In 1942, a group of young men join the Marines, leaving loved ones behind. Primed for battle, they are frustrated by many non-combat assignments, as we follow their wartime romances, especially Andy Hookens' involvement with Pat, a New Zealand widow. Andy and Pat have just decided that war requires them to 'live for the moment' when, in 1944, our team finally goes into a real battle... Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The movie is based on the novel by Leon Uris, who also wrote the screenplay, and was produced and directed by Raoul Walsh. It received an Academy Award nomination for Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture. See more »
When the marines arrive in New Zealand they are seen marching away from the transports that brought them. The ship to the right is marked APA-208 which would make her the U.S.S. Talladega. The Talladega wasn't commissioned until 31 October 1944, two years after Guadalcanal. See more »
Sometimes I don't know which is the worse thing to come after a successful movie, the quick cash-in sequel, or the second-rate rip-off by a rival studio. In 1953 Columbia had a huge hit (and Best Picture Oscar winner) with From Here to Eternity, a multi-stranded story about the lives and loves of a group of soldiers in World War Two adapted from a novel by James Jones. In 1955 Warner Brothers produced Battle Cry, a multi-stranded story about the lives and loves of a group of soldiers in World War Two adapted from a novel by Leon Uris. Spot the difference? Oh yes, Battle Cry is in Technicolor, Cinemascope and has a few more explosions. It also happens to be a prime example of bad screen writing.
The badness of the Battle Cry script announces itself from the very first line. "My name's Mac. The name's not important". So why did you tell us it then, Mac? Five minutes in and "Mac" is introducing us to as lazily-written a gang of stereotypes ever seen outside of a satire, some of them a bit racist to boot. There's an ignorant and scruffy Hispanic, a Navajo who makes references to scalping and smoke signals, an intellectual who wears glasses (myopia and bookishness presumably having some esoteric medical link), a Texan who strums Home on the Range on an acoustic guitar, etc, etc, etc. Admittedly, a few of these stereotypes get challenged (slightly) later on, but the fact that they are established in the first place leads one to believe Battle Cry is going to be some jolly comedy, and yet it professes to be some deep and insightful drama on military life.
Or does it? Battle Cry doesn't really seem to know what it wants to be. At times it has an air of cheerful and nostalgic camaraderie, at other times it studies leadership, and other times still it seems to question the entire institution of the army. It's all very well for a story to tackle its subject from multiple viewpoints, but the trouble with Battle Cry is that none of these is fully explored or even clarified, and the whole thing is just a vague rumination. Similarly, none of the various story arcs interweaves particularly well. In the opening scene we are lead to believe Tab Hunter is the hero, only for him to suddenly dwindle to a bit player half-way through and for Aldo Ray (who, confusingly for viewers less familiar with the cast, looks very similar) to emerge as the main character. Other smaller parts are built up, only to be dropped with loose-ends flapping, and several once-prominent characters are killed off with a single line of dialogue. That "Mac" voice-over functions only to skim over the various undeveloped plot points and make the odd trite comment on the picture's woolly themes.
It's a shame the screenplay is so bad, because Battle Cry does have one or two finer things going for it. Director Raoul Walsh, despite clearly being a bit phased by the wider aspect ratio, shows his usual visual flair. At key moments he uses the trick of having someone looking almost-but-not-quite directly into the camera, such as the prostitute at the end of the barroom brawl scene, or (in a very neat moment) Aldo Ray's disappointed face suddenly revealed when Nancy Olsen walks away from him after their first date. You can also spot Walsh's somewhat risqué approach to realism. In the scene where the worn out soldiers are angered at the sight of another regiment in trucks, a couple of them are giving the finger. There are some good, solid performances here too, most notably the naturalistic James Whitmore ("Mac"), and Aldo Ray who gives off real presence in what is one of his best turns. Also check out LQ Jones in the role that gave him his screen name, adding a wild streak of comedy which is good fun even if it is at odds with everything else in the picture, although all things considered that hardly matters.
As a whole however it is pretty clear the studio did not lavish a great deal of attention on this production. It looks as if various boxes were ticked to make it marketable (including a rather tepid rehash of the famous From Here to Eternity beach scene) but nothing that would make it really exceptional, and there are some glaring bits of unprofessionalism. For example, anyone who has seen a handful of 50s war movies will be used to being distracted by the odd bit of scratchy stock footage, but Battle Cry even uses black-and-white stock footage, as if someone really thought that would blend seamlessly with the Technicolor. This is the sort of shoddy approach you would expect from a B-flick. And perhaps it actually would have worked a little better if it had been stripped down to some 90-minute quickie, losing a few of those dead-end subplots and getting some kind of well-paced balance between the action and the drama. However, with a runtime of nearly two-and-a-half hours, Battle Cry is pure tedium.
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