The Men [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray B - United Kingdom - British Film Institute
Review written by and copyright: James-Masaki Ryan (21st May 2022).
The Film

"The Men" (1950)

U.S. Army Lieutenant Ken Wilocek (played by Marlon Brando) is taken to a veteran's hospital, where he must receive care and rehabilitation due to him becoming paralyzed from the waist down from a battle injury. Dr. Brock (played by Everett Sloane) is straightforward with his patients and their families about spinal cord injury and that they should never focus on miracles of walking again, but instead on living with the condition and maintaining the body as best they can. While many in the rehabilitation ward are willing to commit to living with paralysis as a condition and working hard to train their bodies, Wilocek does not want to play by the rules, causing tension among the rest of the wounded veterans, as well as with his relationship with his fiancee Ellen (played by Teresa Wright). Will he ever come to terms with his future or is he destined to stay in misery?

"The Men" is a very significant film in many elements. First it is the film debut of Marlon Brando, who had made a name for himself as a star on stage for a number of years, with many offers from Hollywood before but all being turned down until producer Stanley Kramer offered the lead role in "The Men", a completely original script. Dealing with postwar trauma both physically and mentally through a main character confined to a wheelchair, it would be a physically enduring work that was not at all about miracles or happy endings, but reality and the true issues that quite a number faced in the period. Kramer was no stranger to tackling socially uncomfortable issues such as racial tensions in "Home of the Brave" (1949) or mental trauma in "The Sniper" (1952), and "The Men" was no exception. It was also significant that it was the first collaboration between Kramer and newly freelance director "High Noon" (1952) and the third being the disappointing "Member of the Wedding" (1952). The story of paralyzed war veterans was heavily researched by Kramer with screenwriter Carl Foreman who previously worked with Kramer on "So This Is New York" (1948) and "Champion" (1949). In addition to their research by visiting veteran hospitals, Brando did his own part by staying in a veteran's hospital himself, getting used to being confined in a wheelchair and doing tasks that that paralyzed were able to do.

As stated, there is no sugarcoating the subject, as this deals with the trauma of realizing that one will never walk again. There are some who have a more positive attitude in the ward, such as the playful Doolin (played by Richard Erdman) as well as Butler (played by Jack Webb) who tries to give Wilocek a chance to accept himself and become part of the group of men sharing the same fate. In addition there is Angel (played by Arthur Jurado) who was a real life paraplegic from the war, and there were also a number of extras in the film who were real veterans going through rehabilitation. Slowly Wilocek starts to accept his new life through the kindness of the other men in his ward as well as the love he has for Ellen, but the conflict with his physical body and his mental state are what makes things quite fascinating. There are training montages of getting better and regaining his strength, but there are also some heartbreaking moments such as his treatment by others when they see him in a wheelchair, his realization that he cannot do simple tasks that he used to, and the escalating frustration turning into violent rage in numerous situations, from within the ward, to a fight in a bar, to even at home together with Ellen. Brando does an excellent job playing the tormented Wilocek though his expressions that come across clear and straight, even without the use of his legs. Or is it because he isn't able to use his legs? While the newcomer received much of the attention, it's unfortunate that Teresa Wright's performance was cut down and left as secondary. Apparently there was more to her character in the original script, but in the finished film the character of Ellen is more or less a footnote to the story rather than a driving force. She does an admirable job but she is always overshadowed by Brando in almost every scene they appear in togther. Everett Sloane as Dr. Brock may seem like a fairly straightforward strict doctor, but the speech he gives to Wilocek about his late wife is an extremely powerful one that gives the character a much needed backstory.

There are some minor flaws with "The Men", in addition to the character of Ellen not being as strong as she could have been. Some of the pacing is not as clear, with the timeframe of the events not being set very well, and not enough attention being given to the other men going through rehabilitation, even though the title is plural in form, instead focusing on one man. The music, composed by Dimitri Tiomkin is a bit on the melodramatic side and doesn't seem to hit as hard as it could have considering the subject matter. But even with the flaws, the message is loud and clear that the respect for those that fought for their country can easily be lost, and in addition to that, the uncomfortable nature of seeing wheelchair bound veterans sends a moral message that the public are not willing to confront. These themes were not easy to speak about in 1950 only five years after the end of World War II, and on the cusp of the Korean War and the Cold War.

