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Thu Feb 27, 2014, 11:05 AM

Can anyone recommend a good tank movie?

I was a tank crewman in the Army, and, despite my post-service turn to pacifism, am still fascinated by military hardware, including and especially tanks.

I own a few films centered around tank warfare.

The Beast
Lebanon


There are others in which tanks feature peripherally, like Saving Private Ryan. I saw a low-budget tank movie a number of years ago, The Misfit Brigade, that I enjoyed, but didn't see the value of owning for myself.

I'm looking forward to the Brad Pitt WWII tank film currently in production. And I still regret that Denzel Washington's project telling the story of the first all-African-American tank battalion was never filmed.

But are there any good tank movies out there that I've missed?

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Reply Can anyone recommend a good tank movie? (Original post)
Aristus Feb 2014 OP
longship Feb 2014 #1
Aristus Feb 2014 #2
longship Feb 2014 #3
Aristus Feb 2014 #5
longship Feb 2014 #9
Nitram Feb 2014 #14
Aristus Feb 2014 #15
Nitram Mar 2014 #29
grahamhgreen Feb 2014 #4
Aristus Feb 2014 #7
grahamhgreen Feb 2014 #10
OnyxCollie Feb 2014 #12
Paladin Feb 2014 #6
ret5hd Feb 2014 #8
OnyxCollie Feb 2014 #13
catnhatnh Feb 2014 #11
Aristus Feb 2014 #16
Paladin Feb 2014 #17
Aristus Feb 2014 #18
Paladin Feb 2014 #19
Aristus Feb 2014 #20
Paladin Feb 2014 #22
Aristus Feb 2014 #26
flying rabbit Feb 2014 #21
Aristus Feb 2014 #23
flying rabbit Feb 2014 #24
Aristus Feb 2014 #25
valerief Feb 2014 #27
Aristus Feb 2014 #28
kairos12 Mar 2014 #30
Aristus Mar 2014 #31
onager Mar 2014 #32
Aristus Mar 2014 #33
onager Mar 2014 #34
Aristus Mar 2014 #35
Aristus Mar 2014 #38
brooklynboy49 Mar 2014 #36
Aristus Mar 2014 #37

Response to Aristus (Original post)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 11:11 AM

1. Kelly's Heroes!

How can one not love Oddball?



Just for fun. The anachronisms are thick, but one doesn't care by the end of the flick.

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Response to longship (Reply #1)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 11:15 AM

2. Saw it.

Hated it.

Some Hollywood pencil pusher, during the depths of the Vietnam War, said "Hey! let's make a movie that will appeal to the pro-war and anti-war crowd! And let's make one of the characters a hippie! 'Cause, you know, they had hippies and stuff back during World War II, right? Right?"



Plus, the tank warfare segments weren't terribly realistic. I'm guessing they didn't bring in any tankers to consult on the film...

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Response to Aristus (Reply #2)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 11:22 AM

3. Sorry. As you can tell, I am ignorant of tank warfare.

Maybe The Battle of the Bulge or Patton, then.

Both feature tanks.


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Response to longship (Reply #3)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 11:30 AM

5. I've never seen the Battle of the Bulge all the way through,

but the scenes I have viewed feature Sherman tanks, for the most part, which at least is historically accurate.

Patton, however, from the viewpoint of a tanker seeking authenticity, is a huge disappointment. In all of the major scenes featuring German tank units, the tanks used in the filming were American-made tanks of the Spanish army; interestingly, they were M-46 'Patton' tanks, post-WWII tanks named for the titular American general.

Now, one could argue, and I would agree, that this was necessitated by the dearth of WWII German tanks available for filming. They were nearly all destroyed during the war. The few surviving vehicles were sold to Syria, of all places, and were then nearly all destroyed in the 1967 and 1973 wars with Israel.

Few film-makers have bothered since to at least try to offer replica German tanks.

One notable exception is Steven Spielberg in Saving Private Ryan in which a German Tiger tank was convincingly portrayed by a mocked-up Russian T-34 tank. One had to look closely, and know what to look for, to see through the disguise. It was well done.

I'd like to see more of that kind of effort.

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Response to Aristus (Reply #5)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 11:48 AM

9. I appreciate historic accuracy.

God only knows why I like Kelly's Heroes. The Battle of the Bulge is one of those Hollywood spectaculars, with Henry Fonda, Robert Shaw (as the German tank commander), Robert Ryan, etc. a so-called stellar cast. Don't know about the accuracy of the tanks, let alone the history. At least there's no hippies.

