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Series / Czterej pancerni i pies

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As advertised.
Czterej pancerni i pies ("Four tankers and a dog") is a Polish WWII adventure series based on a book by the same title, running three seasons (1966, 1969, 1970). It focuses on the adventures of the eponymous tank crew, consisting of four soldiers and a dog. Effortlessly blending lighthearted humour with action and a dash of war drama, it instantly became a hit in Poland, prompting the author to write two more books and adapt them into screenplay for the second and third season. Nowadays it's heavily criticized for its pro-Soviet propaganda, but remains a cult classic, especially for older generations.

This Series Provides Examples Of:

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  • The Ace: Janek. Young, smart, good looking, speaks three languages, can outsnipe a sniper without a scope, has a trained, extremely loyal dog and quickly turns into a highly competent tanker. And most importantly - never crosses into Marty Stu territory.
  • Ace Custom: Downplayed. Rudy is absolutely normal and standard issue T-34 (later replaced with T-34/85) tank with designation number 102. The only thing special about it is the nickname painted on the side and white handprints of the crew around it.
  • Adaptational Nationality/Adaptational Name Change: The original Russian-Ukrainian tank commander from the book, Wasyl Semen, is replaced by the Russian-Polish commander Olgierd Jarosz.
  • Artifact Title: Eventually, Wichura joins the crew, since their new T-34/85 is a five-men tank. The title remains unchanged.
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  • Artistic License – History: Justified. Since the original book was an outright Propaganda Piece and the series was made in 60s Polish People's Republic, a lot of things are completely changed or put into different context. The most notable is the fall of Warsaw Uprising. In the show it's portrayed as a desperate attempt to help the doomed city and fighters in it, with Rudy's crew watching the city being blown into pieces by retreating Germans, arriving days too late to make a difference. In reality, Stalin strictly forbid any units from helping the city, keeping few divisions on the right bank of Vistula river, intentionally letting the Uprising to collapse.
  • Artistic License – Military: Rudy is often performing private operations or going on skirmishes against or without any orders, not to mention support. There is also amazingly lax attitude to all sort of military affairs. Then again, the show runs on Rule of Cool, so nobody minds.
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  • Artistic License – Music: Czereśniak is never actually playing his accordion - he never touches any of the numerous buttons it has. The music was simply added in the cutting room. Try to imagine the noise he was making during the filming, while all actors had to keep straight faces or even sing along to the music that wasn't there.
  • Badass Bookworm: Before Olgierd joined the army, he was a meteorologist.
  • Badass Driver: Grigorij. Drives Like Crazy when necessary, but also has Improbable Parking Skills (with a tank!), as demonstrated in the first episode, where he gently drives a steel spike all the way into a tree with Rudy's bumper, leaving the tree otherwise undamaged.
  • Badass Grandpa:
    • Old Czereśniak, Tomek's father. He might be a civillian, but he's a good shot with a rifle and helps the crew on more than one occasion.
    • Being a seasoned hunter in his late 60s, Jefim Siemionowicz is more concerned about price of a bullet and potential meat going to spoil than the fact a tiger just clawed his leg.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: On purpose. All the male characters would get dirty and greasy but all the female characters would always be shown with no dirt and clean clothes even though they were supposedly experiencing the same wartime conditions as the men. This was done very deliberately to soften the impact of a World War II series on a viewing public that lived through the war.
  • Bling of War: Downplayed due to WWII's grittier frontline realities, but Olgierd proudly wears his medals, having received two before the show's events and two (one posthumously) in the first season.
  • Canine Companion: Szarik, the eponymous dog. Also counts as a Heroic Dog, since he's a full member of the tank crew and often risks his life for his squadmates.
  • Combat Medic: The combat part is mostly informed, but Marusia is a field medic in the Red Army.
  • Conscription: Notable with Gustlik, who was forcefully conscripted into German army, trained as a tanker and... first chance that came along, he beat the living shit out of his German crew, fled east and voluntarily joined forming Polish troops.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Tomek Czereśniak is a simple country bumpkin... in a war-torn countryside. His strength is second only to Gustlik's, he's also a good shot with a rifle.
  • Cuteness Proximity: Right after his mother is killed and a tiger badly wounds old Siemionowicz, Szarik starts to play in snow and "fiercely" pulls the paw - bigger than the puppy itself - of the dead tiger. Even Siemionowicz mellows at the sight of it, despite having his entire leg clawed and being unable to stand up.
