The Execution of Private Slovik 1974
On January 31, 1945, Eddie Slovik became the only American soldier since the Civil War to be executed for desertion — the only one of the 40,000 American soldiers who deserted during World War II, the only one of the few thousand who were court-martialed for deserting, the only one of the 49 whose death sentences for deserting were approved. Slovik was, his widow said, “the unluckiest poor kid who ever lived.”

The film unfolds in flashbacks from the day of execution and Martin Sheen gives one of his finest performances as the sad, bewildered young GI, a former petty criminal torn from a brief experience of happiness with his loving wife and sent to war. Ned Beatty is excellent as the chaplain assigned to care for Slovik in his final hours. It can be spoken of in the same breath as Kubrick's Paths of Glory and Losey's King & Country.

DVD5 | PAL 4:3 | 01:56:58 | 3.63 Gb + 3% rec
Language: English
Subtitles: none
Genre: Biography, Drama

Director: Lamont Johnson
Cast: Martin Sheen, Mariclare Costello, Ned Beatty, Gary Busey
Country: USA

The Pentagon attempted unsuccessfully to repress William Bradford Huie's 1954 book on the subject. In 1960, Frank Sinatra cancelled his proposed film version (scripted by blacklisted writer Albert Maltz) under pressure from Joseph Kennedy, who thought Sinatra's involvement in such a controversial project would damage JFK's presidential prospects. In formerly blacklisted Carl Foreman's The Victors (1963), a wintry firing squad scene inspired by the Slovik affair is accompanied by Sinatra's Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.

The movie was finally made for TV by the reliable Lamont Johnson. It attracted a record audience for a one-off TV drama and is a sombre, sober, unsentimental work about chance fate, the arbitrary horrors of war and people trapped in a bureaucratic machine.

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