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Response to Aristus (Reply #2)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 02:07 PM

14. Have to disagree Aristus.

"Kelly's Heroes" was an anti-war movie in a long and honorable tradition, going back to All Quiet on the Western Front or farther, and more recently followed by Slaughterhouse 5, Catch-22 and M.A.S.H. Not something a "pencil pusher" would think up. More likely a hip literary type. It was also hilarious, particularly the music they played as they charged into battle. By the way, the main character was more of a beatnik than a hippie - still an anachronism for WWII.

The movie was a low-budget satire, so the intent was not accuracy in portraying tank warfare. Certainly a poor choice to recommend to someone interested in tank warfare.

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Response to Nitram (Reply #14)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 02:25 PM

15. Thanks for the input.

I enjoyed reading what you had to say.

If there was an anti-war message, I didn't catch it. I was really just watching the film at the behest of a guy I was working with at the time. (A real right-wing gun-nut, but that's a story for another time.) I have to admit, I discerned a message that the film-makers probably didn't intend: the gold they were after was looted mostly from Jewish victims; if I remember the film correctly, they kept the gold for themselves, rather than make an attempt to return it to the families of the victims.

That 60's-style popular song they played at the end has become something of an earworm for me. When I think of the film, that song goes through my head. Yet another anachronism.

I will admit that Donald Sutherland did a very appealing job in the film; he was great in M*A*S*H, too. And, well, pretty much anything he is in.

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Response to Aristus (Reply #15)

Wed Mar 5, 2014, 12:24 PM

29. I guess they werre libertarians :-)

So right about Donald Sutherland.

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Response to Aristus (Original post)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 11:30 AM

4. The beast is awesome!!!

 

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Response to grahamhgreen (Reply #4)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 11:34 AM

7. I agree.

I love the fact that an authentic Russian-built T-55 was used in the making of the film. When I was in tanker school, I had the drill sergeant screen the film for us, in order to get a good close-up look at what we thought we would be fighting someday. (And some of us actually did, going up against Soviet-made Iraqi T-55's and T-62's as well as T-72 during The Gulf War.)

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Response to Aristus (Reply #7)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 11:52 AM

10. We'll, you got me googling around... I came up with

 

Death Race, and White Tiger....

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Response to grahamhgreen (Reply #4)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 12:21 PM

12. I concur.

 

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Response to Aristus (Original post)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 11:32 AM

6. "Sahara" (1943)

Last edited Tue Mar 18, 2014, 07:02 PM - Edit history (1)

Bogart movie, set in North Africa. Supposedly based on a 1936 Soviet movie, "The Thirteen." Very well done, as I remember.Enjoy

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Response to Aristus (Original post)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 11:36 AM

8. I have vague recollections of a movie, probably from the '90s...

About a small group of Russian tank crews in Afghanistan. One of the crew was a Muslim and was not trusted by the others. I remember it as being very good, but that was during my "partaking" days, and some things I thought were good really weren't.

Sorry, can't remember the name, but maybe this gives you info to find it.

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Response to ret5hd (Reply #8)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 12:22 PM

13. That's The Beast.

 

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Response to Aristus (Original post)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 12:11 PM

11. I checked IMDB...

1951 "The Tanks are Coming". Fighting their way into Germany....featured tank is a "Pershing".

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Response to Aristus (Original post)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 02:55 PM

16. I forgot "Courage Under Fire", which opens with the scene of a tank battle from The Gulf War.

I thought it was fairly well done, considering the limitations they were working under. The US Army wouldn't allow the film-makers to use American-made M1 tanks as portrayed in the film. The Army won't cooperate with any endeavor that puts the US military in a less-than-flattering light.

So the film-makers used German-made Canadian Army Leopard I tanks dressed up to look like M1's. They did a fairly good job that might have fooled anyone not familiar with the Abrams.

I thought the film went a little overboard on Denzel Washington's pre-battle speech. Although my Gulf unit didn't see any actual combat, a tanker's attitude is usually little more than "Let's get this shit done."

One authemtic detail the film did well was showing the interior and exterior of the tanks they way they were during the war. The tanks were crammed with equipment, gear, personal baggage, etc, and piled all over the exterior of the turrets. That was well-done. Movies usually show tanks as being spacious and roomy, with none of the food, water, ammunition and paraphernalia that is always to be found jammed into the tank under real-life conditions. Sean Astin as the beefy tank gunner was a nice touch. I knew a few thin, wispy tank crewmen. But most tankers are beefy, muscular, or otherwise well-fed. The demands of the job require a lot of heavy lifting.

