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U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee investigators Jim McLain and Mal Baxter attempt to break up a ring of Communist Party troublemakers in Hawaii (ignoring somewhat, as do their superiors in the Congress, that membership in the Communist Party was, at the time, legal in the U.S.) Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
There are several ships identifiable in the film. The ship on the left that McLain and Baxter pass, while on the picket boat to see the U.S.S. Arizona (BB-39), is the Fletcher-class destroyer U.S.S. Renshaw (DD-499). Built in 1942, she saw action in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, earning a total of 19 battle stars, before being decommissioned, struck and sold for scrap in 1970. The other ship on the right is the Navajo-class fleet tug U.S.S. Mataco (AT/ATF-86), also built in 1942. She participated in WW II, Korea and Vietnam, earning nine battle stars and seven campaign stars, before being decommissioned in 1977 and struck in 1979. The next ship they pass in front of is the U.S.S. Mattaponi (AO-41), a Kennebec-class oiler. Commissioned in 1942, she mostly served in the Atlantic and Mediterranean theaters during WWII. Decomissioned and recommissioned three times over the next three decades, she was finally struck in 1970 and sold for scrap in 1973. The ship depicted at the end of the film is the Commencement Bay-class escort carrier U.S.S. Bairoko (CVE-115). Commissioned in 1945, too late for participation in WWII, she was recommissioned in 1950 for Korea. Decommissioned again in 1955, she was struck and sold for scrap in 1960. See more »
Early in the film, when they're flying into the Hawaiian Islands, the stewardess points out Molokai Island "on the left" and Oahu "on the right", but the views out the windows show the opposite. Otherwise, the plane would have to be flying backward. See more »
I've had a belly full of this East Texas cotton-chopping jerk.
Did you ever chop cotton?
Nah, I'm from the country club set. That chopping cotton's for white trash and niggers!
[McLain punches Poke and a fight ensues]
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Closing credits epilogue: The Incidents in this motion picture are based on the files of the Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, Congress of the United States. Names and places have been changed. We gratefully acknowledge the cooperation of this Committee. See more »
This was made in the midst of the Korean War and during the 'red scare' days and needs to be viewed in that context. The cold war was on and America had recently lost the security of being the sole nuclear power, the US Army was locked in a dismal stalemate after hordes of Communist Chinese soldiers poured over the Korean border launching a surprise attack against the vastly outnumbered UN forces snatching sure victory from them and pushing them back again into South Korea, Soviet pilots were flying against American pilots for the North Korean Air Force, American and allied soldiers in Europe were facing off against a large Soviet and allied communist army, at home there were fears of war with nuclear USSR and scandals as communist party members with links to Soviet agents were uncovered. This was the mess that America found itself in when this movie was made. This mix led in turn to paranoia, some well founded and some not. The answer to this threat seemed to be the House Un-American Activities Committee that used intimidation to do what it thought was necessary to secure American safety (Perhaps there's a lesson for in it us today as our people give away freedoms for safety) This film therefore should be viewed in the context of the times when it was made and not with 50 year hindsight, as doubtless 50 years from now our children will view at least some of the steps taken in the heightening of security today. While some critics have cited the committee for its violations of civil rights, it should be mentioned that many that have criticized this committee also heap praise upon the film industry for its patriotic films of World War II. Unfortunately this is a hypocritical viewpoint as the anti-Japanese films produced certainly helped produce the fear and paranoia that led to the abuse of Japanese-Americans' civil rights and their internment by their own government. The internment of a whole group is a much worse example of civil rights abuse than calling someone before congress resulting in them losing their job. Such is the narrow-sightedness of those who pick and choose their heroes and villains in black and white. The film in question deals with spies and saboteurs and not with (as one review gave me the impression of) the innocent "small fries". In the film the villains are not the idealists who go to American Communist Party meetings call everyone comrade debate Marx and Engel's viewpoints and who should run for election next fall and then go home to their spouses, but agents acting against the United States, and yes this did exist at the time. (People that had been believed innocent victims of communist 'witch hunts' were indeed shown later to have actually been foreign agents when the Soviet archives were opened after the collapse of communism in the USSR)
While facing the same problems as many other patriotic wartime films it does deliver enjoyable scenes and it is certainly mostly superior to many similar films made during World War II. The plot is generally entertaining but seems to suffer from an identity crisis as to whether it is trying to be more a counter espionage film or a romance film set in beautiful Hawaii. In fact a few parts even seem more reminiscent of a travelogue or a Hawaiian tourist advertisement. Despite this the plot does fill out and provides some entertainment. Wayne's acting is good as is that of most other cast members except for James Arness whose emotional outbursts don't come off as very believable when he gets infuriated about the traitorous party members and possibly Soo Fong also when recounting her personal ordeal about her 'recovery' from communism. She may have been trying to do her best with a script that seems to fall apart on this point of making communism sound like alcoholism or drug dependence. (You can almost picture John Wayne doing an 'intervention' and dragging off Stalin to the Betty Ford Clinic. In some ways this part of the movie reminds more of anti-drug or anti-sex exploitation films that have become cult classics such as Reefer Madness) While not the best, once the plot develops it is entertaining. Overall there are better films (and worse) about similar subjects and many better Wayne films but it is worth watching even if it's just to see one of the Korean-Cold War patriotic films or Wayne as a counterspy.
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