Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Four in a Jeep

What an interesting little movie this is! 1951, post WWII, Cold War just starting. The four in the jeep are four MP sergeants, one American, Russian, Frenchman, Brit. They tool around Vienna (which has sectors run by each of the four countries, and one sector run by all four) keeping the peace. It was really filmed in Austria, so it looks great. And everyone's speaking their own language half the time, so that's fun too.

Trouble starts when the four arrive on the scene where the Russians are giving a woman a hard time. Actually, it starts earlier when the Russian joins the other three as their new patrol partner. See, he knows the American from the end of the war, and there's a bit of bitterness between them. There's two main stories going on here. In one, the woman is trying to reunite with her husband, only the Russians are after him because he busted out of the POW camp and is trying to cross the frontier to reach her on his own. The American, Frenchman, and Brit try to help her, the Russian wants to help her, but is under strict orders to apprehend her husband. Of course, the fact that she's a beautiful woman, and the American is half-hoping her husband isn't going to return adds a bit of spice to the mix.

The second story is about reconciling the friendship of the American and the Russian (and to a lesser extent, exploring the friendship between all four men). My favorite scene in the movie is a flashback to the end of the war, when the American and Russian each on patrol from their own side first encounter each other. They realize they're allies, there are no Germans, and therefore the war is just about over. They whoop and holler and hug each other and promptly get drunk on pilfered German brandy, and it's so dizzingly carefree and uninhibited. It's such a happy scene, and after all the death/destruction of the war, it just feels right. At the same time, their initial meeting is a fascinating counterpoint to the Russian couple's danger-fraught reunion. The American and Russian soldiers are almost like two lovers themselves, even to carving their initials into a tree to immortalize their meeting and the end of the war.

There are chases and fist fights and a good dressing down by their superiors, and one scene that made me tear up. And of course, one of those hilarious scenes where the American insists on coming into the beautiful Russian lady's apartment, and at her worried look he quickly says "no, I don't mean like that," but then of course, on the other hand, he doesn't want to insult her by indicating she isn't attractive either, so he has to backpedal yet again... guys just can't win that one. LOL!

This was Ralph Meeker's second film, playing the American sergeant, and he's so very young here. Enjoyed it a lot. It's a short movie, but it's surprisingly complex. I'm glad I tracked it down.

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