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Response to Aristus (Reply #16)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 05:05 PM

17. Let me make what I hope is a constructive suggestion:


Don't let hardware authenticity trump good writing/acting/direction in new films involving tanks which you discover. Tom Clancy's novel "The Hunt For Red October" taught me about ten times more than I ever wanted to know about Soviet submarines; I enjoyed the movie a great deal more.

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Response to Paladin (Reply #17)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 05:28 PM

18. I try not to. It depends on the film.

For example, I'm a nut on Ancient Rome. Gladiator was riddled with historical mistakes and anachronisms. I didn't let that spoil the film for me. It's still one of my favorites.

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Response to Aristus (Reply #18)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 07:03 PM

19. Glad to hear it.


We all have our own backgrounds and areas of expertise. I worked in the oil and gas business for decades; when the TV show "Dallas" was on, my co-workers and I would watch it, just to enjoy the pathetic portrayal of how a Texas energy company was supposedly run.

I liked "Gladiator" too---even though you can clearly see a "dead" Roman commander breathing, in one scene.

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Response to Paladin (Reply #19)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 07:27 PM

20. The inaccuracies in 'Gladiator' are, you should pardon the pun, legion.

- Roman cavalry using stirrups, which wouldn't appear in the West for another few centuries.

- speaking of horses, the horses Romans used were very small by today's standards; not the big bays used in the film.

- The Emperor and his entourage wearing deep bluish-purple colors to denote royalty. 'Purple' in Ancient Rome, was closer to what we today call maroon.

- Young Lucius' hairstyle was appropriate for a beach party in the 1970's. But in Ancient Rome, his hair would have been clipped short.

- Nobody would have used the term "Senator Gaius". 'Gaius' was a given name, his praenomen. He would have been referred to by his nomen and cognomen out of respect, or just his cognomen among friends.

- Maximus would not have been submissive or deferential to the senators in his camp. As a Roman general, even as a Spaniard, he would have been of the Senatorial class, and therefor the same rank. In fact, his auctoritas would have been higher than theirs, as a successful field commander talking to civilians.

- The Praetorian Guard did not wear the highly fascistic black armor depicted in the film. They were proud of their shiny, expensive, highly-polished armor that was a privilege of the job.

- Commodus ruled for eleven years, not the year or so depicted in the film, and was highly popular in his day, at least with the common people.

- Nearly every detail of the emperor's palace in the film is wrong. I'll leave it at that.

OTOH, they got an awful lot right, but I'll save that for another time...

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Response to Aristus (Reply #20)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 08:56 PM

22. I read Caesar's accounts of the Gaelic wars in high school Latin....

....but I didn't come close to your evident level of knowledge about the Romans. Has there ever been an ancient Rome-themed flick that pretty much got it right, from your standpoint?

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Response to Paladin (Reply #22)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 11:36 PM

26. No. Actually 'Gladiator' and the miniseries 'Rome' come the closest.

Although 'Rome' went way overboard in their attempt at gritty realism. There was definitely a lot of mud and dirt around. They tried hard to depict 'the way it really was'. Except it wasn't. In the miniseries, the Forum of Rome looked like a garbage dump. At that time, it was pretty much the center of the Roman world, and even before the Emperors, a very important public gathering space and display venue for monuments and memorials to Roman heroes. Not to mention sacred temples almost beyond counting. The Forum would have been kept very clean at all times. There was a contingent of publicly-owned slaves who kept the Forum swept and cleaned up.

Also, there was a scene in which the main female character, played by Polly Walker, was depicted bathing naked in the blood of a ritual sacrifice. I guess to show that she was an evil, decadent character. In real life, though, her actions would have been considered a stunning blasphemy, and she might have been put to death, or at least placed under house arrest for the rest of her life.

Many of the wealthy, aristocratic characters were shown having sex in full view of the household slaves. This is inaccurate. Romans, despite their decadent reputation, were incredibly prudish about sex. Even the wealthy would have had sex in small, unlit cubicles away from prying eyes. There once was a Roman Senator who declared that he would rather fall on his sword than be seen kissing his wife in public.

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Response to Aristus (Original post)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 08:47 PM

21. Tank Girl?


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Response to flying rabbit (Reply #21)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 10:38 PM

23. Yeah. I keep meaning to see it.

I have no expectation of a depiction of tank warfare, of course. But I saw a still of the customized tank in the movie, and was intrigued...



