I send out 100 men, they find nothing. I send out ten men, they don't come back.
Is it churlish to complain about overt flag waving in war movies? Or to decry propaganda prose in the same? Back to Bataan is guilty as charged, yet such is the composition of Edward Dmytryk's film, and its focus on a part of the war we rarely have seen on film, it matters not.
We are in 1942, and after the fall of the Philippines to the Japanese, U.S. Army Col. Joseph Madden (John Wayne) stays behind to lead the local guerrilla resistance against the Japanese army. With that synopsis it isn't hard to figure out what sort of pic we are going to get, yet to purely consider this as a macho beefcake movie is a little unfair.
Sure it's bookended by blistering action, as Duke Wayne (very restrained turn actually) and Anthony Quinn cut a swathe through the RKO sound stages, but there's lots of intelligent human interactions here to mark it as being in the least knowing of the campaign.
It often grasps for the sentimental branch, while the racist barbs and portrayal of the Japanese does sting at times. But this is exciting and thoughtful stuff, boosted no end by Dmytryk's sturdy direction and Nicholas Musuraca's monochrome photography (a film noir lovers dream pairing!). Better than routine war movie. 7/10
They sacrifice themselves like samurai, these Americans.
A critical part of WWII gets the big epic cinematic treatment, with all star casting and lots of noise. Though purporting to be exactly how things were during this particular battle, a pinch of salt is also needed. Much of the film is taken up with laying foundations for the air-sea engagement of the title, political posturing and military machinations are joined by needless sub-plots. The dialogue is often cheese laden, some characterisations equally so, while the splicing of real life footage and other war movie moments start to detract. However, the last third of film is thrilling and worth waiting for, a whirl of battle action as the Pacific conflict comes vividly to life both visually and aurally. 6.5/10
Come on, I'd follow that man down the barrel of a cannon.
Errol Flynn stars as Major Nelson, who along with 50 other commandos parachute into Burma to destroy a Japanese radar station. The mission is a success but while waiting to be air lifted to safety they come under attack from the Japanese and are forced to trek thru the jungle, simultaneously fighting the terrain just as much as the enemy.
There were two magnificently directed war films made in 1945, one was John Ford's supreme John Wayne vehicle, They Were Expendable, the other is this much unheralded Raoul Walsh classic. High on military detail and paced with the ultimate precision, Objective, Burma! is as tense as it most assuredly is thrilling. It also finds Errol Flynn turning in what is arguably his finest acting performance. Casting off his rapscallion prankster like persona, he delivers a straight and raw emotive performance that proves beyond doubt he was an actor of note. Short on flag waving sloganeering, courtesy of the source story from Alvah Bessie, Objective, Burma! holds its head high in the technical departments as well. Franz Waxman's brilliant score is tense and unnerving and it mixes seamlessly with the sound departments excellent work done with the noises of the jungle. It's now very much a relief to be able hear this picture thru the benefits of home cinema systems. James Wong Howe's photography is suitably bringing the jungle to life, which considering the film was shot mostly at the L.A. Arboretum & Botanical Gardens is quite some achievement.
On its release in the U.S. the film was a critical and box office success, my fellow countrymen here in Britain however, were not so impressed. Angry about the lack of credit given to the British in the Burmese operation, the film was subsequently banned in the UK until 1952. Then, with common sense prevailing, new prints were issued with a prologue giving credit to the other armed forces involved in the campaign. Which all in all ends things on a rather tidy note I feel. It's a magnificent picture that never loses sight of its core story, it's widely available now on various formats so really you have no excuse not to see it. 9/10
Thugs, Toad Face and MacCheesecake.
Gunga Din is produced and directed by George Stevens and co-adapted to screenplay by Ben Hecht, Charles MacArthur, Joel Sayre and Fred Guiol. It's loosely inspired by the Rudyard Kipling poem of the same name. It stars Cary Grant, Victor McLaglen, Douglas Fairbanks Junior, Eduardo Ciannelli, Sam Jaffe and Joan Fontaine. Music is by Alfred Newman and cinematography by Joseph H. August.
1939 was a golden year for cinema, a raft of classic movies were produced, many of which still hold up today. Unfairly suffering under scrutiny for its colonialist attitudes and embracement of war is Gunga Din, RKO Pictures' magnificent action adventure. Political Correctness in this day and age has led some to be sniffy towards Stevens' movie, it seems that to understand the period from when the film was made is a stretch too far. Balderdash say I. Really in this instance no charges should stand or be considered for this is a movie that should be heralded and treasured for the template it is. This was after all an anti-dote to the Great Depression that was drawing to a close, and with WWII kicking off, the likes of Gunga Din were medicine for the wounded millions.
For the love of Kali: Kill, Kill, Kill.
Undeniably it's preposterous and over the top, that's kind of the point really. It's a live action cartoon for the adults to enjoy whilst the kiddies get swept up in the gusto of it all. You don't have to condone anything by feeling uplifted as Gunga Din plays on themes such as loyalty, bravado and friendship, to go in deep with a good ole battle of good against evil, where fists fly and gunshots fill the air. Where hundreds of horses hooves pace in time with your heart. It's a spiffying adventure yarn deftly constructed by Stevens and his team. There's much light hearted interplay between our three stoic heroes, and the fist fight scenes have a charming silent movie feel to them, further enhancing the joviality that pulses throughout. And yes, there is sentiment, even a bit of cornball thrown in for good measure, but it lands in the cinema lover's heart and helps it beat happily.
You Lazarushian-leather Gunga Din!
