This is a curiously moody, arty study of the psychological birth of a fighting man from frightened boy, as chronicled in Stephen Crane’s novel The Red Badge of Courage.
Pic follows two figures during the days of the War Between the States. They are Audie Murphy, the youth who goes into his first battle afraid but emerges a man, and Bill Mauldin, on whom the same fears and misgivings have less sensitive impact.
Rather than any clearly defined story line, picture deals with a brief few hours of war and the effect it has on the few characters with which the script is concerned. Within the limited format, director John Huston artfully projects the characters to capture a seemingly allegorical mood of all wars and the men involved in them. His battle scene staging has punch and action, and his handling of the individual players makes them stand out. Narration, taken directly from the text of Crane’s story, does a great deal to make clear the picture’s aims.
There is an unbilled guest appearance by Andy Devine as a cheery soldier who lets God do his worrying, and it makes a single scene stand out.