Judge Patrick Naugle has earned his place in the Rental of the Fearful.
Our reviews of Home of the Brave (2004) (published March 31st, 2006), Home of the Brave (2006) (published October 23rd, 2007), and Home of the Brave (2006) (Blu-ray) (published November 15th, 2007) are also available.
War is hell.
Peter Moss (James Edwards, Pork Chop Hill) is a former World War II solider who has lost the ability to walk. However, one of the Army's psychiatrists (Jeff Corey, The Cincinnati Kid) can't figure out why since Moss doesn't show any signs of physical damage. Through flashbacks, Moss's story is told as he's assigned to a reconnaissance patrol on a mission in the South Pacific. The patrol's leader is Major Robinson (Douglas Dick, Alfred Hitchcock's Rope) who oversees the unsteady Sgt. Mingo (Frank Lovejoy, In a Lonely Place), the bigoted TJ (Steve Brodie, The Caine Mutiny), and one of Moss's oldest friends, Finch (Lloyd Bridges, Sea Hunt). Their mission is fraught with danger at every turn, no more so than the other soldiers who see Moss not as a contemporary but as a threat due to his skin color. As the jungle becomes more dangerous, each man will show his true colors as the good doctor tries to discover the mystery behind Moss's illness.
Home of the Brave is that rare war film that doesn't feature many war scenes, and what scenes it does focus on are pulled in so tight that it doesn't offer much in the way of scope. It's not an action picture but instead deals with the psychological effects of combat on the individual. But it doesn't stop there. The war drama also touches on what it meant for a black man to be part of a white man's army, and how bigotry can cause larger wounds than bullets or bombs (in the original play it was a Jewish man, changed to a black man for the 1949 film). These were fairly heady topics for the late 1940s, and while the film doesn't offer many answers (except that racism isn't very good), it at least makes a valiant attempt to try and ask some important questions.
Home of the Brave was written by Carl Foreman (High Noon) and is based on the 1946 play by Author Laurents (who also penned the musical "Gypsy"). Produced by Stanley Kramer (It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World) and directed by Mark Robson (Von Ryan's Express), the film was shot in thirty days at a cost of $525,000 and more than tripled its profits during its theatrical release. Clocking in at just under an hour and a half, Home of the Brave offers up a very brief illumination on race relations in the army, and what the effects of war can do to a man's psyche. The film is shown in flashback with an Army psychiatrist (Jeff Corey) trying to figure out why Moss (James Edwards), a black solider, can't seem to walk even though he sustained no physical injury to his legs or torso. Moss joins up with a team that includes Finch (Lloyd Bridges), a happy-go-lucky solider who knew Moss when they were in school and doesn't see his color, only their friendship.
The relationship between Moss and Finch are what make up the heart of Home of the Brave. The other characters almost seem to be orbiting around them as they stumble their way through a friendship that should be free and easy but instead must bend and break to societal (and military) pressures. I'm so accustomed to seeing Lloyd Bridges in comedic spoofs like Hot Shots! and Mafia!, so it's a bit of an eye opener to see the late actor showing such depth and range. James Edwards is an actor I didn't recognize, but his compassionate and restrained portrayal of an outcast gives Home of the Brave a bit of extra added resonance. Jeff Corey's character, a nameless doctor, bookends the film with monologues that, while well delivered, are a bit heavy handed.
Unfortunately, Home of the Brave suffers from some of the trappings of the 1940s, most notably it's absolutely lamentable film score. To punctuate a comedic moment of a land surveyor falling down the background music is a version of the child's song "Pop Goes the Weasel", suddenly turning it into a Three Stooges short. The music is the one component of this film that fails at every turn. True, a lot of films used this kind of film score during the 1940s, but a lot of those movies also weren't dealing with such serious subjects as post traumatic stress and race relations.
Home of the Brave (Blu-ray) is presented in 1.37:1/1080p HD full frame. Olive Films has taken this Paramount catalog title and given it a very nice, if sometimes inconsistent, high def transfer. The black and white image often looks very good even if there more imperfections than anticipated. Generally speaking the black and white levels are all fairly consistent, though the print could have been crisper and cleaner. The DTS-HD 1.0 Master Audio track gets the job done and little else. The fidelity is quite tinny at times, although considering the film's age and budget, this issue can be overlooked. There are no bonus features.
Home of the Brave is a war movie with a bit more on its mind than the usual guns and ammo The script makes a valiant attempt at getting under the skin of the characters, even if it doesn't always succeed. The film seems to have been lost to time—no one I've talked to has heard of it—but deserves to be rediscovered, if for no other reason than the performances by Edwards and Bridges.
A thoughtful rumination of war and race relations. Recommended to both military and classic films fans alike.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Olive Films
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