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My perspective of this movie is that of a Navy veteran of World War II. My ship landed Marines on Iwo Jima and I witnessed the flag over Mount Suribachi. I take exception to some who do not consider this realistic enough, but it was made in 1955 and for its time I thought the combat scenes were adequate. I read Leon Uris' book Battle Cry long before I saw the movie. He was there in the Pacificduring World War II not in some office in Hollywood and not long after the question of whether or not we would prevail was yet finalized. He mentions in his book and it is also mentioned in the movie that when the Marines left New Zealand they "boarded the ships known as the Unholy Four." Well, I served on USS President Jackson, an attack transport which landed the first Marines in an American offensive in WWII and this was 7 August 1942 at Tulagi in the Solomon Islands. An hour later the USS President Adams landed the first troops of Guadalcanal. These two ships plus the USS President Hayes and USS Crescent City made up what was known by sailors and Marines throughout the Pacific as the "Unholy Four." So, you see, Leon Uris knew a heck of a lot more about what went on in the Pacific than latter day critics of this movie whom I doubt were ever in the military let alone in the Pacific during WWII. I enjoyed the story, the characters, the love story woven through the plot. I and many veterans could well relate to a Marine on leave falling in love with a New Zealand girl and then going off to fight and returning in bad shape. Hey,pals of today, you really don,t have any idea of such things unless you experienced them. The battle scenes were not gory and perhaps not realistic; if they were you wouldn't be able to sit in the theatre without throwing up. The two Navajo indians portrayed were used to show how the Marines used the Navajo Codetalkers to thwart Japanese trying to listen in on their communications. Recently two real live Navajo Codetalkers where given medals at the White House and there is another movie to come out about the Code Talkers. The idea that a Marine Colonel might spend a long time training troops and then not being allowed to take them into combat may seem idiotic but if you trained hard for a long, long time for a job you wanted to get it done, at least that was they way men felt in those days. The training sequences were in my opinion quite good and showed how Marines were shaped into combat readiness. The story line about some of the Marines reflected just a little about the diverse nature of servicemen during the war. There were no blacks in the movie because during WWII all military services were segregated although the Navy had black mess cooks aboard ship. Whether you like it or not that was the real way it was then. The movie has James Whitmore as a top sergeant and does a fine job with one memborable scene when the Colonel asks if he is going to stay on base or base with the Old Man. He replies, "T think I'll go to town and see ikf I can scare up an Old Woman." He had previously done a fine job as a Sergeant with 101st Airborne in Battleground, in my opinion another very good war movie. Well, the movie ends with the Marines back hom on leave and what do they see as they get off the train but a newspaper with the big black headline: "Marines on Iwo Jima." If anyone thought this was a lousy movie they are entitled to their opinions, but for me, I say, "Tell it to the Marines!"
To those who insist that only the gore shown in films such as 'Saving
Private Ryan' gives a genuine cinematic portrayal of the experience of
war I say: Put up or shut up: ENLIST! Because 'Battle Cry' tells what
most of the experience of the service in and out of war consists of:
the loneliness of a man among strangers in barracks; the in-your-face,
gratuitously belligerent bastards in barracks who get on everyone's
already put-upon nerves; the long aching separations from family and
girlfriends, wives and lovers; the monotonously contemptible chow; the
soul- and mind-frustrating sheer bloody boredom of living in barracks,
performing mindless repetitive tasks, and having always to "hurry up
and wait" or to be roused from temporary respite to have to get up and
at 'em all over again for the ten-thousandth wearying time; the having
to take crap from foul-mouthed, mean, nasty sonsabitches whose only
claim to authority is one more stripe than yours on their uniform.
Those are just the monotonous low-lights of daily life behind-the
lines. Up on the lines it gets worse. A lot worse. And then just having
to live in icy muck or tropical insect swarms suddenly gets much worse
when the you-know-what hits the fan: when a soldier has to go into the
attack or to defend against sudden enemy attack - so that his life of
monotonous discomfort and privation is now punctuated by brief,
terrifying spasms of violence few of us can even begin to imagine.
This is why you hear combat veterans say things such as, "All the rest is gravy," because even the long, endless days and nights of soul-numbing monotony of barracks and drill and K.P. and loneliness are preferable to the terrors of battle - and even to the filth and privation of just trying to live on a quiet sector's front line. This is why 'Battle Cry' shows more of the daily, drudging experience of actual marines than those war films crammed with combat sequences ever show.
'Battle Cry' tells the truth that men in war are bored, lonely, chafed, irritated, often disgusting and disgusted, irritating, sh_t-upon constantly by every last ugly nasty bastard wearing one stripe more than you get to wear, and isolated in a big ugly, mean, bored, crowd whose members they didn't get to choose as company. Also, no one, except the very few top brass strategist-commanders, gets to choose his destination or his daily tasks: so that every day, every heartbeat, you feel very, very small, utterly insignificant and powerless almost all of the time, every day, every night, every time some mess cook slops a glob of something you'd never have ordered and which you'd never have otherwise forked into your mouth onto your baby-like (you are, after all, powerless) compartmented chow tray to there commingle with the other globs of slop already commingled on it. You just wish that someone would recognize you, single you out, maybe treat you as an individual, value you as a unique person who needs only to be himself - and not just a service number or a cog in a uniformly drab, communally responsive colonial animal-machine - to merit such simple attention and care. I heard many - men and women in the service - express simply: "I wish I were anywhere but here."
