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The Story of Dr. Wassell
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Reviews & Ratings for
The Story of Dr. Wassell More at IMDbPro »

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3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

DeMille, Technicolor, Cooper and Laraine Day...nice combo...

Author: Neil Doyle from U.S.A.
14 December 2006

GARY COOPER is a dedicated Naval doctor during World War II tending to the wounded in Java where a shipload of men are wounded and expecting an attack by the Japanese. LARAINE DAY is the lovely woman he loves and who stands by him when the going gets rough.

The Technicolor photography is a big asset in making the war scenes more realistic and the men really look like damaged goods in their bandages and splints--two of whom are played by PAUL KELLY and DENNIS O'KEEFE. O'Keefe shares a wobbly, artificial sub-plot romance with a nurse (CAROL THURSTON) who looks after him. Ditto for SIGNE HASSO and ELLIOT REID. However, all of the scenes in the infirmary have an authentic look, thanks to DeMille's eye for detail.

The wounded men are full of high spirits and hi-jinks but Cooper is told that 60,000 Japs have landed in Java nearby and none of the wounded would have a chance to escape. It's up to him to devise a plan where he can help some of the wounded escape.

The action scenes are fine but there's too many lulls in between with clumsy use of flashbacks involving Wassell's romance with Laraine Day and some tediously repetitious scenes of wounded men suffering further wounds when the men try to make an escape with the aid of British troops.

Certainly not a typical Cecil B. DeMille vehicle, but Cooper gives a decent performance.

The running time is too long because the flabby screenplay is sidetracked by poorly handled flashback segments. The sub-plot with Dennis O'Keefe's character just doesn't work and the whole story takes too long to tell.

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7 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Third Time Is Not The Charm...

Author: xerses13 from United States
19 August 2007

For his third TechniColor extravaganza Cecil B. DeMille (CB) took on World War II (WWII). Yes, THE BIG ONE, THE BIGGEST ONE and hopefully never to be repeated. Now what would you expect from CB master of the BIG. Some tide changing battle like MIDWAY were the fate of Empires hang in the balance. An aerial epic with our boys and their bombers up against the flying hordes of Nazi Germany. NO, we get some obscure incident in an early war debacle centered around Java. Listening to one of Franklin Delano Roosevelts (President U.S.A.) fire side chats (ie radio) CB picked up on the story of Dr. Corydon M. Wassell and how he evacuated wounded soldiers and seaman from the approaching Japanese invaders. Of course if made today by Michael Moore, Steven Spielberg or Oliver Stone the Japanese would be liberators of the Javanese from their evil colonial overlords, the Dutch. Funny though the Japanese liberation also included enslavement of their little brown brothers. Must have been some sort of 'Greater East Asian CoProsperty Sphere' bonus, full employment under duress.

Maybe we should not been that surprised by CBs choice of subject. He did have a habit of picking up on obscure historical incidents and blowing them up for the big screen. Examples of this are in his first two (2) color features THE NORTHWEST MOUNTED POLICE and REAP THE WILD WIND. The thing though this is a big, long production, filmed in color with a first rate cast which means it was very expensive and we get back very little. Think we could have at least started off with a the naval battle showing the defeat of the ABDA Fleet (American, British, Dutch, Australian) then the air attack on the Marblehead (CL12). That would of given us a clue why we were in such desperate straits. This film is largely a lost opportunity. A lot more could have been done even with keeping the story focused around Dr. Wassell. The alternative would have been to hand the project over to another director, shorten the film to ninety (90) minutes which is about what the story deserved. Sorry CB, your lowest rating yet. CB to us means CERTIFIED BIGNESS and this film is just small.

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6 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Long-Lost Cecil B de Mille World War II Epic worth a 10!

Author: vitaleralphlouis from United States
17 July 2007

I never heard of this movie until I spotted the title via a CECIL B de MILLE search on this site yesterday. DeMILLE made few movies in the 1940's and 1950's and this was the only one I hadn't seen.

Two years in production, this dreadfully-dull-titled movie is a big screen epic Technicolor production depicts a seemingly small act of heroism --- a Navy doctor from Arkansas rescues 12 survivors of the USS Marblehead who are trapped on Java with the Japanese closing in on all sides, during the early part of World War II when America was still losing badly. DeMille brings the story together with a first rate mix of spectacular action, human drama, romance, and typical GI humor.

This is a REAL World War II movie, made during an era when Hollywood had neither Sean Penn, nor George Clooney, nor Steven Spielberg; and all of Hollywood was solidly behind America (not Japan)--- this era produced numerous real life war heroes who were also screen actors, directors, writers. More recently we have the revisionist history guys, such as Jerry Bruckheimer's PEARL HARBOR which "justified" the attack by the Japanese for the clearly stated reason of grabbing up bigger Japanese box office. Like most Americans (I think) I'd never have seen that movie if I'd known they'd stick a knife in the back of America and re-write the war against us.

Warning to girlie-man liberals: Dr Wassell is loaded with 2007-style Political Incorrectness. The GI's flirt with nurses, smoke cigarettes like mad, call their cigarettes "fags," call the Japanese enemy Japs; worse still they reflect patriotic attitudes and carry religion so far as to pray. Ohmygawd! This movie is difficult but not impossible to find. It was released by MCA/Universal in VHS many years ago. Specialty video shops like Video Vault in Alexandria, VA have it for rent. No listings on eBay right now, but it's worth a shot. Seek and you shall find!

