Bud (Marlon Brando), a lieutenant in battle during World War II, is shot in the spine by enemy fire. A former college football star, he is now paraplegic. When the film opens, Bud has been in a veteran's rehabilitation unit for a year, flat on his back, bitter and depressed, with no will to help himself or to allow his former fiancee, Ellen (Teresa Wright) to resume their relationship. Ellen persists, enlisting the help of Dr. Brock (Everett Sloane), the rehab unit physician, who arranges for her to visit Bud.

Brock, a no-nonsense-tell-it-like-it-is doctor, hopes that the visit will finally motivate Bud to participate more actively in his own rehabilitation. He moves Bud into a ward with others like himself, where Norm (Jack Webb) and the other paraplegic veterans ("The Men") have developed a sardonic camaraderie; they don't allow Bud to wallow in self-pity.

Ellen convinces Bud that she still loves him and with her support and that of his fellow paraplegic vets, he progresses and does well. With some trepidation, and against the advice of Ellen's parents, Bud agrees to marry Ellen. The wedding and coming-home don't go smoothly--Bud loses his balance while trying to stand through the ceremony, and Ellen, stricken by the realization of what she has committed to, regrets the marriage. Bud runs off, returning to the hospital. In the end, Bud is forced to leave the sheltering cocoon of the hospital and decides to give his marriage another try; Ellen has reconfirmed her love for him and welcomes him back.


The Men depicts frankly, especially for its era, the impact of paraplegia on human lives. It focuses on what this disability means for the emotional attachments between men and women--for love, sexuality, the ability to procreate. At the outset Dr. Brock discusses with the paraplegics' mothers, fiancees, and wives the prospects for sexual, bladder, and bowel function, as well as the prospects for self-sufficiency.

Bud must learn to accept both his physical limitations and his need for a normal emotional life; Ellen continues to love the person who was and still is Bud, but she has not fully understood what sort of life they will have together until they go through the wedding rituals.

Brock is gruff, realistic and a caring human being, losing his temper in frustration when one of his patients dies unexpectedly. He describes what it is like to be physician to those he knows will always blame him for not being able to restore them to normalcy.

The men in the ward have developed their own support system--they mock each other and any outsiders who treat them in a patronizing manner. They are vulnerable, emotionally fragile, and courageous. Even though they endure being treated like freaks at times, they have the advantage of being viewed as war heroes by the society of that era, unlike the injured of the Vietnam War. This was Marlon Brando's first film role; his performance is magnetic.


Filmed at Birmingham Veteran's Administration hospital with 45 of its patients used as "actors." The film is also known as "Battle Stripe."

Primary Source

Republic Pictures Home Video, 1987