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  Men, The Marlon Goes Method
Year: 1950
Director: Fred Zinneman
Stars: Marlon Brando, Teresa Wright, Everett Sloane, Jack Webb, Richard Erdmann, Arthur Jurado, Virginia Farmer, Dorothy Tree, Howard St John, Nita Hunter, Patricia Joiner, John 'Skins' Miller, Cliff Clark, Ray Teal, Margarita Martin
Genre: Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Ken Wilocek (Marlon Brando) fought in the Second World War, like millions of American men, but he returned utterly changed thanks to a sniper's bullet that cut him down with a spinal injury. Now, four years later, he has been in the veterans' hospital system as the doctors treat him, and though the mortality rate is higher than they would like, Ken seems robust enough to prevail over his injuries even if he is never going to walk again. But some scars run deeper than the physical, and mentally he is a mess, preferring to remain in his room and brood than mix with his fellow patients...

Not only that, but he has a sweetheart from before the war who believed she was going to marry him, yet ever since he has been back in the States he has refused to see her, despite her pleas that she still loves him and wants to take care of him. Although it was not necessarily conceived that way, you could regard The Men as a companion piece to the World War II aftermath drama The Best Years of Our Lives, which also took as its subject post-combat trauma and featured veterans who had been injured in the conflict. In this case, the standout in that respect was Arthur Jurado, a real-life fighter pilot.

He had lost the use of his legs when his plane crashed, and here gave a very good account of himself, a natural in front of the camera, though sadly, to illustrate the shortened lifespan of many disabled veterans, he was to die only aged thirty-nine in the following decade. But understandably, it was not Jurado who won the most attention, since there was a new kid in town, someone who had set the New York stage alight with his use of The Method for A Streetcar Named Desire and everyone was keen to see what he would do on film. Oddly, while he did film Streetcar, he did not do it first, as he took this role in an independent movie instead.

Now, years of laziness served to tarnish Brando's reputation, not to mention erratic behaviour, so it is instructive to go back to The Men and see what was so exciting about his style when it began. His Ken has a streak of danger about him and pairing him with the famously demure Teresa Wright makes all our sympathies head straight towards her, as she seems more of a victim than he does. Her flaw is loving this apparently unlovable man: he certainly has no respect for himself and is disgusted when anyone shows any affection to him as he does not believe he deserves any of it. Their encounters are tense because we know Ken could explode at any moment, and sometimes that's precisely what he does.

What to do when the man you love rejects you over and over? You may be wondering why she doesn't eventually tell him where to go and get the hell out of there, but that was not the Hollywood way in the 1950s and Wright's Ellen is obviously a woman who liked a challenge. There was no underselling the problems a paraplegic would face here, it was a hardhitting movie for its time, with not explicit but nevertheless plain-spoken issues arising from the condition such as impotence or problems with the bowels and bladder. But it was the relationships that were uppermost, be that with the veterans in Ken's ward, who all have their problems adjusting, the head doctor (Everett Sloane) and his patients or of course, Ken and Teresa and whether they should be married or not. It's an earnest film, but well-meant, Brando's Method was paying dividends at this stage, and the prejudices it exposed have not gone away. A Stanley Kramer production, much imitated. Music by Dimitri Tiomkin.

[The BFI release this on Blu-ray with these features:

Presented in High Definition and Standard Definition
Newly recorded audio commentary by filmmaker and film historian Jim Hemphill
Return to Action (1947, 19 mins): bricklayers, lawyers, teachers – disabled men and women are encouraged to retrain for new jobs in this short film produced on behalf of the Ministry of Labour
The Undefeated (1950, 35 mins): released in the same month as The Men, Paul Dickson’s film charts the progress of a disabled ex-glider pilot through the rehabilitation schemes organised by the Ministry of Pensions
Interview with Carl Foreman (1969, 82 mins, audio only): an in-depth interview with the award-winning screenwriter recorded at the National Film Theatre
Original trailer
Stills gallery
Reversible sleeve featuring original artwork and a newly commissioned design by Jennifer Dionisio
***First pressing only*** Illustrated booklet with new essays by Philip Kemp, Victoria Millington and Scott Harrison; an archival essay from Sight and Sound, notes on the special features and credits]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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