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4 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Lumpy gravy

Author: Alex da Silva from United Kingdom
12 April 2011

This film is based on the true story of Dr Wassell (Gary Cooper) who stood by his stretchered patients who could not walk and guided them to safety from Java in the face of certain Japanese capture.

The film isn't exciting enough. There is never any tension and the story just phuts along and never moves up a gear. It is too long and we have a rather lame love story told in flashback that adds nothing to the proceedings. The reason for the five stars is the performance of Gary Cooper who keeps you watching. Other cast members are irritating, eg, Dennis O'Keefe who plays "Hoppy" and is plain horrible to the nurse that takes a shine to him, who in turn is completely stupid and an obsessive psycho. However, the most disturbing case of idol worship comes from Philip Ahn who plays "Ping" and has a very gay thing going on with his admiration for Cooper - he even helps to dress Cooper - what a homo!

Overall, it's a disappointing film with some laughably bad scenes and Cooper has a catchphrase - "Good gravy!" - like most comedians.

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0 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

horrible film with poor screenplay, directing and performance

Author: rightwingisevil from United States
8 February 2013

sorry, i just couldn't finish it. this film sucks big time. the screenplay was so bad, the dialog so pretentious and boring, the sound track that tried so hard to make this film look patriotic, only turned it into a formulaic farce. the directing was just as terrible as there was nobody even gave a darn. why most of such movies involved American nurses would always cast beautiful nurses? did the casting agencies ever realize that these stupid arrangements only made them look more phony? this badly scripted film was a loosely knitted structure as a broken fish net that gave almost every one who played a role some crappy uninteresting dialog. i was bored and became so impatient to sit tight to let this film run its course. so many unnecessary dialog, unnecessary roles, unnecessary dialog, lousy scene after scene. this film was like directed by an old granny who just jabbered and blabbered uncontrollably. what a tiresome WWII film. yes, this film is so rare that only the couch potatoes would find it interesting and great.

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1 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

An amazingly "un-DeMille" picture

Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
12 February 2007

If I hadn't paid attention to the opening credits, I never would have guessed that this was directed by Cecil B. DeMille. For years, I have disliked his films (particularly those made in the sound era)--mostly because his epics all seem to have cool special effects but also lag way behind the average film when it comes to characterizations. In other words, the films look good but often the dialog is silly and the characters very under-developed. However, unlike films such as THE TEN COMMANDMENTS or REAP THE WILD WIND, this one had a lot of heart and was an excellent picture in all respects. Sure, the special effects and cinematography were great (really great), but it didn't surprise me that the sets looked like Java--after all, it's DeMille. But for once, the supporting characters were rather three-dimensional and the only complaint I have about any of them is Loraine Day. Her character and how it was integrated into the plot didn't seem to work very well--but this is a very, very minor quibble.

Gary Cooper plays the title character. He also starred in two other DeMille films, THE UNCONQUERED and NORTHWEST MOUNTED POLICE, though I think he was best in this film because his part was a little more subdued--creating a quiet strength instead of the usual macho hero (probably because Dr. Wassell was a real person). This doctor was one of the last to try to vacate Java when the Japanese invaded in 1942 and the film was intended as a propaganda piece to encourage Americans at home and abroad due to the heroism in the story. Along with Cooper is a fine ensemble cast of supporting characters. And, thankfully, these supporting characters generally were not just cardboard stereotypes--a definite plus over some other similar films from the period.

All in all, it's an interesting film that's worth your time and an excellent example of the type of films DeMille could do had he chosen to focus more on people than special effects and spectacle.

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4 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

American, British

Author: scottblaze from United States
12 February 2007

With at least a little historical correctness, in it's time, the silly and jerky script was probably well worth the price of admission. If you are a fan of "classic" movies, Gary Cooper for the most part in this presentation is worth suffering through the balance of mindless drivel that appears to be little more than filler needed to make a 137 minute movie. Whew!!!... Dutch nurses with tight tops and well exposed cleavages are entertaining to say the least, but was that stuff historically correct? Was there a beauty shop at every corner?....Even n the jungle? It would be nice if so, but given the times, that sort of expose' seems unlikely. The men, with the exception of Cory Wassell, are depicted as nasty, dirty, uneducated, ignorant but highly patriotic pawns in a war of of someone else's doing's.

Watch this movie, just don't expect greatness in any way shape form or fashion. Is it worth repeating?....maybe not.

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2 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

I agree with "chisum" from Hartlepool England - An enjoyable show

Author: Mr. Leslie Howard Spaiser ( from United States
15 December 2006

The movie is quite dated and a bit silly - on the other hand it is based on a true story as shown in the movie, and is well done - if not somewhat camp, certainly by current movie standards.

My biggest problem with it was the treatment of the lack of realistic emotion in a movie that contains so much tragedy.

The end is not particularly surprising. This is a Hollywood movie from the forties.

Again it falls into the category of "camp."

I agree with "chisim,"

The performances were very good particularly Gary Cooper.

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