Go and hang out just outside a military or naval base and see the clip-joints, the hucksters, the whores who pitilessly roll drunken soldiers and sailors as soon as they'd light their next cigarette; let your eyes take in the fleecing tailor shops, the used car salesmen finagling their way to your very slender paycheck, the loan sharks, the gamblers fixing card and crap games to bilk servicemen, the drug dealers seeking to sell you God-knows-what-that-sh_t-might-be, the strip bars, the swarms of Mary Jane Rottencrotches who habituate soldiers' and sailors' bars, eager to marry a combat-bound serviceman just to get their names on the poor bastard's GI life insurance policy. It's only beyond this circus of lovely attractions that you find the nice clean, orderly, middle class residential districts whose patriarchs and matriarchs don't want you in their neighborhood - and want your sailor or Marine or soldier ass far away from their young daughters or their smart-assed college kid sons. These are the people and the institutions which you, the serviceman and servicewoman, face and wade through when the Powers That Be do let you out of the monotonous, soul-vacuuming confines of your barracks and the Daily Routine.
Yet the men and women in America's wars stuck it out, pulled together when they had to, and they deserve every respect for their endurance, grit, applied imagination, and courage. These experiences and qualities and the men who met such challenges to their spirit and flesh 'Battle Cry' shows in spades; and it also shows the experiences of women separated to toil alone in constant anxiety for their own and their children's' or their husbands's day-to-day welfare - for all of their loved ones whose experience and fate they can't directly influence. let alone improve. 'Battle Cry' shows the men and the women as human beings, as individuals caught up in what General Eisenhower rightly called "a Great Crusade." Only to the little people in it, it didn't resemble a Great Crusade; to them it looked like a hopeless, disorganized, screwed-up shambles: read Bill Mauldin's inimitable book of his WWII cartoons, and you begin to grasp how repulsive and exhausting, frightful and ludicrous that Crusade was for the poor bloody infantrymen. Or you can watch 'Battle Cry.'
For those of us who lived thru the War, BATTLE CRY is a splendid multi
story Marines in Love and War drama, masterfully overseen by veteran
Raoul Walsh, with a career perf by Aldo Ray, backed with fine work from
Van Heflin, James Whitmore, Tab Hunter, Nancy Olson and others in a
star cast. A huge box office hit from an equally big bestseller,
marking a vast improvement on the book. Sentimental, exciting,
plausible, involving and thoroughly entertaining; its 149 minute
running time paced properly, unlike today's bloated epics, which seem
to embrace overlength as a substitute for content and skill. Unlike
Spielberg's yawner, CRY didn't need to resort to F/X bloodbaths to
awaken the audience's attention.
I saw BATTLE CRY on Feb. 19, 1955 at the Laurel Theatre in San Carlos, a Saturday night at the movies in an Art Deco suburban house. Maybe you have to be 66 to appreciate this film for what it represents; and maybe you need to be 26 to swallow Spielberg's version of D-Day. I'll stick with BATTLE CRY.
Let me start by saying I really enjoyed this film and have watched it perhaps a half dozen times. The comments by Mr. Glassey do seem unfair to me. This movie doesnt show us the guts and bloodshed and realism that is accepted and maybe even expected by todays standards but it does show the loss of war. The fear of war and the heroism that was a part of being a marine in WWII. It shows us 3 dimensional characters like "High Pockets" who loves his men as much as he loves the Marines. Yes, I suppose some of the situations are glossed over but that is to be expected when you are trying to tell a story this big in the time alloted. The beginning and middle of the film which focus' on training and shipping over seas to New Zealand is first rate entertainment. The last third where we go into combat with the cast is not as realistic as modern films, but how can it be? It is 1955 when this movie was made and the technology to show how war really looks was not possible then. And even if one may argue that it was, the desire and allowable limits of the day would have precluded that sort of realism anyway. All in all, this is a fair if not excellent portrait of marines going to war.
It's not surprising many war veterans like this film. Dramatically framed with a voice-over by James Whitmore as the epitome of a Marine Sergeant who cares about his men but knows the mission is all, the film quickly draws us into the lives of these men and their women in a suspenseful and satisfying way. There is enough good acting by Whitmore, Van Heflin, Dorothy Malone, John Lupton and others to get us past the less well acted and more cliched moments. Some scenarios, such as the tragedy-to-triumph of the lumberjack womanizer(Aldo Ray)and the New Zealand farm widow (Nancy Olson)are superbly plotted and played. There are many memorable moments in the film and Uris' varied characters are well represented.(Please note that Navaho code-talkers are credited here.) Combat and training imagery and sound is generally high quality, but the outstanding aspect of the film is the way it explores the human qualities of those men and women who face the tests of war.
