Film Review – THE HORSE SOLDIERS (1959)

Image result for the horse soldiers 1959Horse Soldiers, The (1959; USA; DeLuxe; 115m) ***½  d. John Ford; w. John Lee Mahin, Martin Rackin; ph. William H. Clothier; m. David Buttolph.  Cast: John Wayne, William Holden, Constance Towers, Althea Gibson, Strother Martin, Hoot Gibson, Anna Lee, Russell Simpson, Carleton Young, Ken Curtis, Judson Pratt, Willis Bouchey, Bing Russell, O.Z. Whitehead, Hank Worden. A Union Cavalry outfit is sent behind confederate lines in strength to destroy a rail/supply centre. Solid Civil-War Western sees Cavalry Colonel Wayne and army medic Holden sparring with their ideals as rebel hostage Towers watches over and gradually warms to Wayne. Ford directs efficiently, handling the action scenes and spectacle with his usual aplomb. Whilst not amongst Ford-Wayne’s classics, this is still a sturdy character study. Loosely based on Harold Sinclair’s 1956 novel of the same name, which in turn was based on the historic 17-day Grierson’s Raid and Battle of Newton’s Station in Mississippi during the Civil War. [PG]

Film Review – THE SEA CHASE (1955)

Image result for the sea chase 1955Sea Chase, The (1955; USA; WarnerColor; 117m) ***  d. John Farrow; w. James Warner Bellah, John Twist; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Roy Webb.  Cast: John Wayne, Lana Turner, David Farrar, Lyle Bettger, Tab Hunter, James Arness, Paul Fix, Alan Hale Jr., John Qualen, Claude Akins, Richard Davalos, Lowell Gilmore, Wilton Graff, Peter Whitney, Luis Van Rooten. As World War II begins, German freighter captain Karl Ehrlich tries to get his ship back to Germany through a gantlet of Allied warships. Interesting cat-an-mouse drama set at sea with Wayne in commanding form despite being cast as a German. Turner adds glamour as the love interest. Elements of the plotting are contrived, but the story maintains interest until its finale. Based on the novel by Andrew Geer. [U]

Film Review – OPERATION PACIFIC (1951)

Image result for operation pacific 1951Operation Pacific (1951; USA; B&W; 111m) ***½  d. George Waggner; w. George Waggner; ph. Bert Glennon; m. Alan Crosland Jr.  Cast: John Wayne, Patricia Neal, Ward Bond, Scott Forbes, Martin Milner, Philip Carey, Milburn Stone, Paul Picerni, William Campbell, Kathryn Givney, Cliff Clark, Jack Pennick, Virginia Brissac, Lewis Martin, Sam Edwards. During WWII, a submarine’s second in command inherits the problem of torpedoes that don’t explode. When on shore, he is eager to win back his ex-wife. Well-made war film combines tense battle scenes with standard romantic interludes. The submarine action is well-staged allowing Wayne moments of heroics. The scenes on land are more formulaic as Neal and Wayne try to figure out their future. A colourised version was released on video. [PG]

Film Review – SANDS OF IWO JIMA (1949)

See the source imageSands of Iwo Jima (1949; USA; B&W; 100m) ****  d. Allan Dwan; w. Harry Brown, James Edward Grant; ph. Reggie Lanning; m. Victor Young.  Cast: John Wayne, John Agar, Adele Mara, Forrest Tucker, Wally Cassell, James Brown, Richard Webb, Arthur Franz, Julie Bishop, James Holden, Peter Coe, Richard Jaeckel, William Murphy, George Tyne, Hal Baylor. Marine sergeant John Stryker seems a martinet and a bully as he trains young Marines for combat in the Pacific war. In the end, as survival in the bloody battle of Iwo Jima depends on the lessons Stryker has drilled into them, his troops discover why he was so hard on them. Wayne received his first Oscar nomination for his rounded performance as the tough sergeant in this first-rate war drama. Whilst some of the characterisations are a little two-dimensional and stereotypical, there is still an edge to the story and the message it serves to deliver. The battle scenes impressively integrate actual newsreel footage to heighten the sense of realism. Also available in a computer colourised version. [PG]

Film Review – THEY WERE EXPENDABLE (1945)

Image result for they were expendable 1945They Were Expendable (1945; USA; B&W; 135m) ****  d. John Ford; w. Frank Wead, Jan Lustig; ph. Joseph H. August; m. Herbert Stothart.  Cast: Robert Montgomery, John Wayne, Donna Reed, Jack Holt, Ward Bond, Marshall Thompson, Paul Langton, Leon Ames, Cameron Mitchell, Donald Curtis, Arthur Walsh, Jeff York, Jack Pennick, Murray Alper, Harry Tenbrook. A dramatised account of the role of the American PT Boats in the defence of the Philippines in World War II. Highly regarded war film is bolstered by great photography and well-shot action sequences. Story is really just a slice of life during the conflict in the western Pacific. Montgomery is excellent as PT-boat commander commanding respect from his crew. Love interest angle between Wayne and Reed is left unresolved, thereby avoiding Hollywood conventions and sentiment and adding to the realism. Montgomery was a real-life PT skipper in World War 2. Based on the book by William L. White. [PG]

Film Review – BACK TO BATAAN (1945)

