Film Review – THE GREEN BERETS (1968)

Image result for the green berets 1968Green Berets, The (1969; USA; Technicolor; 142m) **  d. Ray Kellogg, John Wayne; w. James Lee Barrett; ph. Winton C. Hoch; m. Miklós Rózsa.  Cast: John Wayne, David Janssen, Jim Hutton, Aldo Ray, Raymond St. Jacques, Bruce Cabot, Jack Soo, George Takai, Patrick Wayne, Luke Askew, Irene Tsu, Edward Faulkner, Jason Evers, Mike Henry, Vera Miles. A US army colonel picks two teams of crack Green Berets for a mission in South Vietnam. First off is to build and control a camp that is trying to be taken by the enemy the second mission is to kidnap a North Vietnamese General. Misguided attempt to justify US involvement in Vietnam War by serving it up with genre heroics seen in many flag-waving WWII movies. Wayne gives his usually competent square-jawed performance, but he is not well served by a long-winded and sloppy script plus uneven supporting performances. Based on the novel by Robin Moore. [12]

Film Review – IN HARM’S WAY (1965)

Image result for in harm's way 1965In Harm’s Way (1965; USA; B&W; 165m) **½  d. Otto Preminger; w. Wendell Mayes; ph. Loyal Griggs; m. Jerry Goldsmith.  Cast: John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Henry Fonda, George Kennedy, Patricia Neal, Tom Tryon, Paula Prentiss, Burgess Meredith, Slim Pickens, Dana Andrews, Brandon DeWilde, Jill Haworth, Stanley Holloway, Franchot Tone, Carroll O’Connor, Larry Hagman, Barbara Bouchet. A naval officer reprimanded after Pearl Harbor is later promoted to rear admiral and gets a second chance to prove himself against the Japanese. Bloated and flatly directed WWII drama has more than a hint of melodrama and fails to satisfy despite improvement in its final act. Script suffers by trying to open up too many dead-end sub-plots involving a casting mix of seasoned veterans and future stars. Virtues are crisp black and white cinematography and stoic performance from Wayne. Based on the novel “Harm’s Way” by James Bassett. [PG]

Film Review – THE LONGEST DAY (1962)

Image result for the longest day 1962Longest Day, The (1962; USA; B&W; 178m) ****½  d. Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Bernhard Wicki; w. Cornelius Ryan, Romain Gary, James Jones, David Pursall, Jack Seddon; ph. Jean Bourgoin, Walter Wottitz; m. Maurice Jarre.  Cast: John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, Curt Jurgens, Richard Burton, Henry Fonda, Rod Steiger, Sean Connery, Mel Ferrer, Eddie Albert, Richard Todd, Robert Wagner, Jeffrey Hunter, Roddy McDowall, Edmond O’Brien, Gert Frobe, Kenneth More, Red Buttons, Steve Forrest, Peter Lawford, Sal Mineo, Leslie Phillips, George Segal, Peter van Eyck, Stuart Whitman, Frank Finlay, Jack Hedley. The events of D-Day, told on a grand scale from both the Allied and German points of view. Like the event itself this is a triumph of logistics in its attempt to recreate the seminal invasion of 6 June 1944. Crisply photographed in black and white this may have its fair share of genre cliches, but its strive for authenticity is admirable. It proved to be the inspiration for a number of similar WWII recreations during the 1960s and 1970s., but none bettered this efficiently marshalled all-star movie. Won Oscars for Cinematography and Special Effects (Robert MacDonald, Jacques Maumont). Todd was himself in Normandy on D-Day Based on the book by Cornelius Ryan. There is also a digitally remastered colourised version of the film. [PG]

Film Review – THE ALAMO (1960)

Image result for THE ALAMO 1960Alamo, The (1960; USA; Technicolor; 193m) ****  d. John Wayne; w. James Edward Grant; ph. William H. Clothier; m. Dimitri Tiomkin.  Cast: John Wayne, Richard Widmark, Laurence Harvey, Richard Boone, Frankie Avalon, Patrick Wayne, Linda Cristal, Joan O’Brien, Chill Wills, Joseph Calleia, Ken Curtis, Carlos Arruza, Jester Hairston, Veda Ann Borg, Guinn ‘Big Boy’ Williams, Cliff Lyons. In 1836, as General Santa Anna and the Mexican army sweep across Texas, Colonel William Travis is tasked with defending a small mission on the Mexicans’ route at all costs. Grand spectacle, notably the closing final battle scenes, are the main draw for this exercise in logistics. Wayne handles the whole thing with considerable aplomb. Whilst the inevitability of the story’s conclusion has been laid down by history, there is a sense of admiration for the spirit of the volunteers that only occasionally veers into the overly-patriotic and preachy. Wayne, Widmark and Harvey all bring star quality to the proceedings. Great score by Tiomkin. Wayne assumed huge personal debt to get film finished after United Artists refused funding once budget was exceeded. Oscar winner for Best Sound. Original video release cut to 161m. Remade in 2004. [PG]

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]