  • Dead Man's Trigger Finger: Expect from every German soldier carrying MP40 submachine gun to die this way, shooting in the sky.
  • Double Take: When Czereśniak is preparing to sneak through German lines and carry a message to the nearby Polish troops, everyone helps him to prepare for the mission. Grigorij suddenly declares that he will go and mix some soot with lard note . Everyone nods silently, until it hits them what he just said.
  • A Father to His Men: The Colonel (and later General) "Stary" ("Pops"). Despite being a slightly stiff and pompous officer, he really cares for his soldiers. Regardless of species.
    Colonel: (while giving medals to his tankers) What kind of discipline is this? Where's the rest of the crew?
    Olgierd: Everyone's here, Colonel.
    Colonel: I see the tankers, but where's the dog?
  • Fiery Redhead: Averted with Marusia. She's a perky redheaded field medic, but far less temperamental than Lidka.
  • Friendly Sniper: Janek is a crack shot thanks to his time as a hunter in Siberia. He's also a very nice and friendly guy.
  • Gentle Giant: Gustlik is about head taller than any other character and even when pissed, he still remains friendly and joyful. On the downside, he barely fits into the tank.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Marusia is adored by the whole squad, and marries Janek in the finale.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The Germans can't hit anything, no matter what.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Janek, to the point where numerous characters openly talk how much of a waste it's to keep him in as a tanker. How good he is? When trying to convince Olgierd about his usefulness, he managed to place two shots in a row in the exact same spot on a shooting target and then had to prove it, because everyone was sure he just fired up in the sky.
  • Legacy Character: Rudy gets destroyed twice. Every time the crew receive a new tank, it gets the same designation number (102) and the same name.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Marusia Ogoniok. "Ogoniok" is a diminutive of ogon, which means "flame" in Russian.
    • Zig-Zagged with Szarik. While it can be used to refer to a mongrel dog, the basic meaning is "small ball", and it was a really lovely puppy when the name was given. Then it grew up.
  • My Country, Right or Wrong: The series considerably toned down the quantity of propaganda from the source book (it's still there), replacing Polish-Soviet "friendship" with hefty dose of this trope.
  • One Extra Member: Franek Wichura, a truck driver, who occasionally fills in for Grigorij as Rudy's driver. He ultimately joins the crew for good as a gunner and comm specialist.
    Wichura: I brought you a new Rudy, but I come with the package!
  • Pair the Spares: Lidka spent a good part of the series trying to win Janek's heart, but in the end married Grigorij.
  • Parental Abandonment: Janek spends the first season looking for his father, who went missing after the fall of Westerplatte.
  • Patriotic Fervor: The very reason why Janek want to conscript and Gustlik deflects from German army.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: Obergefreiter Kugel, a pacifist German soldier. His own people locked him up for "defeatism". He cares for roses more than he does for wars.
  • Reverse Mole: The officer who beats up Gustlik in Zakład o śmierć ("The Deadly Gamble") and accuses him of hiding ammo, giving the Germans an incentive to put the whole crew back in Rudy instead of just the driver. The officer was originally meant to be a cameo of Hans Kloss from Stawka Wieksza Niz Zycie, but Stanisław Mikulski refused to reprise the role.
  • The Scrounger: Tomek, who is constantly looking for things that might be useful on the farm he doesn't even have in the first place. More than once he carries along a huge bag full of almost completely useless junk. More than once the content of that bag save the lives of everyone in the crew.
  • Syndication: The series was exported all over Eastern Block, but also to Finland. It was also sold to Cuba, where it was almost as popular as it was in Poland, to the point of "Yanek" becoming a given name for boys.
  • Tanks, but No Tanks: Tiger tanks were mocked-up T-34s and IS-2s.
  • Tank Goodness: T-34 No. 102 Rudy can be considered an actual character and one of the story's heroes. Functioning both as a combat vehicle and a mobile home for its crew, it appears in every episode except the ones where it's temporarily destroyed.
  • Team Pet: Szarik is one for the crew and the whole unit.
  • The Strength of Ten Men: Gustlik is consistently portrayed as extraordinarily strong. After Grigorij demonstrates his Improbable Parking Skills in the first episode, Gustlik manages to pull the spike out of the tree with his fingers and then bend it into a ring over his thumb, as an ironic gesture toward Olgierd's talk how tankers are like fingers of one hand.
  • Translation Convention: Not counting Germans talking with each other, all character speak Polish, regardless of the language they should use due to their nationality. A bit of Fridge Logic follows with Grigorij
  • Trapped Behind Enemy Lines: A recurring plot device. The titular tank crew would find themselves behind enemy lines either because an enemy counterattack managed to cut off their position or because their mission was to move around the enemy and attack them from behind.


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