I can't tell if it's built from the ground up, or a modified M5 Stuart:

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Response to Aristus (Reply #23)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 10:54 PM

24. I actually found it to be pretty enjoyable mindless entertainment.

The comic was a lot better. I used to be one of the guys fixing M1s and although I never was a crew member I got to drive a few around the motorpool. Just don't expect any kind of realism. Turn your brain off and enjoy, 'cause if you overthink this movie you won't make it too far. Good call on the Stuart - it does look like the artist started out with that as a concept.

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Response to flying rabbit (Reply #24)

Thu Feb 27, 2014, 11:02 PM

25. Two things:

1. I was our tank company's vehicle recognition NCO. I had to teach vehicle recognition to the newbies coming in ('cause they sure as hell didn't learn it in tanker school!...) so I had to know just about every major armored vehicle in the world inside and out. And -

2. For two years in a row, I participated in Fort Knox's 4th of July Patton Museum battle re-enactment, with authentic vehicles (including an M5 Stuart), weapons and uniforms. When it comes to tanks, I got some game...

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Response to Aristus (Original post)

Fri Feb 28, 2014, 11:47 AM

27. I'll bet this is about tanks.

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Response to valerief (Reply #27)

Fri Feb 28, 2014, 11:53 AM

28. Saw it.

Hated it.

This was before the rise of private ownership of vintage armored vehicles, so the reality of James Garner's character owning an old tank is not as implausible now as it was when the movie was made. But there's no way in the world he would have been permitted to have a functioning weapon system on it. In any tussle with the local sheriff, Garner would have come out the legal loser, and have gone away for a long time, possibly on charges of terrorism.

Sometimes, people mention Rambo III to me, in which Rambo steers the vehicle, loads the gun, aims and fires, all from the driver's seat of a Soviet T-72. When we tankers watched that scene, we laughed ourselves silly. The magic of Hollywood allowed Rambo to crew a three-man tank all by himself...

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Response to Aristus (Original post)

Sun Mar 9, 2014, 04:59 PM

30. Lebanon--2009

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Response to kairos12 (Reply #30)

Sun Mar 9, 2014, 08:42 PM

31. Got it on DVD.

See the OP.

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Response to Aristus (Original post)

Wed Mar 12, 2014, 09:45 PM

32. White Tiger (2012)

Joint German-Russian (!!!) production. In Russian with English subtitles.

Russia 1944 - Soviet armored units are baffled by a near-ghostly Tiger tank that appears out of nowhere, clobbers their T-34s, then disappears. The Russians finally decide to build a special T-34 tank to hunt down the Tiger and kill it. Then things REALLY get weird...

Saying any more would give too much away. This is a very strange movie, but I enjoyed it and share your interest in tank movies. I also build 1/35 scale model armor/figures etc.

"White Tiger" went the extra mile in accuracy. Along with lots of T-34s, it has some shots of T-26 Russian light tanks and other vehicles. The Tiger is the usual modified T-34 but they disguised it pretty cleverly.

I'm wracking my alleged brain trying to think of others, but this is all I can come up with. May have to think about this awhile:

"9th Company" (2005, directed by Fedor Bondarchuk, Russian) - mostly about Russian infantry conscripts sent to Afghanistan in the last days of that war. But since the movie had the full co-operation of Russia's Ministry of Defense, there is LOTS of Russian hardware to see - BMPs, BDRMs, HIND gunships, etc. A mujahideen ambush of a Russian armored column is really awesome. One goof - the tanks in the movie are T-72s, which Russia never used in Afghanistan.

As a former recognition expert, you should really enjoy "9th Company." Plus it is a very good movie. The director's father made the epic 1956 Russian version of "War and Peace."

"The Pentagon Wars" (HBO movie, 1998, directed by Richard Benjamin, with Cary Elwes and Kelsey Grammar) - mostly true story about development of the M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Worth watching just for the opening credits, showing vintage tanks being tested. Based on the memoirs of Air Force Lt. Col. James Burton, who was involved with the Bradley program and lost his career over it.

"The Last Days of Patton" - TV movie from the 1980's. Flashbacks show a young Lt. Patton with a U.S. 6-ton tank (i.e., Renault FT-17). The movie mostly deals with Patton after his traffic accident, to his death in the hospital.

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Response to onager (Reply #32)

Wed Mar 12, 2014, 11:07 PM

33. I've had the DVD of "9th Company" for a couple of years now.

I watch it every few months.