"The Men" was released theatrically in the United States by United Artists from July 20th 1950 in New York and wider the next month where it met lukewarm reception by the public. The film opened in the UK on November 17th that year, and there is information that the film was banned due to a sequence of the doctor telling women that some of the paralyzed men may not be able to perform sexually, though the film did receive an "A" rating from the BBFC in July 1950 so there seems to be some conflicting information. The film received a theatrical release in various other countries later in the year and the next, with more countries later on most likely due to coattail Brando's breakthrough performance of Kowalski in "A Streetcar Named Desire" released in 1951. While audiences were not ready to confront the issues of wounded war veterans just yet, it did receive notices critically, with an Oscar nomination from Best Screenplay, a Best Film nomination at the BAFTAs. Years later the film along with other early Stanley Kramer Productions films were picked up for distrbution by National Telefilm Associates, a company that specialized in syndicated sales of films for television as well as theatrical reissue. NTA reissued "The Men" under the new title "Battle Stripe", which they reissued theatrically as a double feature with 1943's war film "The North Star" which also received a new title under "Armored Attack". "The Men" may not be rememebered as well as Kramer, Zinnemann, Foreman or Brando's other works, but it is still a significant piece of work, even all these decades later.

Note this is a region B Blu-ray / region 2 PAL DVD set


The BFI presents the film in the 1.37:1 aspect ratio in 1080p AVC MPEG-4. The high definition transfer comes from Paramount Pictures, the current rightsholder in the United States. The film was produced by Stanley Kramer Productions and theatrically distributed by United Artists in the United States and other countries. A number of Stanley Kramer Productions' works were picked up by National Telefilm Associates which eventually became Melange Pictures, which are now owned by Paramount Pictures. It is not stated what elements were used for the HD transfer, but it's clear that it is not the original film elements, as the opening and closing credits have the additional "National Telefilm Associates" logo superimposed, though it does retain the original "The Men" title rather than the reissued title logo. The picture quality is not particularly high, with instances of speckles and other damage being frequently spotted, occasional weaving of the greyscale, having inconsistent and unsteady film grain, and issues with detail in darker portions. It is still on a watchable side, with good detail where necessary, and no issues of extensive damage marks in the frame. It's not the best, but it's fair and isn't too bad on the eyes, but don't expect a revelation with the dated transfer, which was also used for the US Blu-ray from Olive Films from almost a decade ago.

The film's runtime is 86:58.


English LPCM 2.0 Mono
The original audio track is presented in mono uncompressed. Like the image, the sound does also have some issues. While it sounds fair overall, there are a number of hiss and crackle that can still be heard in certain sequences. Music is a bit on the flat side, but on the better side, the dialogue is quite good and well balanced.

There are optional English HoH subtitles for the main feature in a white font. They are well timed and easy to read.


This is a dual format set with the film and extras on the Blu-ray in high definition and repeated on the DVD in standard definition PAL.

DISC ONE (Blu-ray)

Audio commentary by filmmaker and film historian Jim Hemphill
In this newly recorded commentary in 2022, Hemphill gives a nice breakdown of the film, from biographies and filmographies of many of the cast and crew (though he holds back on Kramer's biography as he didn't want to overlap the details from his commentary on the "Judgment at Nuremburg" Blu-ray from the BFI), plus insight into the production, the reception and more. There are details of the criticism of the score, Kramer and Foreman's research into the subject matter, Brando's method acting and cue card reading, the films high points, the weaknesses, and a lot more are covered.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

"Return to Action" 1947 short (18:48)
In this public information short produced by the UK's Ministry of Labour, it shows examples of government welfare programs that help the disabled across the country, whether they were wounded in war or due to natural complications, to find work within the system. The HD transfer of the short looks and sounds fairly good, though there are the expected amount of damage marks and telecine wobble to be found as well as some hiss and crackle in the audio. Though on a positive note sharpness and greyscale are on the better side. In recent years it's been rare to find extras on BFI Blu-rays to have HoH subtitles, but gladly they are included here as well as on the next short. The short is avaiable to watch for free on the BFI Player.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English LPCM 2.0 with optional English HoH subtitles

