The first of producer John Champion's WWII diptych more or less replicates the formula of "Submarine X-1," with a determined leader winning the respect of his peers, critics, and platoon after butting too many heads, and pushing his men beyond their physical limits. Here, the driven madman is a Canadian officer, and the wacky assault plan is labeled "Operation Mad Dog." Unlike "X-1," in "Attack on the Iron Coast ," veteran TV and occasional feature film director Paul Wendkos actually moves the camera, and tries for interesting angles and compositions, making for a much more satisfying film.
It's a straight B-level programmer, made after mega-productions like "The Longest Day" (1960) had arguably exhausted small- and large-scale wartime assaults; to compete, rival studio productions had to be even bigger - such as "Battle of the Bulge" (1965) and "The Battle of Britain" (1968) - or timely, as with John Wayne's jingoistic rant, "The Green Berets" (1968).
Filmed in the safer 1.66:1 aspect ratio, it's clear this production would suffer little frame loss when sold to TV, and like director Wendkos, the remaining crew had plenty of experience in TV-land. Star Bridges had made a name for himself with his popular series "Sea Hunt," and aided by that series writer, Herman Hoffman, both seemed to treat producer Champion's overly predictable story with greater sincerity. Bridge's performance seemed to alert and marginally inspire the dominant British cast to invest a bit more oomph into their otherwise limited roles, including the ever-reliable Walter Gotell (later gaining modest fame as General Gogol, in the Bond films).
A somewhat tired formula, firmly rooted in the staid narratives of more immediate post-WWII actioners, "Iron Coast" looks very lovely in MGM's disc, with a clear mono soundtrack that balances the solid sound effects with Gerard Schurmann's invasive, shrilling music score.
Given that most of these low-budget films are short, bare bones releases, perhaps MGM should combine some of these B-efforts into double-bills or multi-title sets, much in the way the studio flirted with, during the heyday of laserdisc. The boxed set "United Artists Goes To War" offered the great trilogy of "The Devil's Brigade," "633 Squadron," and "The Bridge at Remagen" back in 1996, and ensured those films had less trouble with finicky consumers.
© 2005 Mark R. Hasan