliberately chose a cast of unknowns who later did move on to varying degrees of success in the film industry, most notably Lee Marvin, for the cast of Eight Iron Men.

    It's a tense situation for this squad in some small town on the Italian front in World War II. One of their number is pinned down by a machine gun and it's wearing on the nerves of the other seven. Especially when they get orders to pull back and leave him until replacements come.

    The film shows the tension on all of them. Lee Marvin with his war experience in the Pacific Theater is a natural as the concerned sergeant. Other good performances are from Arthur Franz, Richard Kiley, Nick Dennis, and most of all Bonar Colleano whose career was mostly in the United Kingdom. This was one of the few American made films for the New York City expatriate.

    Eight Iron Men is based on a flop play on Broadway by Harry Brown which ran only 23 performances in 1945 and featured Sam Levene and a most unknown Burt Lancaster. Obviously someone named Harry Cohn didn't want to pay Lancaster's going rate in 1952 to get him for the screen version.

    Even without Burt, Eight Iron Men is a well made war drama and should not be missed.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    An example of that now nearly extinct oxymoron- the quiet war movie. These were inevitably adaptations of plays. The theatre, in the olden days before television, 24/7 news cycles etc., once prided itself on being able to respond to current events and the significance of contemporary history. The WPA Theatre Project produced the Living Newspaper during the New Deal. After every war there were plays dealing with that war but unrecognizable from war movies because of the confined spaces of a theatre. The post WW1 period was particularly rich in war plays. This was the height of theatre and I guess the masterpiece of this genre was R. C. Sheriff's Journey's End.

    American Lawrence Stallings (What Price Glory?) and others also wrote plays in the genre. Playwrights responded to ww2 in much the same way. Again the restrictions usually dictated a one set play, with maybe some change of scene in act two and perhaps a small adjunct set to play out some subsidiary action. These were later translated into films. EIGHT IRON MEN was adapted from a play and reduces the agonies of fighting a war to something like real time and a single human life. The classical unities of time and space are nearly totally observed. Remarkable for a war film. A eight man squad led by Lee Marvin Sgt. Mooney) is quartered in the basement of a ruined house. A three man patrol comes back minus one man who is trapped in a bomb crater being swept by a fearsomely placed machine gun.

    The squad is due to be pulled back after 17 days on the line but are under orders not to go and rescue the pinned man. Captain Trelawny (Barney Phillips), aware of the heavy casualties of his unit, doesn't want three men killed trying to save one ("I came up here with a company and I'll be lucky to leave with a platoon"). The tension builds as it becomes closer to the time to move out and leave one of their buddies behind. That's it.

    Basically one set with brief forays into another set depicting a rubble strewn street being periodically swept by machine gun fire. There was some attempt at opening out by literally visualizing the sub-erotic sex fantasies of the men particularly Bonar Colleano (Collucci) ("Tonight I'll be whistling at every dame in the country. You can't keep a healthy guy like me stuck away like this for too long - I go crazy - I get hair on the palms of my hands - the beast rises in me.") but almost all of the tension is provided in the dialogue between the men.' The conclusions reached reflect the hard bitten cynicism of men at war, of being used by fate, and of the connecting sinews which build between men at their extreme.

    EIGHT IRON MEN is no masterpiece but it is very effective drama, just don't expect any of the usual visceral thrills which accompany most action oriented war films. There are no villains. The German's are never seen. The Captain is neither a sniveling coward nor a vain martinet who gets his men killed for his greater glory. Though he is aware his 'efficiency' is being scrutinized by higher ups, he shows some repressed satisfaction at the recovery of the missing man. This is not the kind of film where the more knowledgeable in the audience can guffaw "Aw, real people don't act that way."

