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"Minesweeper" is a somewhat melodramatic but interesting World War II drama
that has a pretty good story and that also takes a look at one of the less
familiar aspects of the war. There are also some moments of real suspense
and tension. The print that aired recently was unfortunately not very
so viewing it involves accepting some distractions, but it has a number of
points of interest to compensate.
Richard Arlen stars as a naval officer who had deserted a few years before the war, but who finds himself drawn back to the Navy when the war breaks out. Helped by a friendly family, he assumes a new identity and re-enlists under his new name. Throughout the action that follows, he is faced with numerous dangerous missions, while also living in constant fear that his true identity will be discovered. He also finds himself involved in romantic complications. It all builds up to a climactic sequence of events that, while rather melodramatic, is action-packed and rather surprising.
Arlen's ship is a minesweeper, and the film incorporates some interesting details on the job that such ships had to do in keeping shipping lanes and harbors free of mines. The hazards involved also lead to some rather tense moments of drama.
The movie is not too long, and moves fairly quickly. It should hold some interest for most fans of old war movies.
Minesweeper is a product of the Paramount B picture unit where
producers William Pine and William Thomas did things on an Assembly
line basis to provide second features for Paramount's big budget items
like the films Cecil B. DeMille did. They got the best training because
William Pine served as an associate producer with DeMille for years
before branching out on his own.
A cursory list of their credits show that their early films either starred Richard Arlen, Chester Morris or both. Minesweeper stars Arlen as a former Navy officer who deserted because of a gambling problem and who comes back to enlist under an alias as a seaman when World War II breaks out.
Arlen and Russell Hayden have a friendly rivalry for Jean Parker who is the niece of CPO Guinn Williams who lives with Parker and her mother/his sister Emma Dunn. Both Arlen and Hayden get assigned to, what else, duty on a Minesweeper.
Discovering this film was a bit of a revelation since the only well known film dealing with a minesweeper is The Caine Mutiny. But the action in that film takes place years into World War II when the USS Caine was sweeping mines away from landing areas. This minesweeper is dealing with them right outside San Diego harbor.
Arlen enlists in the navy to redeem himself and as this is a B film about a romantic triangle I think you can figure out how this will end.
Robert Mitchum has a tiny bit in this film and Mitchum completists might want to check this out. As it is Minesweeper is a curiosity flag waving film of the times.
Perhaps my score of 4 is a bit generous. All I know is that this isn't
the sort of film I'd heartily recommend, as it's pretty dull and pretty
The film begins with Richard Arlen traveling the rails. He's a hobo with a secret--and a very patriotic hobo at that. It's just after Pearl Harbor and Arlen has a fight with his fellow 'bos about the war and volunteering. Soon, Arlen meets up with Guinn Williams (in one of his better roles) and the two go off to volunteer with the US Navy. Williams was a retired navy man and Arlen seems to have some knowledge of the navy BUT he also has a secret. What it is and why he's posing as someone else is something you'll have to see for yourself---if you care.
The film is only occasionally entertaining, but to me finding out Arlen's secret wasn't worth time I invested in this WWII propaganda film. Aside from Williams' nice part, the rest of the cast just seemed pretty dull and the story was, at best, lackluster--showing the earmarks of a B-movie produced by a third-rate studio.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Richard Arlen is a hobo looking to join up to fight in the just started WW2. He meets up but Big Boy Guinn who is in the Navy Reserve and who manages to get Arlen into the service. What know one knows is that Arlen was an officer who went AWOL several years before and now is trying to hide his identity. Good, "rah rah" war effort film about the men who seek to defuse mines. A bit soapy at times with the tales of lost loves and noble sacrifice, this the sort of thing they don't make any more for a good reason, it can seem awfully silly. Running just over an hour the film moves along at a good clip and never over stays its welcome. Worth a look if you run across it and are in the mood for a wartime programmer.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is a Pine-Thomas Production, which should tell you a lot. I
described a similar P-T story to my brother who advised me not to
expect too much, that there were thousands of these cheap flag-wavers
made during the war.
