The Red Beret (1953) Review

Director: Terence Young

Genre(s): Action, War

Runtime: 88 minutes

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

IMDb Page

The Red Beret, retitled “Paratrooper” when released in the United States, is a now-obscure World War II movie that actually holds up quite well. Its director, Terence Young (a former paratrooper himself), would go on to helm three of the James Bond movies (Dr. No [1962], From Russia with Love [1963], and Thunderball [1965]). The film itself is about Allied paratroopers undergoing training during the Second World War so they can perform missions behind Nazi lines.

The clear star of the show is Alan Ladd, playing Steve “Canada” McKendrick. He plays his usual tough guy here, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. He gets a romantic subplot with Susan Stephen (playing Penny Gardner), but it’s not consequential to the main plot or memorable. Stanley Baker shows up in an early role as Breton, who’s helping train the potential paratroopers. According to the IMDb Trivia page for this feature, Baker’s voice was dubbed.

The best parts of The Red Beret are definitely the moments of action. The scenes back in Great Britain, like the training sequences and the barroom brawl, are exciting enough, but when the paratroop characters are in the heat of combat, the picture is clearly in its element. The two missions depicted are one to sabotage a Nazi radar station in northern France and one to secure a Nazi-held airfield in North Africa.

Alan Ladd was in three movies released in 1953 – Desert Legion (1953), Shane (1953), and this one. It would be the gunslinger-oriented western Shane that would become his iconic role, but The Red Beret is still worth watching. It’s directed by someone who actually served with the paras in World War II and stars Ladd, one of the great action stars of the time period. It’s not as big and brutal as, say, Saving Private Ryan (1998), but you’ll probably enjoy it if you set your expectations properly.

My rating is 7 outta 10.

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