Sunday, March 27, 2011

Kraft Suspense Theatre; Operation Greif; Robert Goulet; Claude Akins; Claudine Longet

Click here for the previous episode review.

Season #2, Episode #2

Operation Greif
Original Air Date: October 8, 1964. This episode, whether by design or otherwise, aired a little over two months before the 20th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge.

Setting/Time: Western Europe, World War II, 1944/1945. This is the third episode that took place during World War II.

Plot/Review/Discussion -

"Operation Greif" appears, on its surface, to be a war story. In fact, the real story is deeper. This episode is more of a mystery story than a war story. The writer, Jerome Ross, had numerous writing credits to his name - many of which were for crime/mystery shows while none that I know of were military in nature.

The story is based loosely on the Battle of the Bulge, which took place in Western Europe as the allies were preparing their final push toward Germany and victory in the European war. The setting for the episode is the German attack, although we hear few references to the actual battle. The viewer hears nothing about "Bastogne," "Nuts" or other familiar words from that famous battle. The episode appears to take place in warm weather under clear skies, while the actual battle took place in heavy snow and cloud cover.

The story is not about the larger battle, but about five soldiers traveling together in a Jeep while the battle rages around them. Stock war footage is inserted at various transition points. The soldiers discover that the Germans have sent spies to infiltrate the American forces and disrupt allied operations. The soldiers begin to suspect each other (with some justification).

At this point, the episode is not merely about the action or even the mystery. The show is about the choices that the soldiers must make. Sergeant Henning has picked up the other four soldiers (in his Jeep) during the chaos of the battle at random locations as he rides to rejoin his unit with needed blood. None of them know each other. Each of them, especially the Sergeant in command, must make decisions as to whether to trust the other men in the Jeep. They face this decision repeatedly as they confront snipers, repair the Jeep and mingle with local farm residents.

At this point I will be vague as I try to avoid plot spoilers. The main characters are written and acted very well. Upon seeing this episode for the second and third times, I noticed that the characters are introduced to the story seemlessly in a way that the veiwer cannot fully appreciate until the end. One can almost recreate the writer's thought process as he works backwards from the basic story line to the details that establish the main conflict.

The plot was similar in some ways to the Twilight Zone episode, "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street." The KST episode was superior because it did not contain a hidden political message.

"Operation Greif" featured a tight plot while developing strong, entertaining characters with which the audience could identify. The plot advanced briskly toward a realistic conclusion.

Actors

Robert Goulet plays the pivotal role of Private Brubaker. Goulet was fresh from his success in Broadway's Camelot, whose 2+ year run had ended a year earlier (and which would be briefly revived with Goulet in 1993). Goulet would later win a Tony for The Happy Time in 1968. Goulet also enjoyed television and movie acting credits spanning nearly fifty years. He was married for 18 years to Carol Lawrence, who starred in one episode of KST during Season #2.

Claude Akins was perfect for the role of the gruff sargeant stereotype. Even though he was playing a stereotype, the role and character worked. His short commands and inquiries got to the point, advanced the plot and made the viewer believe that the story was real. Akins avoided the pitfall of overdoing the role with exaggerated gestures and mannerisms, as many of the more modern stereotype sargeant roles tend to do. His acting career spanned 40 years, including an uncredited role in 1953's From Here to Eternity, a part in 1959's Rio Bravo and many roles as military men, policemen, sheriffs and western gunfighters. He landed guest roles on such shows as Bonanza, Wagon Train, Dragnet, Big Valley, Guns of Will Sonnett, The Lucy Show and many, many others. He starred in two series of his own in the 1970's and early 1980's - Movin' On and Lobo. It is mildly ironic that in 1960, Akins played one of the leading roles on Twilight Zone's "Monsters are Due on Maple Street."

Claudine Longet played the teenage/20+ farm girl. She was known for numerous guest roles in the 1960's and 1970's. She was married for a time to Andy Williams. In 1976, she shot and killed her olympic skier boyfriend. Following a sensational trial, she served a 30 day jail term. That event now overshadows her entire career.

Peter Helm played the soldier muted by battle fatigue. He had previously starred in Season #1's "Are There Any More Out There Like You?"

Linden Chiles played Private Buttel. He continues to act today after more than 50 years in show business. I recall his guest role in the Time Tunnel when he played the main character's father at Pearl Harbor.

Don Dubbins played Corporal Shale. He acted for nearly 40 years, including an uncredited role in From Here to Eternity, guest roles in Big Valley, The Guns of Will Sonnett, Dynasty, KST spinoff Run for Your Life and other shows.

At least five of the actors in this episode appeared in more than one program/movie that took place during World War II. This fact helps show how influential that War was on film fiction for at least the following twenty years - influence that has waned following the 1960's. How many actors today can claim more than one World War II based credit?

Cars - The only vehicles in this episode were military vehicles such as the Jeep that carried the five soldiers and stock footage of tank battles inserted briefly at transition points in the story.

3 comments:

  1. Did you heard what Rob Matts said about that?

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  2. Incidentally, the uncredited narrator was Art Gilmore.

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  3. Excellent episode with some real surprises. The framing device of the narrator, some WWII history thrown it, made it seem real,lent it a larger than life feel. Goulet was excellent as the apparent playboy oif the group,with Claude Akins solid as usual. This one will keep most viewers guessing till the final act. It's a pip, Maybe not great art, it's first rate television and highly entertaining.

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