"The Undefeated" 1950 short (35:01)
"The Undefeated" may have been a public information film produced by the Ministry of Pensions, but it stands out as much more than that with an artistic and innovative side to the production as well as having a striking performance by Gerald Pearson as the physically wounded and mentally traumatized pilot at the center, in his only credited film role. He was much more than a standard actor playing the part, as Pearson himself was a double amputee, losing both of his legs during the war. The opening is quite striking, with the camera positioned in first person view, with the narrator and camera entering the Ministry of Pensions offices with workers and others greeting him, then the focus changing to the pilot who lost the use of his legs. The short equally shows how government programs are helping the injured through rehabilitation and with expenses, while also being a psychological drama with the use of flashbacks for Joe's character. Winning Best Documentary Film at the BAFTAs, the short, directed by Paul Dickson was released the same year as "The Men" and has some similarities but has quite a unique take on the subject matter. Note this short is also available in the BFI's "The Land of Promise" 3-DVD short films compilation.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English LPCM 2.0 with optional English HoH subtitles

Interview with Carl Foreman (1969) (82:30)
In this on stage interview conducted at the National Film Theatre in 1969, Foreman is interviewed about his career as a writer and producer, discussing his various works on screen in both the United States and later time in the United Kingdom, where he became a BFI governor from 1964. Discussed about are the differences in the writing process for US and UK productions, censorship issues in different countries, the preferred work as a writer rather than a producer, Brando's casting and role in "The Men", as well as many other behind the scenes from many of his works. The moderator (who is never introduced) as well as the audience are able to ask questions, in which they are also treated to clips from his films, though the film clip portions have been edited out here, Note this is an audio only extra, which plays as an alternate audio track with the film. Once the interview ends, the audio reverts to the film's audio track. Due to the age there is some flatness to the audio, but it shouldn't be too much of a problem for audiences listening.
in English Dolby Digital 2.0 without subtitles

Stills Gallery (2:15)
A series of behind the scenes photos and promotional stills, with some carrying the reissue “Battle Stripe” title.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4

Original Trailer (1:45)
Although the menu says “original”, this is actually the US reissue trailer with the “Battle Stripe” title, also embedded below.
in 1080p AVC MPEG-4, in 1.33:1, in English LPCM 2.0 without subtitles

The film and extras are repeated in standard definition PAL.

A 36 page booklet is included with the first pressing. The first essay is "The Lasting Wounds" by critic Philip Kemp which looks and compares a number of films dealing with wounded veterans of war over the years. Next is "Becoming Brando", a biography of Marlon Brando written by the BFI's by Victoria Millington. Then there is "Fred Zinnemann: Directing with Dignity" by scriptwriter, novelist and film critic Scott Harrison which looks at the lengthy career of the director. There is also an interesting double review from December 1950's Sight and Sound entitled "Films of the Month: The Men and The Undefeated" by Richard Winnington, looking at the feature film and along with the British short film that shared a similar theme, and notes about a near "ban" on the latter film rather than "The Men" interestingly. There are also full film credits, special features information, transfer information, acknowledgements, and stills.

Below is a clip from the film, courtesy of the BFI.

The film made its Blu-ray debut in the United States by Olive Films back in 2013. Sadly that released lacked extras, so this BFI release is an easy upgrade with its many exclusive extras.


There is a reversible sleeve featuring original artwork and a newly commissioned design by Jennifer Dionisio.


"The Men" is a fine look at the traumas of war and the difficulties facing new life dealing with permanent paralysis, with an excellent film debut from the young Marlon Brando in the lead. There may be some flaws but the power is there and is entertaining as it is thought-provoking. The BFI release has a fair but not an exceptional transfer, but makes up for it in the extras department making this release recommended.

The Film: B Video: C+ Audio: B- Extras: B+ Overall: B


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