Major Snow Causes Disruption
At a British Army's paratroop school Steve MacKendrick (Alan Ladd), known as "Canada" because it is where he says he came from, is one of the trainees. But something about Steve doesn't ring true, he seems to know so much already and be accomplished in so many areas. He has also come to the attention of parachute rigger Penny Gardner (Susan Stephen) who he starts walking out with and eventually opens up to. The truth is that Steve was in the USAAF but resigned his commission when a friend died due to his parachute failing to open and he blames himself as he was the one giving the orders. Now Steve faces superiors who are unaware of his past but spot his leadership potential, something which Steve does not want as he can't be responsible for others anymore.
Are you a movie lover or a war expert? Sounds a weird question but it is an important one when it comes to war movies especially older ones made about WWII and it is important when it comes to "The Red Beret" which was retitled "Paratrooper" in America. It is important because evidently "The Red Beret" builds a story into the true story of Lt Col John Frost who led a small airborne force that arrived at Arnhem Bridge during the Battle of Arnhem. Now I am no war expert and my interest in the movie is purely from an entertainment point of view and as such what I got was an okay but relatively ordinary movie.
The trouble with "The Red Beret" is that it is actually an exceptionally thin movie because for the first half it is all about the mystery of Steve and how comes he seems to already be an expertly trained soldier who is more skilled than the officers. Unfortunately the mystery of Steve doesn't grip you and frequently what we get is fake looking scenes from an obviously studio shot training session imposed over a backdrop to scenes of them making their training jumps as well as the obligatory slice of romance. Having said that you do get a sort of early surprise, well an early surprise if you are not aware of the war movie cliche of when ever there is action and a supporting character gets more than a few lines of dialogue they are probably going to die.
Anyway this all builds to the second half of the movie which is to do with the true story of Lt Col John Frost although here he is called Major Snow. I won't go in to specifics but once you become aware that Steve had been a leader once before but now tries to avoid responsibility due to the guilt he carries with him you can already guess what will happen especially with Steve being played by Alan Ladd, something which caused a bit of anger back when this movie was released. On the subject of Ladd well it is a typical Alan Ladd, I'm a brooding hero type performance which fits in with all the other cliche performances that end up meting in to that mixing pot where you know an actor played a certain role but you can't remember which war movie it was because he played the same sort of character in other war movies.
What this all boils down to is that "The Red Beret" is a serviceable war movie with an okay storyline, some okay action and some okay acting. But it is the sort of movie which a few weeks after watching you struggle to remember the specifics of because it is full of war movie cliches.