“You try and you try, and you’re still behind the eight ball.”
A paraplegic vet (Marlon Brando) struggling to adjust to life without the use of his legs finds solidarity with his disabled friends (Jack Webb, Richard Erdman, and Arthur Jurado), but is unsure whether to marry his long-time girlfriend (Teresa Wright).
Marlon Brando made an auspicious cinematic debut in this hard-hitting social drama about paraplegic veterans struggling to re-enter mainstream society at a time when mortality rates were much higher, and public sympathy was much lower. Naturally, Brando — fresh from Broadway success as Stanley Kowalski — brought plenty of Method intensity to his preparation for the role (including living for a month in a hospital ward with vets); nothing about his performance here is sugar-coated. Wright’s overly earnest, non-“Method” portrayal role feels somewhat jarring in contrast, though she nicely conveys the tensions inherent in such a life-altering choice. Meanwhile, Carl Foreman’s Oscar-nominated script is refreshingly authentic, touching on a variety of uncomfortable topics (including the sudden, unexpected death of a well-liked vet, and the very real possibility of infertility), and making it clear that life for these brave soldiers has been brutally transformed. While other films — i.e., Coming Home (1978), Born on the Fourth of July (1989), and Murderball (2005) — have since covered similar territory in both narrative and documentary form, The Men remains worth a one-time look for its historical relevance and for Brando’s performance. Watch for Everett Sloane as the men’s no-nonsense doctor, and Jack Webb in a supporting role as a cynical bearded vet.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Marlon Brando as Ken
- Carl Foreman’s Oscar-nominated script
- Robert De Grasse’s cinematography
No, but it’s certainly worth a one-time look. Listed as a film with Historical Importance.