It's pretty good.

I saw "The Pentagon Wars" when it first aired on HBO. It captures perfectly the bureaucratic idiocy of taking an armored personnel carrier, and trying to turn it into a tank.

"White Tiger" sounds intriguing. Do you know if it's available on OnDemand?

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Response to Aristus (Reply #33)

Wed Mar 12, 2014, 11:27 PM

34. Not on my OnDemand, yet.

I'm on Time-Warner, if that's any help.

I got "White Tiger" thru...let's say, Alternative Methods. And then had to find my own English subtitles.

Amazon has it from some sellers. I might even break down and buy a good copy with better subs.

Nice to run into another armor fan on here. I just saw "Stalingrad" today and posted a review of it. Same director who made "9th Company."

FYI, "Stalingrad" uses T-34s modified to resemble the Panzer IV. It works, sort of. They lengthened the gun barrel and used big "Schurtzen" to hide the wheels.

I spent 4 years working in Egypt, so I saw a lot of Russian and U.S. hardware there. The Egyptian version of Ft. Irwin is a place called El-Hammam. Which can be fittingly translated from Arabic as "the toilet." It's out in the desert, only about 20 miles from the El Alamein battlefield. At El-Hammam I saw acres of M-60 tanks and M-113 APCs. But I was just as likely to see T-55s running around.

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Response to onager (Reply #34)

Thu Mar 13, 2014, 09:04 AM

35. My primary encounters with Soviet-built tanks was when I was stationed in Europe.

The Hohenfels Maneuver Training Center had a large outdoor museum featuring Soviet tanks, including the T-55, the T-62, and a BMP IFV. We were able to climb around inside and everything. That T-55 is tiny inside. There's no way, as in The Beast, they would be able to cram five guys in there, much less actually fight the tank that way.

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Response to onager (Reply #34)

Fri Mar 21, 2014, 12:00 AM

38. My DVD copy of "White Tiger" arrived in the mail today.

I watched it straight off. (Mine had English subtitles; where did you get your copy?)

I thought it was fairly good as a story. And very good as a primer for tank combat. The scenes filmed inside the Russian T-34 were very compelling; dank, dirty, dingy, cramped, and so on. They must have had a consultant on the film with experience driving (or wrestling, really) a Russian tank. Seeing that poor actor having to pull, yank, shove, crank, and jerk the gear shift and the steering laterals brings to mind a comment by a tank expert: "You really need to be built like a gorilla to drive a Russian tank."

The story itself was a little odd. The style wavered between a gritty realism, and a Werner Herzog-style surrealism. Eventually, the German Tiger tank just sort of disappeared into thin air, without explanation. Just as the heroic Russian tank crewman did at the end. Making me wonder if both weren't simply figments of the Russian major's imagination. (His mind unhinged by the horror of war, maybe?)

And then the movie departed from the main narrative entirely for about 20 minutes to cover the surrender of the Germans in Berlin. It was almost like a scene from a different movie.

Still, very interesting. Great look at massed formations of T-34's in battle.

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Response to Aristus (Original post)

Mon Mar 17, 2014, 06:31 AM

36. These?

 

I believe there's a good amount of tank action in The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel. Tanks also play a part in Full Metal Jacket, if memory serves...

I was gonna mention Tank Girl, but someone beat me to it. Has something of a cult following.

I know you asked about tanks, but if you have any interest in submarine movies, IMO Das Boot is the best submarine movie ever made.

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Response to brooklynboy49 (Reply #36)

Mon Mar 17, 2014, 09:41 AM

37. Welcome to DU!



Das Boot has been one of my favorite films since I saw it in German class in 1983. I had the Director's Cut on VHS for years, then got the Extended Edition on DVD, and watch it a couple of times a year. The German-language edition is best, of course, but I have to say, the English-language dubbing is one of the best dub-jobs in the history of film. It helps that every actor involved in the film spoke English as well as German, and dubbed his own dialogue.

Tanks only play a peripheral part in Full Metal Jacket, since Hue was an infantry operation. One thing I think we definitely need to bring back is the infantry-access telephone mounted on our tanks. You can see one of the characters using the phone to direct the tankers' fire. They eliminated it from the design of the M1 Abrams, since the new generation of tanks was supposed to be accompanied by mounted infantry, instead of foot-soldiers. Subsequent operations using the M1 have shown that an infantry-access phone would be very helpful in infantry-armor operations. For one thing, it would keep the radio net clear of unnecessary traffic.

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