    This is merely a crumb in the vast shitcake of the continuing cruelty of a mankind which seems eternally waging war with itself. Its unfortunate that not only is there no more theatre like this but there are no more films like this, nor even TV like this (not since the 50s actually). It has all been replaced by 24/7 news and a whole host of too highly paid self advertising jackanapes entertainers under the guise of political pundits.
  • kapop6920 August 2006
    Great acting. A real psychological portrayal of soldiers in WWII. Very honest and unglamorous considering the number of BS WWII mythology films in the '50s. Marvin and Kiley are great along with a bunch of guys (Colucci) that I'd never heard of. The fantasy sequences break up the tense yet tedious, claustrophobic atmosphere. Great B&W cinematography with excellent dramatic CUs. I'm not surprised given the human quality of this war movie that it was part of the Stanley Kramer production company. Save Smalls or eat his piece of cake!!!!!! Lee Marvin was one of the great American actors. What an ensemble in this film. All acting is top notch. the characters are all ones that we know–the ladies man, the stoic, the emotional and passionate one...great!
  • aimless-464 September 2007
    A mix of "Stalag 17" and television's "Combat" series (which it inspired), "Eight Iron Men" (1952) is my favorite war movie. Made when Director Edward Dmytryk was still paying attention to his acting for the camera direction, "Eight Iron Men" is Harry Brown's adaptation of his play "A Sound of Hunting". Brown would later write one of the more classic episodes of "Combat".

    Dmytryk, noted for his action sequences, was smart enough to concentrate on the play's extremely clever repartee between the members of an infantry squad who are marking time in the ruins of a destroyed town in Europe late in WWII. Squad leader Sgt. Mooney (Lee Marvin) has somehow managed to keep his group intact up to this point of the war. His goal of leaving the town with all seven of his men is threatened when the squad's most inept member Private Small (George Cooper) gets himself pinned down in a shell-hole; a few yards away from a well-protected German machine gun nest.

    With orders to pull back the squad is torn between disobeying or abandoning their buddy to the Germans. Their decision is further complicated by not knowing if Small is still alive. Once this situation has been fleshed out, Dmytryk builds up the tension as it becomes closer and closer to the time they must leave.

    By the end of the film you feel like you know all the six of Mooney's multi-ethnic squad members. There is a comedian (Nick Dennis), a hot-head (Richard Kiley), a pragmatist (Arthur Franz), a cub scout (Dickie Moore), a war-weary dreamer (James Griffith), and a dame obsessed gold brick (Bonar Colleano).

    Much like "Das Boot" and "Cross of Iron", the members of the squad have shared so many intense experiences that they have become closer to each other than they ever were to their own family members. This makes their choice even more difficult.

    Like the best anti-war films, "Eight Iron Men" is full of hard-bitten cynicism as a group of humans try to maintain their dignity in an insane environment. The face of war is gritty-not glamorous in "Eight Iron Men" and the film is not for those looking for fast edits and flashy action sequences.

    Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This WW2 drama from Columbia Pictures deals with the tense inter-relations between eight weary soldiers stuck in a small worn torn Italian town. Seventeen days waiting it out jammed in a cellar while one of them is pinned down by machine gun fire behind enemy lines. Rain, Cracker Jacks and fruitcake...dreaming about girls...and more girls. The squad is given orders to pull out without going to rescue their pinned down buddy. Mortar and German gun fire bouncing off the rubble strewn streets. Soldiers are flesh and with ambition, opinions and dreams.

    Starring are: Lee Marvin, Bonar Colleano, Richard Kiley, George Cooper, James Griffith, Barney Phillips and Dickie Moore. And featured in dream sequences are Mary Castle, Angela Stevens, Sue Casey and Jill Jarmyn.
  • "Eight Iron Men" is a war film filled with familiar faces--both of actors whose faces you'll recognize but not their names as well as a few folks before they hit well as one guy who used to be a very big child star back in the day.

    The plot is simple. While a group of eight G.I.s are hunkered down in the remnants of an Italian town, one in the group gets pinned down by a German machine gun nest. The rest of the company want to try to rescue him...but they are ordered by the Major not to attempt this, as he doesn't want to lose additional troops.