As a former Marine, I really liked this film. I read the novel and saw the film as a little boy, and years later, in Vietnam, I reflected on how different war is from war films. I don't have the DVD or VCR tape, but never miss this one on late night TV. It has some corny characters, (the good-hearted whore, the rough lumberjack who turns out to be tender, the grizzled old first sergeant, etc.) but it hangs together. It is plausible and the personal lives of the Marines make it a real drama with some depth beyond rifles and helmets. The scenery is great and the fighting sanitized. A terrific old movie.
This is one of the best of a whole slew of WW2 films that were made in the 50's, some others of which are also very good. This one stars Aldo Ray and James Whitmore, a young Tab Hunter and others destined to become stars. The action scenes are all done pretty well in most of these films and this one is no exception. By today's standards, there are no real special effects, but what little are in the film are state-of-the-art for the time. This film should be seen to appreciate what our soldiers, sailors and marines did for us in WW2.
I saw this film in 1959 in a theater in Oceanside, Ca. I was in ITR, Los Polgas, Camp Pendleton. It was great then, but now, this 70 y/o watches it with a sad heart and a yearning for being back in. I recognized every building at Camp Pendleton, and much of the terrain. I'd walked, crawled and run over, around and through most of it. The San Diego ferry, now gone, was so neat. Believe it or not I used to catch to Grey Hound from Oceanburg to Dago, I had a sister that live at Imperial Beach. I'd take the ferry to Coronado. It was such a peaceful, serene short voyage, chance to gather one's thoughts. I do think the combat was well enough done, done so sure about all this blood and guts they show now. Even more so, the absence of the absolutely filthy language they feel they have to use now,aka "sewer pipe for a mouth", my analogy. We used a little profanity, but never filth like they do now. Didn't used to have to put that "some scenes my be objectable" stuff, the whole family could watch. Great movie, Semper Fi, especially to my brothers, the former Marine's. Keep your K-bar whet, and your haversack dry>
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
My rating of Battle Cry has more to do with my disappointment with the
plot than the actually quality of the movie. I knew nothing of the
movie before I watched it, but with a name like Battle Cry, I was
expecting a war movie along the lines of Battleground (with which it is
paired in the double feature DVD I bought). Instead, Battle Cry has
more in common with a soap opera than a real war movie. The movie
spends over two hours of its time on relationships and love affairs.
When the real battle scenes finally begin, they're over and done with
in less than 10 minutes. That's not to say I didn't enjoy the stories
of the Marines and their women, it's just not what I was expecting.
I am sure that on repeat viewings my enjoyment of the movie and rating I've given it will increase. Most of the movie is very well done. Like most other reviews I've read, I am especially fond of the scenes involving Pfc Andy Hookens (Aldo Ray) and Pat Rogers (Nancy Olson). I found it a very believable, heartfelt story that's played perfectly by both actors. The rest of the cast is solid and their plot lines are almost as enjoyable.
I was shocked at the frank presentation of some of the subject matter in Battle Cry. I can't think of another movie from the 50s, especially a flag-waving war movie, where sex, pregnancy, drinking, and adultery are dealt with so openly. It's a nice change-of-pace from the sanitized WWII movies I've come to expect.
Raoul Walsh who may have directed more good action films than anyone
else, did Battle Cry as a tribute to the 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions
who fought that very battle in the Pacific Theater of World War II. We
follow the Marines from basic training in San Diego to the invasion of
Saipan in the Marianas, one of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific
The action is equal on romance as it is on action and we see the lives of several Marines and their romantic encounters. All American kid Tab Hunter is engaged to Mona Freeman, but while in San Diego has an affair with Navy wife Dorothy Malone. When the Marines are stationed in New Zealand, farmer Aldo Ray gets to romance Kiwi farm girl Nancy Olson. whose family has lost plenty in the war. And we see other people who generally typify service pictures, city kid William Campbell, cowboy Fess Parker, intellectual John Lupton, troublemaking wiseacre Perry Lopez, and in his screen debut a most engaging hillbilly, L.Q. Jones.
The unit is commanded by Major, later Lieutenant Colonel Van Heflin with second in command Carleton Young and top sergeant James Whitmore who narrates the film and whose eyes we see the story unfold. Heflin is a tough man, but a caring commander. One other reviewer said he was superpatriotic and a crazy man for wanting a combat assignment in the film. Not true at all, his is the profession of arms and his men are Marines by choice, an elite fighting group. This is what they are trained to do and combat is their job.
Battle Cry got one Oscar nomination for Best Musical Scoring and it was because of the theme of Honey Babe which was prevalent throughout the film. It had a big success in the Fifties both as an instrumental and vocal hit.
The combat sequences were very nicely staged by Raoul Walsh, I'm surprised Battle Cry wasn't nominated in the Special Visual Effects department. It's a fine film, still holds up well and still quite the recruiting piece for the Marine Corps.
And this review is dedicated to the 2nd and 4th Marine Divisions who fought and died to secure the island of Saipan in World War II. May we always produce people like these in America.
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