This three-hour film follows in the footsteps of a squad of young American soldiers from the early days of the Battle of Britain through the fierce fighting in Italy and France to the uneasy peace in the divided city of Berlin.
The key players are Trower (George Hamilton) and Chase (George Peppard), and against a vast tapestry of mankind at war, the camera moves with them as they make squalid progress from skirmishes to battles, each finding (briefly) a girlfriend as they cross Europe on foot.
Chase becomes involved with Magda (Melina Mercouri), a black market queen, and Trower with a Belgian nightclub violinist (Romy Schneider).
The film is packed with incident and scepticism: Joe Craig (Eli Wallach), the tough NCO, ends up in hospital with half a face; the soldiers use a stray dog – adopted by one soft-hearted GI – as the target in a marksmanship contest; a group of Southern GIs beat up their black comrades in what they call “a coon hunt”, and we see an American deserter executed to the accompaniment of Frank Sinatra singing Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.
Actual newsreel footage punctuates the film for added impact.
Right-wing critics in the US objected to The Victors rejection of the customary, cosy portrayal of US troops as brave and knightly crusaders who always resisted temptation and corruption and were ever-equipped with a Bob Hope quip for any emergency and were congenitally benign to children, animals and old ladies.
Cpl. Theodore Trower
Cpl. Frank Chase
Pvt. George Baker
Sgt. Joe Craig
Pvt. Robert Grogan