    The most interesting cast member is Lee Marvin--playing pretty much the sort of guy he really was during WWII. He's great...and it's one of his earliest roles. Additional interesting cast members include Bonar Colleano, Dickie Moore and Richard Kiley. Colleano is a familiar face and he was an American living in Britain, so whenever a British film wanted a stereotypical American, they'd cast Colleano. Moore was a HUGE child star and member of Our Gang. And Richard Kiley later went on to great fame playing many roles on TV and Broadway. What these men and the rest of the cast have in common is that they weren't yet stars and were excellent at playing average Joes.

    The net effect of this film is an interesting psychological portrait of ordinary men stretched to the limits. You can see the best and the worst of some of the guys...but most just wanna protect their tushes and survive the see the end of the war. Overall, it's a nice little low budget film--excelling with realism and full of grit.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    ***SPOILERS*** Based on the little know 1945 Broadway play "A Sound of Hunting". The film "Eight Iron Men" has to do with a US infantry squad pinned down by German machine gun fire in an Italian town during the battle of Mount Cassino. One of the squad members Pvt.Smalls, George Cooper, end up stuck in a bomb crater with his fellow GI's tying to get him back, not knowing if he's either dead or alive, to safety and risking the entire infantry company by doing it.

    Realistic and gritty war drama with Lee Marvin in his first staring role as Sgt. Mooney as he together with the rest of his squad are willing to risk their lives to save the life of a fellow GI. Pvt. Smalls turns out to have been fast asleep, with a twisted ankle and a shot of morphine, in a shell crater and totally unaware of all the commotion that he caused.

    Defying orders from their commanding Officer Capt. Treiawny, Barney Phillips, Sgt. Mooney's squad refuses to withdraw giving the Captain fits with him on the verge of having court-martial Mooney and the rest of his men if he didn't comply. It turns out that squad members would rather spend the rest of their live in the brig knowing that they did their best to rescue one of theirs, a member of the "Eight Iron Men", then live the rest of their lives as free men not knowing that their inaction was the cause his death.

    There's a somewhat comedy bit thrown into the story about a fruitcake that's to be split up between the GI's and the last piece, after the other even were given out to the men in the squad, is left for Pvt. Smalls. That causes a lot of tension with the men not knowing if Smalls is even alive to eat it and at the same time wanting to eat the goodie themselves. We also have the usual goof-off of the outfit Pvt. Collucci, Bonar Colleano, who likens himself to be a modern day Casanova with the ladies. Since there's no women in the deserted burnt and blasted town we have a number of dream sequences put into the film where lover-boy Collucci has all the beautiful dames that he can or even, and that may be asking a bit too much of Collucci,can't handle. Collucci is such a great lover, in his own mind, that he's even able to steal away the girl that fellow GI Pvt. Ferguson,James Griffith,had just married in his dream! Thats something which I doubt that even the great Cassanove would be able to do on his best day or night.

    Sgt. Mooney and a number of his men going out to fetch the missing Pvt. Smalls are pinned by German machine gun fire and forced to retreat back to their defensive position. Just when he and his men are about to give up on ever finding Smalls Pvt. Collucci the great lover turns into the great warrior as he single handed takes out the German machine gun nest and a German sniper. Grabbing an unconscious, due to his injecting himself with morphine, Pvt. Smalls Collucci brings him back to the squad headquarters. Just when, a totally shocked and happily surprised, Sgt. Mooney and his men were about to leave without him or the already left for dead Pvt. Smalls.