Cast are having a great time, especially Grant who revels in playing knuckles and delivering songs about British Roast Beef! Newman's score is a neat blend of heroic bluster and exotic reflections, and the California locations, notably Alabama Pine, are expertly used by Stevens and August, the latter of which was nominated for an Academy Award for his efforts. Production design is eye catching, with the Indian temples standing out, while the final battle showcases Stevens' strengths in composition and action construction. Its influence should not be understated either, you can trace a line from this to Indiana Jones, and even beyond to the big box office coffer fillers like National Treasure and The Mummy et al. Gunga Din, an ode to good time cinema from a golden age, bravo! 9/10
Lulubelle and the water for arms proposition!
Just after the fall of Tobruk, tank commander Sgt. Joe Gunn and his crew slowly make their way thru the desert. As they move on they pick up a number of passengers, some British soldiers, a Sudanese corporal with an Italian prisoner, a Frenchman, a South African and a grounded Nazi Fighter Pilot. As this unlikely mixture of a unit moves on it becomes paramount that they find water, however, there is a fully armed German unit in the area and they also are in desperate need of water.
A great cast boasting Humphrey Bogart, Bruce Bennett, J. Carrol Naish, Lloyd Bridges, Rex Ingram and Dan Duryea, are expertly directed by Zoltan Korda while the wonderful cinematography from Rudolph Mate helps to seal the deal for this being a technical pleasure. Yet as good as the technical aspects are, this really has a firm emphasis on story. Written by John Howard Lawson (who would become one of the Hollywood Ten), it's chief triumph is with the humane approach, there's no fancy dan cloaking to smoother the picture, this is the perfect movie for those seeking a change from gun blasting bravado war films.
Easy on the eyes and ears, Sahara is a very enjoyable film experience that I recommend to lovers of finely crafted golden oldies. 7/10
The Chosen Few. Task Force 77.
The Bridges at Toko-Ri is directed by Mark Robson and adapted to screenplay by Valentine Davies from the novel written by James A. Michener. It stars William Holden, Earl Holliman, Grace Kelly, Mickey Rooney, Fredric March, Robert Strauss and Charles McGraw. Music is by Lyn Murray and cinematography by Lloyd Griggs.
A good strong and solid Koran War movie that finds Holden as a wise old pilot taking on a mission to blow up the bridges of the title deep in enemy territory. Focusing more on character drama than action, a good portion of the film concerns itself with Holden's Lt. Harry Brubaker and his relationship with his wife, Nancy (Kelly), and two of his charges, Mike Forney (Rooney) and Nestor Gamidge (Holliman).
The big budget and the big cast ensure it's an ever watchable production, with the futility of war message not over done, no need for excessive blood and violence here and the aerial special effects are most impressive. The final mission is superbly constructed by Robson and his team, and most likely on reflection can be viewed as influential on a certain future blockbuster movie.
Uplifting and startlingly moving into the bargain, this is very much a case of the big questions, Why me? Why are we here anyway?, being pertinent and portrayed with grace and splendour. 7/10
Crazy! I mean like so many positive waves maybe we can't lose! You're on!
Brian G. Hutton followed the considerable success he had had with 1968's Where Eagles Dare, with this, another men on a mission movie - only this one is very much a different animal. Hutton directs and Troy Kennedy-Martin writes the screenplay, it stars Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland and Don Rickles. Music is by Lalo Schifrin and cinematography is by Gabriel Figueroa.
When it comes to light that there is a considerable stash of Nazi gold waiting to be plundered behind enemy lines in occupied France, a group of maverick U.S. soldiers set off on a deadly mission to locate and gain...
Utterly wonderful. Kelly's Heroes mixes together war movie action staples with black comedy gold, the greed and insanity of war having its cheek poked by a sharp and bloody tongue. The script is clever, often very funny, often poignant and poised, and it's this that lets a great cast have a ball. You have the straight laced delivery of Eastwood playing against Savalas' macho rage, and Rickles' jumping- bean turn jostling with Sutherland's pre-hippy malarkey. Character names range from the likes of Oddball, Crapgame, Big Joe, Little Joe and Cowboy, a rogue group of soldiers deciding they want to grab something for themselves.
The journey to find the gold is of course far from straight forward, with Hutton constructing some white hot action scenes. And it's here where it often gets forgotten that Kelly's Heroes does not forget the blood shed during war. People do die, it's not all fun and frolics, and Hutton knows his way around great suspense passages. Witness the brilliant minefield sequence and the ticking clock finale where we are never sure if any of the men will achieve their goal. So laugh while you ponder, then? Absolutely. Kelly's Heroes is caper and chaos, beef and brawn, but always cunning and crafty as well. 9/10
Major, right now you got me about as confused as I ever hope to be.
Directed by Brian G. Hutton and adapted to the screen from his own novel by Alistair MacLean, Where Eagles Dare stars Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood. Music is scored by Ron Goodwin and cinematography is by Arthur Ibbetson.
A small group of allied agents are sent on a mission to rescue a Allied General from a Nazi castle stronghold. But there is more than what meets the eye here...
Boys own men on a mission in grandiose strokes, MacLean's complex story makes for riveting and exciting entertainment. The story twists and turns like a Python, so full attention to conversational details is very much required, yet it's the fun and kinetic action that hold the most attention. There are stunts galore amongst the Austrian Alps (beautifully photographed by Ibbetson), and as the espionage hokum reaches its crescendo status, so does the explosions, with the makers wasting no opportunity to blow everything up. Burton is classy and enjoying himself, Eastwood laconic and cool, while good support comes from Mary Ure, Patrick Wymark, Michael Hordern and Donald Houston. The running time is a touch too long as MacLean's prose is given weighty treatment for extended chatter, and some back projection work feels unnecessarily cheap, but this is good old machismo fuelled classic cinema regardless. 9/10