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A small group of Allied soldiers and airmen on Java are being bombed by Japanese 'planes daily. With only one working fighter of their own, and five pilots anxious to fly it, the Dutch commander chooses George Collins to fly a mission to drop a 500-lb bomb on the Japanese carrier lying offshore. As the flight progresses, the commander asks the other pilots to tell him about George. They recount his rise from brilliant law student, through the time he became involved in the corrupt machine of his state's Governor, and his attempts to redeem himself, both in his own eyes, and in Fredie, his long-time love. Written by
Ron Kerrigan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I'm usually not that fond of movies that use flashbacks to tell a story, but I would have to make an exception for this one. It reminds me, in some ways, of another movie, High Barbaree, which used the same gimmick. Van Johnson even appeared in both. There are some major differences though. While High Barbaree was a rather sappy movie with a pretty weak story line, this production had a punch.
It involves a raggedy group of five American pilots left on an isolated island in the Pacific during the early days of WW II. They are commanded by a Dutch Major and there is only one patched up plane left to attack the Japanese carrier that threatens to destroy them. All five pilots volunteer for what amounts to a suicide mission. Guess which pilot the Major picks.
From here on, we move from flashback to flashback, and little by little learn everything there is to know about Pilot #5. It stretches the imagination a little to realize that all the other pilots knew him in some capacity in civvy street. When the Dutch Major asks who this brave volunteer is, they all put the jigsaw puzzle together piece by piece.
His life before this heroic mission is the real story. It begins with a naive young man, in love, and with dreams of a successful law career. We find him tempted by greed and power into a life of corruption. He loses the girl, his self respect, and his career. Of course he has to redeem himself or how else could be become the hero of this movie? Unlike High Barbaree, this story is compelling and ends with an action packed bang.
About the cast. Franchot Tone plays the hero. No matter how many movies I've seen him in, I always see him as Franchot Tone - not the character he plays. Still, he isn't bad in this one. Marsha Hunt plays the love interest. I always thought she got the shaft during the blacklist. She was talented, beautiful, and could really sing, but her politics got in the way of her career. The only other principal player was Gene Kelly. Nothing like the song and dance man you might remember him as. He plays a straight dramatic role, and does it well. I mentioned Van Johnson. This was early in his career and he has an incidental support role as one of the pilots. The rest of the cast are somewhat familiar contract players.
There is a lot of propaganda in this movie. As a matter of fact, there is a rather ridiculous speech at the end of the movie, where the Dutch Major compares corrupt politicians and greedy landowners to Mussolini and declares them all fascists. Maybe Marsha Hunt should have passed on this one.
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