    Pvt. Collucci became the unlikely hero of the entire squad. In the end he got something far more real and satisfying then all the imagery gorgeous babes that he dreamed about all throughout the film. A real honest to goodness second piece of that delicious fruitcake. The piece that was reserved for the missing Pvt. Smalls.
  • Based on a 1945 play by Harry Brown, this dreary movie moves between standard banter between men in a somewhat stressful situation (the bombed out rubble of a house in Italy) who are ordered out but are reluctant to leave a pinned down member of the platoon, and dream sequences that are painful, and populated by Rita Hayworth look-a-likes. While an excellent example of the continuing development of the persona of Lee Marvin, and containing one of last performances of Bonar Colleano, who would be killed in an auto accident a few years later, it is really a vehicle for several Hollywood character actors whose faces but not names come readily to mind (Arthur Franz, Richard Kiley (pre LaMancha), Barney Phillips and James Griffith). Not available on DVD or VHS, it surfaces occasionally on TV in connection with Lee Marvin retrospectives. That is the only reason to see this film.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Eight Iron Men is a WWII movie about a weary understrength squad that faces a dilemma in the rainy ruins of an Italian town. When the squad Sad Sack is pinned down by a German machine gun, the Squad Leader (Lee Marvin) wants to get him back but it has to be with approval of their Captain (Barney Phillips). Tensions mount as the German machine gun crew takes pot shots at the trapped GI and hidden sniper has the American position in his sights. The lead of this film was Bonar Colleano, Who? He plays the squad's girl happy wise-cracking member, Colluci. He daydreams about women lead to funny fantasy sequence. As the Captain, a supporting roles by Phillips that the strain of command is gnawing at him. His graying temples is a physical manifestation of the stress. It has been argued he was too old for the part. If that is case then nearly every actor in this film was as well. Contrary to popularly belief, not every American company commander was in their early twenties. Some were older. Mature men were needed to lead younger ones. That usually meant men who were over thirty. A interesting film that has been overlooked.
  • wpg3921 September 2007
    At first may seem like a poorly written and acted movie but you must REMEMBER that this movie was made in 1952 and one must use his/her imagination to fill in the missing special effects that we've been forced to endure.

    Many movies of the era used the same format but the movie was about individual soldiers and not the war. I'm sure combat veterans would be better suited to comment on the goodness/badness of the film but suspect they would like it.

    Maybe Lee Marvin's first starring role? But the character of Sergeant Joe Mooney was carried out thru his career and it is always a pleasure to watch.

    A good movie for its time and remains so in my humble opinion.
  • Prismark1025 May 2019
    Eight Iron Men is based on a stage play. The story is reminiscent of Saving Private Ryan but that is where the similarities end.

    This second world war drama has a soldier, Private Small trapped outside under a hail of machine gun fire. The rest of the infantrymen are trapped inside a house in Italy.

    Each time someone goes to rescue the man, they are met with bullets from the machine gun post.

    Lee Marvin outshines the rest of the cast as the hard boiled sergeant determined to rescue the soldier. However this is a low budget dreary and talkative war drama that shows up its stage origins as it has little action. The switch between the men hemmed in the bomb butted house and Bonar Colleano's daydream sequence of fantasising about beautiful women is jarring. The ending in anticlimactic.
  • Edward Dmytryk returned from the McCarthy hearings to direct this slightly expanded stage show of eight World War Two soldiers, sitting around in a wrecked basement, waiting for their chance to go on furlough .... but the sergeant --- played by a Lee Marvin so young that he still has dark hair -- wants to go out and find a missing man. The endless talk talk talk is alleviated occasionally as Marvin goes out to see the company's captain, who also lives in a wrecked basement.

    Dmytryk and the screenwriters have done very little to expand this for the screen. You may, if you like, interpret this as a failure of nerve of Dmytryk's part: he had originally refused to testify as to who was a Communist before the House Unamerican Activities Committee. A few months in jail broke his resolve, and he spent the remainder of his career directing ever larger, ever glossier and ever emptier films.
  • Plainly based on a play, and like the film version a few years later of 'The Long and the Short and the Tall' an obvious studio set reminiscent of the dug-out in 'Journey's End' provides the confined backdrop to the squabblings of the cast; which director Dmytryk's exaggerated compositions simply emphasise the theatricality of. You can understand the change of title from 'A Sound of Hunting' to the more rugged 'Eight Iron Men'; but anybody lured in by the posters flaunting Mary Castle from the ghastly dream sequences really was in for a big disappointment...!

