“One by one, they must be blasted from the earth that hides them.”
After landing on the seemingly deserted island of Guadalcanal, members of a Marine division — including Father Donnelly (Preston Foster), Sergeant Malone (Lloyd Nolan), Captain Davis (Richard Conte), Jesus Alvarez (Anthony Quinn), Corporal Potts (William Bendix), Sergeant Butch (Lionel Stander), and a young private nicknamed ‘Chicken’ (Richard Jaeckel) — quickly realize they will be facing deadly, unfamiliar combat against hidden Japanese soldiers.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Anthony Quinn Films
- Preston Foster Films
- Richard Conte Films
- Richard Jaeckel Films
- William Bendix Films
- World War II
Based on a memoir by war correspondent Richard Tregaskis, this depiction of the Marines’ early engagement on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands features exactly what you’d expect in a movie of its kind, which was designed to reassure audiences that our troops were carrying out noble and necessary warfare, and to recruit additional volunteers for the effort. A particularly heart-breaking scene occurs near the beginning, as we see all but one Marine shot to death during an attempted foray into the village of Matanikau:
Prominent in this sequence is Quinn, who — despite being just one among a handful of ensemble actors — stands out as notably dedicated and fearless, making comments like, “It isn’t so much dying; it’s having to sit here and take it!”
Unfortunately Bendix and Stander’s “comedic relief” is quickly tiresome:
… and it’s clear that super-young Jaeckel (in his debut role) doesn’t have a lick of acting experience behind him (though he sure is a cutie!):
Overall, however, the film comes across as a reasonably effective, action-filled war flick showing the types of challenging scenarios our boys faced in the Pacific arena.
Note: Be forewarned that Japanese soldiers are referred to in various derogatory terms of the time, and shown to be sneaky and relentless in their efforts.
Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:
- Anthony Quinn as “Soose”
- Effective sets and cinematography
No, though of course it will be of interest to fans of this genre. Listed as a film with Historical Importance in the back of Peary’s book.