Merrill’s Marauders (1962)

Merrill’s Marauders (1962)

“What’s Merrill volunteering us for this time?”

Synopsis:
During a Burmese campaign of World War II, General Frank Merrill (Jeff Chandler) pushes his men to the brink of exhaustion, leading his second lieutenant (Ty Hardin) to question his leadership, and his doctor (Jack C. Williams) to worry about his health.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Jeff Chandler Films
  • Sam Fuller Films
  • World War II

Review:
Jeff Chandler’s final film (before dying prematurely at age 42) was this World War II-era drama based on a non-fiction book by Charlton Ogburn, about the heroic efforts of a volunteer “long-range penetration” patrol that culminated in the Siege of Myitkyina in Burma. Its primary focus is on Chandler’s (Merrill’s) relentless determination to push his men towards this final goal, despite their obvious exhaustion and his own ticking timebomb of a heart condition.

As noted by DVD Savant in his review, Fuller’s film — often referred to as a precursor to his dream personal project, The Big Red One (1980) — remains “a refreshingly straight combat film” with “war movie clich├ęs [kept] to a minimum” and only one obvious instance of comedic relief, as Charlie Briggs adoringly cares for a hatted mule named Eleanor.

However, it will primarily appeal to fans of wartime flicks, since there is little else to hold our attention except the fighting (and preparation for fighting). The film’s most strikingly filmed scene occurs when “the troops take a railroad yard, engaging in a crazy-suicidal close combat in an Escher-like maze formed by concrete supports for oil tanks.”

William Clothier’s cinematography is also a plus.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • William Clothier’s cinematography

Must See?
No, though Fuller fans will of course want to check it out. Listed as a Cult Movie and a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.

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One thought on “Merrill’s Marauders (1962)

  1. Rewatch. A once-must, as yet another solid Fuller film.

    It sometimes occurs to me that Fuller, to some degree, must have been a man haunted by his specific war experiences: to have made so many strong war films, each one almost with its own personality.

    As a film fanatic continues through viewings of war films, the tendency can be that they begin to resemble each other. But that doesn’t really happen with Fuller’s war films. And ‘MM’, with its particular attention to detail, is a fine example of that.

    It also stands out for its photography and editing. I had seen this many years ago at a Fuller retrospective. I hadn’t expected to be as drawn in as I was during this rewatch. But I was completely absorbed.

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