    The rain-soaked exteriors in a bombed-out town anticipate the later scenes in 'Saving Private Ryan' (which after the famous opening sequence also became very talky), and the cast, while then short on star power (Kiley & Marvin made it big later, the former on Broadway) is an interesting one to connoisseurs of old movies.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    EIGHT IRON MEN has one of those screenplays that started life as a stage play, so the action is centred in a single location. It's the tale of a group of WW2-era soldiers who are pinned down in a single location and must figure out a way to rescue their wounded colleague on the outset. I feel that such plays are hit or miss affairs and sadly this is one of the more dated examples of its type. The action is sparse and the dialogue comes thick and heavy, but the actors struggle with their uninteresting roles and lead Bonar Colleano is particularly irritating. You do get Lee Marvin delivering a typically bullish turn but his presence isn't enough to save the movie as a whole.
  • malcp21 November 2015
    Warning: Spoilers
    Mainly confined to a couple of sets, the success or failure of this film rests very heavily on the script and upon the ensemble cast. Most of the actors work well, Bonar Colleano and Lee Marvin almost raising this film to a level above the slightly interesting. Unfortunately, the script just isn't punchy enough and you wait for tense moments that never arrive. The guy who gets stranded has proved himself pretty useless. Our heroes, need to contrast dark and light traits in humanity. Do they follow orders and abandon the sap or do the decent thing, ignore the orders, risk life and limb and try and rescue a guy who many of them think isn't worth the effort. The idea is sound, but though much of the dialogue is interesting, for the most part there is a palpable lack of tension. Richard Kiley as Carter should play a critical role, but his lines are pretty lame and he is unconvincing. Verbal sparring between him and Lee Marvin is so one sided, you're never sure what Carter is thinking about. The ending is also lacklustre, almost as if there should have been another scene and they forgot to record it. Worth seeing for the performances of Lee Marvin and the sadly short-lived Bonar Colleano and for the curious day-dream sequences, but saving Private Ryan it ain't!
  • edwagreen15 October 2016
    Warning: Spoilers
    Stanley Kramer always made such wonderful social conscious films such Judgment at Nuremberg, the hilarious comedy It's A Mad Mad Mad World and The Defiant Ones. He must have had a bad day when he made this 1952 misery of a film.

    We never see the enemy. We don't know exactly where the film is taking place and the scenes with the women are absolutely contrived and out right ridiculous at best.

    For 1952, Lee Marvin looks old already and war in itself is made to look ludicrous by what Small was doing all along during this 80 minute film debacle.

    Of course, you make every effort to save a missing soldier cornered by the enemy. The enemy was the one who thought of such a miserable film.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    As a WWII buff, I try and watch any film that deals with the subject. Finally, thanks to Turner Classic Movies channel I got to see this film. With the cast, producer, director, and writer, expectations were high. But, my, what a disappointment! All the ingredients are there for a great film, including a realistic set, correct miliatry equipment, and characters that really look like they have been in the field for seventeen days - thanks in large part to the input of WWII veteran Lee Marvin.

    But, with all of this going for it, the recipe fails. It's like the fruitcake that is a focal point in this film - great ingredients by themselves, but put together are often not edible.

    The film opens with Private Coke getting shot at by a sniper. He shoots back with a burst from his Thompson submachine gun, then walks away, saying nothing about the sniper when he gets back. One would think that would be a cause for concern - there's a sniper in town! The when Private Small is left behind because of the German machine gun nest that's been set up in the town, there seems to be little concern about him, expecially at first. Then a sniper (the same one?) kills a soldier and it's quickly forgotten - no big deal!

    Finally, in the middle of this gab-fest, Sgt. Mooney (Lee Marvin) decides to try and do something to save Small and takes a mortar team to try and take out the machine gun nest. Firing the hand-held (!) mortar tube, they are incredibly accurate, but fail. They don't seem to try and get eyes on Small or even call out to him to see if he's alive. As the squad is about to pull out, it's up to Private Coke to save the day on his own with a hundred-to-one grenade throw.

    The dream sequences from the weary soldiers are meant for a comic diversion from the grittiness of war, but seem shockingly out of place. I guess the filmmakers decided they needed some eye candy to sweeten this dreary, mostly boring film.