Synopsis by Hal Erickson
It is easy to see why the US Army refused to cooperate in the production of Attack. Based on the Norman Brooks play The Fragile Fox, this searing war film is a powerful indictment against a military system which protects even its most incompetent of officers. Eddie Albert plays a posturing but hopelessly inept infantry captain, whose misdeeds are covered up by his colonel Lee Marvin. Albert has strong political connections in the US, and Marvin hopes to take advantage of this after the war. Lieutenant Jack Palance has sworn to kill Albert with his bare hands if the officer bungles another mission. Albert orders Palance and his men into an untenable position on the battlefields of Belgium--and then, true to character, is too cowardly to send backup troops, leaving Palance's men to their fate. By sheer strength of will, Palance, whose arm has been shattered by an enemy tank, drags himself to the cellar where Albert is billeted and attempts to rid the world of the terror-stricken captain. Palance dies before he can keep his promise, but when the craven Albert makes an effort to surrender himself and his men to the Germans, he is shot down by lieutenant William Smithers. The rest of the men conspire to cover up Smithers' "crime" by claiming that Albert died from enemy fire, but Smithers proves to be less willing to prevaricate than his fellow soldiers. Though most filmgoers are mesmerized by Eddie Albert's virtuoso performance as a snivelling yellow-belly, director Robert Aldrich claimed that Albert gave his best reading during rehearsals, and that what ended up on film was nowhere near as powerful as it might have been.
colonel, infantry, cover-up, coward, revenge, war-atrocities, politician, victim