16 May 2009 | magbo
Terrific story of Israel's 1st general in 2000 years
Excellent cast, intelligent script, heart-warming scenes of loyalty, determination, re-discovered faith, sobering scenes of the cost of freedom, wow! I was completely engrossed watching this film, the story of General David "Mickey" Marcus (Kirk Douglas), who in 1948 became the first Israeli general since Joshua of Biblical times. This film came out when I was 14 and I have somehow missed seeing it all these years. I had no idea what I was missing.
What I don't understand is the grumbling and complaining about what a "bad" film this is. Huh? I loved it! Kirk Douglas, John Wayne, Yul Bryunner, Senta Berger and Frank Sinatra were perfectly cast in their roles. The script covered the highlights of the War of Independence during the brief time time Marcus was involved, and I don't know what more you could expect for a feature film. To tell the story of the war completely and thoroughly would take a miniseries of 20 hours or more. Yes, the special effects look dated now, but you can't fault something because it doesn't use technology that hadn't been invented yet. Also, learning that Senta Berger's character was fictional and apparently only inserted to make a good story, was a disappointment. However, her character was a wonderful metaphor for Marcus' newly found love for Israel and re-discovery of his faith, after living as a secular American Jew for his entire life. (At one point Marcus says he hasn't been to temple since his bar mitzvah).
Also, I must say that I think the person who complained here on IMDb about John Wayne's reaction to seeing the Dachau concentration camp in the World War II flashback is completely off the mark. Wayne, as Pattonesque American general Mike Randolph, struggles to keep his emotions intact as he looks at the horror of the camp his troops have recently liberated. He orders his adjutant to give Marcus whatever he needs to tend to the Dachau survivors and turns away, his back to the camera. He leans against a fence, head down, physically and emotionally overcome. What would you want him to do in such a situation? I suspect the objecting person just doesn't like John Wayne no matter what the film or what his role.
His son Michael Wayne was co-producer with the film's director and screenwriter Mel Shavelson, and Wayne's Batjac Productions is one of four production companies listed. Another reviewer here has cynically suggested most of the budget went to Wayne's salary and I say balderdash! I'm quite sure the Wayne family's interest and participation in this film was not merely financial. I'm equally sure they wanted to help tell this story of the Israeli struggle for freedom they thought the world should hear. Then and now, for that matter.
I want to thank the Showtime networks for airing this film in the USA on May 16, 2009, which happened to be two days after the 61st anniversary of Israeli independence day. Nice touch, and a terrific weekend to see this film.