review for The Battle of San Pietro on AllMovie

The Battle of San Pietro (1944)
by Mark Deming review

John Huston was one of the Hollywood directors enlisted by the U.S. Army during World War II to make films to explain aspects of the war to soldiers and civilians. While Frank Capra, Howard Hawks, and John Ford trumpeted the dangerous but heroic fight, Huston (unsurprisingly) turned out to be the merciless realist. The Battle of San Pietro was completed over the objections of Huston's superiors and rarely shown until long after the war ended: considering that these films were designed to build morale, a documentary about a battle lost at a terrible cost in manpower and material was not what anyone was hoping to see. While never exploitative or dwelling on the carnage of battle for its own sake, The Battle of San Pietro is a troubling document of armed combat in which we meet smiling, fresh-faced soldiers, and then watch them die under enemy fire in a hard-fought battle that ultimately can't be won. Other movies have tried to communicate the idea that war is hell; this short, cleanly shot, and simply edited film says it as eloquently as anyone who has ever picked up a camera