D.I., The (1957)

“Anything’s better than this.”

DI Poster

Synopsis:
A hard-hitting Marine drill instructor (Jack Webb) falls for a sexy local (Jackie Loughery) while refusing to give up on a seemingly hopeless recruit (Don Dubbins).

Genres:

Review:
Jack Webb is so inextricably linked to his iconic role as Joe Friday on “Dragnet” that it’s somewhat surprising to find he was actually a busy auteur, producing and directing a handful of films and T.V. shows from the 1950s-1970s. This pre-cursor to Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket (1987) begins with a literal bang, as Marine recruits knock on the door of a hard-nosed (what else?) Drill Instructor whose job is to use any means necessary to toughen these men for combat. Webb consistently utilizes creative, stylized framing and cinematography to heighten dramatic tension and highlight power differentials; the film is never boring to look at, even when the screenplay goes soppy during obligatory romantic interludes meant to show us Webb’s “softer side”. While profanity is noticeably absent, many IMDb users have noted how refreshingly authentic this film still comes across today, and others have stated that this film was responsible for their eventual application to the Marines (!). Interestingly, part of the U.S. Marine Corps’ willingness to cooperate so readily in the making of this movie was in response to a tragic occurrence in 1955 known as the “Ribbon Creek” incident — and recent news of the death of a new recruit at Parris Island further reminds us about the intensity of such infamously brutal training.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Jack Webb as Sergeant Moore
    DI Webb
  • Creative direction
    DI Direction1
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    DI Direction6
  • Fine cinematography
    DI Cinematography2
    DI Cinematography
  • Good use of realistic locales (albeit at Camp Pendleton and on sets rather than Parris Island) and actual Marines in key roles
    DI Sets
  • A hard-hitting script:
    “There’s a man hidden somewhere under that baby powder.”
    “Tell me Castro, did your mother ever have any children that lived?”
    “What was it you just said, you miserable clown?”

Must See?
Yes, as a unique cult favorite.

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One Response to “D.I., The (1957)”

  1. Not must-see.

    I know I saw this years ago but this is my first time since then. I’m not all that sure why it would have ‘cult’ appeal – but, if it does, its following probably rests with Marines or those interested in the military – or fans of ‘Full Metal Jacket’.

    It’s not a complicated film at all, and its progression is easy to see early on: One guy doesn’t want to be a Marine; but he will learn how to be one.

    There’s little here by way of subtlety – except for Dubbins’ performance; I found him surprisingly effective as the film continued and I believed his very real struggle. My fave sequence comes when Dubbins tries to escape from camp and Webb goes after him to bring him back.

    I also like the fact that the supporting cast is comprised of actual Marines.

    It’s an OK film. I just don’t think the average film fanatic needs to track it down (cause that may take some doing anyway).

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