Image result for back to bataan 1945Back to Bataan (1945; USA; B&W; 95m) ***  d. Edward Dmytryk; w. Ben Barzman, Richard H. Landau; ph. Nicholas Musuraca; m. Roy Webb.  Cast: John Wayne, Anthony Quinn, Beulah Bondi, Fely Franquelli, Lawrence Tierney, Richard Loo, Philip Ahn, Alex Havier, ‘Ducky’ Louie, Leonard Strong, Paul Fix. After the fall of the Philippines to the Japanese in World War II, a U.S. Army Colonel stays on to organise guerrilla fighters against the conquerors. Well photographed story with expertly directed action sequences. Flag-waving approach has to be considered in the context of the time it was filmed. Wayne and Quinn are strong leads. Script tries to cram a lot in and the editing at times makes the story progression a little too neat, resulting in a lack of depth of characterisation. Based on a story by Æneas MacKenzie and William Gordon. As the script was being written, the battle for Bataan was still being fought, leading to constant rewrites. [PG]

Film Review – THE FIGHTING SEABEES (1944)

Image result for the fighting seabees 1944Fighting Seabees, The (1944; USA; B&W; 100m) ***½  d. Edward Ludwig; w. Borden Chase, Æneas MacKenzie; ph. William Bradford; m. Walter Scharf.  Cast: John Wayne, Susan Hayward, Dennis O’Keefe, William Frawley, William Forrest, Leonid Kinskey, J.M. Kerrigan, Grant Withers, Paul Fix, Addison Richards, Roy Brent, Jay Norris, Duncan Renaldo, Roy Barcroft, Charles D. Brown. Construction workers in World War II in the Pacific are needed to build military sites, but the work is dangerous and they doubt the ability of the Navy to protect them. Action-packed WW2 drama tells the story of the creation of the Construction Batallion known as the “Seabees”. Wayne is hot-headed head of construction whose methods are at odds with navy commander O’Keefe whilst both fight for the attentions of journalist Hayward. Jingoistic and full of macho banter, it nevertheless is propelled via well-handled battle scenes and strong cast. Also available in a computer colourised version. [U]

Film Review – THE ENEMY BELOW (1957)

Related imageEnemy Below, The (1957; USA; DeLuxe; 98m) ****  d. Dick Powell; w. Wendell Mayes; ph. Harold Rosson; m. Leigh Harline.  Cast: Robert Mitchum, Curt Jurgens, Russell Collins, Theodore Bikel, Doug McClure, David Hedison, Kurt Kreuger, Frank Albertson, Biff Elliot, Alan Dexter. During World War II, an American destroyer meets a German U-Boat. Both captains are good ones, and the engagement lasts for a considerable time. Suspenseful battle-of-wits war drama benefits from a tight script and strong direction from Powell. Mitchum and Jurgens excel as the duelling captains, who gain a mutual respect whilst trying to destroy each other in order to survive. Finds time to comment on the inhumanity and science of war. Won an Oscar for Special Effects (Walter Rossi). Based on the novel by D.A. Rayner. [PG]

Film Review – CASABLANCA (1942)

Image result for casablanca blu-rayCasablanca (1942; USA; B&W; 102m) *****  d. Michael Curtiz; w. Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, Howard Koch; ph. Arthur Edeson; m. Max Steiner.  Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, S.Z. Sakall, Madeleine LeBeau, Dooley Wilson, Joy Page, John Qualen, Leonid Kinskey. Set in unoccupied Africa during the early days of World War II: An American expatriate meets a former lover, with unforeseen complications. All-time classic is memorable for so many things. The performances are note perfect, with Bogart at his absolute best as café owner Rick and Bergman superbly conveying her torn emotions as his lost love Ilsa. The screenplay is packed full of quotable dialogue. Steiner’s score is dramatic, romantic and contains the immortal “As Time Goes By” sung at the piano by Wilson. Edeson’s photography captures the smoke-filled atmosphere and chaos of the unoccupied French territory. It is all blended with Curtiz’s direction to become one of the finest achievements of American cinema. Triple Oscar winner, for Best Picture, Director and Screenplay. Based on the play by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison. Developed as a TV series in 1955 and again in 1983. [U]

Film Review – THE GUNS OF NAVARONE (1961)

Image result for the guns of navarone 1960Guns of Navarone, The (1961; USA; Eastmancolor; 158m) ****  d. J. Lee Thompson; w. Carl Foreman; ph. Oswald Morris; m. Dimitri Tiomkin.  Cast: Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn, Stanley Baker, Anthony Quayle, Irene Papas, Gia Scala, James Darren, James Robertson Justice, Richard Harris, Bryan Forbes, Allan Cuthbertson, Michael Trubshawe, Percy Herbert, George Mikell. A British team is sent to cross occupied Greek territory and destroy the massive German gun emplacement that commands a key sea channel. Top-notch WWII action-adventure yarn with well-staged set-pieces, a strong cast and a acript that is more thoughtful than usual for the genre. Peck, Quinn and Niven deliver memorable performances. Oscar winner for Special Effects (Bill Warrington, Chris Greenham). Based on the novel by Alistair MacLean. Followed by FORCE 10 FROM NAVARONE (1978). [PG]