This is a cheap flag-waver about two sailors (Richard Arlen and Russel Hayden) who are rivals for the affections of the same girl (Jean Parker) who happens to be the niece of their affable mutual friend (Guinn "Big Boy" Williams). Those are the four principles and none of them can act, though I suppose Jean Parker could be considered a modest talent while the three men can't manage to project a believable line of dialog between them. Russell Hayden at least looks the part but the star, Richard Arlen, is too old for his character. Frank Fenton as Lt. Gilpin probably gives the best performance.
The story, when it's not wrapped around that romantic triangle, has the three men together on a small harbor minesweeper that is removing Japanese mines from the channel at San Pedro, California. There never were any such mines but this is fiction all the way. Arlen's character rises from Seaman Recruit (E-1) to Gunner's Mate First Class (E-6) in the blink of an eye or the blast of a mine.
Arlen's character has an improbable secret past, and somebody gets blown up by a mine, but none of it is in the least gripping. But there are some nice shots of the minesweeper itself and a PBY swooping down over the ocean.
What keeps one's interest in the movie is watching Dub Taylor as a young man and Robert Mitchum as a non-speaking but prominently featured extra.
From the man that would have brought you the Navy Way came a film that,
towards the end of the second world war, seemed determined to get those
young men in army or navy uniforms to fight for their countries.
So, the story of a deserting Navy captain with a gambling problem who decides to join the troops again, even as a lowly minesweeper and seaman, is perfectly politically correct for the blossoming of the US involvement in the world's biggest monetary conflict to date a.k.a. WWII.
It's obnoxious. The storyline is predictable. The characters are caricatured. People, including myself, are always ready to shoot on Micael Bay's awful Pearl Harbour, but that is nothing more than a film like Minesweeper with a much bigger budget. In the end, it's all about God, country, killing those Japs, and if you die, you die a hero, and everyone is proud of you, cos you were a good kid.
But what can you do? The film isn't laughable, and it's made in a straight forward way that means no harm. As a product of its times and indoctrinations, it can be forgiven, but as a poor film, it cannot.
Unlike most war movies, you'll find no real "battles" being fought in
"Minesweeper." For that, I actually give it some credit. It pays
tribute to the crew of minesweepers - those who helped take care of
Japanese mines laid at the mouths of US harbours. That's not especially
glamorous, so I applaud whoever decided to make this movie. It's an
important job, and not all the honour should go to those who are face
to face in combat with the enemy.
The star of this is Richard Arlen. He plays an officer who deserted from the Navy years before, and then re-enlists under an assumed identity once Pearl Harbour is attacked. So part of the movie is spent wondering whether he's going to get caught. The dangers of this type of service are well documented, and there's a tragic incident as the movie nears its end. The cast is decent enough.
The basic problem with this is that it spends far too much time emphasizing the somewhat unbelievable romance the develops between "Tennessee Smith" (as Arlen's character was known) and Mary (Jean Parker.) Given that Mary was apparently already almost engaged when Tennessee showed up, I found it rather difficult to accept that she'd get caught in this romantic triangle, and I thought it weakened the movie.
This certainly isn't a high profile war picture, nor does it appear to have had much of a budget. It's not bad; it's an appropriate tribute. I just wish it had stayed a bit more focused on those to whom it was paying tribute and to the service they were offering. (4/10)
This is the story of a man who tries to make amends for past misdeeds
in the service by reenlisting under another name, and whose experience
in the service gives him an edge in the disarming of water mines.
It is a well written story, with interesting characters all around, including the minor ones. Everything is very believable, not just by film standards, but by normal standards.
However, I gave this only a ranking of 6, which is still above average, because for me it was painful viewing. It is not because of a bad story, but because it shows the pain involved with gambling addiction in a true light, which means it will be difficult to watch. This is still quality work, and if you aren't afraid of the pain, this may be the film for you.
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