I hate paying $30 dollars for a Bluray when I know that a high-def streaming version will be available down the road. I’ve nonetheless ordered the Bluray of Edward Dymytryk‘s The Young Lions (Twilight Time, 6.9), mainly because I’m a sucker for black-and-white Scope as well as an admirer of legendary dp Joe McDonald (My Darling Clementine, Call Northside 777, Viva Zapata).
The Young Lions has always been sold as a war drama when it’s actually a rather talky piece about three guys who aren’t very lion-like or war-daddyish at all, and are more caught up in wrestling with personal issues than in fighting the enemy.
On the German side is blonde-haired officer Christian Diestl (Brando) who becomes more and more repelled by war as his military experiences accumulate. Stateside there’s a just-enlisted American Jew with jug ears — Montgomery Clift‘s Noah Ackerman — grappling with anti-Semitism in the ranks along with a louche showbiz type — Dean Martin‘s Michael Whiteacre — dealing with his own selfishness and cowardice.
Given Diestl’s disdain for war and the fact that he spends almost the entire film not shooting or even aiming at anyone, it’s a joke that the Twilight Time Bluray jacket features an image of Brando pointing a handgun at the camera.
At least I now have an excuse to trot out an eight-year-old piece about one of Brando’s greatest death scene, which happens near the finale of this 167-minute film.
Diestl is in a forest not far from a recently liberated concentration camp, sick of war and bashing his rifle against a tree in a mad rage. Then he runs down a hillside and right into Whiteacre and Ackerman. Ignoring the fact that Diestl is unarmed, Whiteacre fires several bullets and Diestl tumbles down the hill, landing head first in a shallow stream.
The camera goes in tight, showing that Brando’s mouth and nose are submerged. A series of rapidly-popping air bubbles begin hitting the surface — pup-pup-pup-pup-pup-pup-pup — and then slower, slower and slower still. And then — this is the mad genius of Brando — two or three seconds after they’ve stopped altogether, a final tiny bubble pops through. There’s something about this that devastates all to hell.