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Of course I'm a bit prejudiced but for the time it was the most
accurate portrayal of Marines ever shown on the big screen.
I was at Camp Pendleton undergoing infantry training when Webb brought his crew down to film some outdoor scenes and our company was asked to participate. It took about two or three days as best I can recall.
Webb and Don Dubbins were serious and businesslike.
During the filming of our short scene--which seemed to take forever to an 18 year old--Webb was very conscientious about getting things (Marine things) right and he did a good job with one exception--that scene where a recruit was wearing sunglasses. Never happen for a host of reasons.
I have a video of the movie and will bore my grandkids anytime I can make them sit still for a few seconds as I show them their Papaw when he was a young stud and part of the world's greatest fighting force (no brag, just fact).
What amazed me then was how well the real Marines carried out their acting roles. That was before I realized that DIs have to have some acting genes to get their job done.
The only film I've seen since that is the equal of the DI is the first half of Full Metal Jacket and that part is superior only because of the foul language. When the DI was made, cursing wasn't allowed on screen.
Despite the lack of profanity, it's still a great movie to rent.
Semper Fi, Do or Die
Why is it Jack Webb gets no respect as a director? This film puts to
the myth that Webb was a one-trick ("Dragnet") pony. Marines then and now
call "The D.I." the most accurate portrayal of boot camp training ever put
on celluloid. It's also a marvelous character study, with gripping
performances by both Webb and Don Dubbins. What makes it even more
1) Only three of the men in this film were professional actors; Webb, Dubbins and Lin McCarthy, and Dubbins had been a Marine. All the others were actual Marines, and Webb elicted memorable performances from most of them.
2) It was shot in a breathtaking 23 days in March of 1957.
3) To make the summer release date requested by Warner Bros., Webb edited as he shot. By the time principal photography wrapped, he had two reels cut and scored.
Yet, Webb is laughed at as an actor, and dismissed as a director? See this film and ask yourself, WHY???
FACTOID: The film was based on a KRAFT TELEVISION THEATER presentation called "Murder of a Sand Flea." Lin McCarthy played the same role in both productions.
Jack Webb is riveting as a Marine Corp drill instructor in the D.I.. Webb play Sgt.Jim Moore, a tough but fair Marine whose job it is to prepare young teens for possible combat. No one could have played this role any better that Jack Webb. As a former Marine,I can assure that this is the most accurate film dealing with basic training in the Corp. Extremely entertaining!
Well as you can see, I got to this party quite late but, have the
advantage of reading all the previous entries before making my
comments. I found this site by happen chance, when I was looking for
other Marine Corps films. So, let me start by telling you that I played
a Marine Boot in the movie, Pvt. Labarsky, and was stationed at MCRDep,
San Diego at the time. Jack Webb and his crew selected 15 Permanent
Personnel, of which some of us had the speaking parts, and another 15
Marines that had just completed Boot Camp. That made up the Platoon and
the Marines who portrayed the various "DIs". To the best of my
recollection, The Capt. and Pvt. Owens (Don Dubbins) were not in the
Marines. We spent about three weeks up in Hollywood (Studio City Film
Lot), CA shooting the section of the movie that we were involved with,
and then they completed the other shots after we left.
So as I ramble along here, let me clarify some of what has been questioned in previous entries as best I can. "Cuff Daddy" was commenting about the ability of our Platoon to yell "Yes Sir" without moving and etc,, Yes we did the yelling for the Sound Guys, and it was while shooting the scene. As you fellow Marines remember, when the DI or who ever started to ask a question and before they completed it, you had already taken your breath of air enabling you to yell at the top of your lungs the proper response. That is how it was done.
"74Sooner" commented about walking through the same building at Paris Island, however, as I mentioned earlier all the scenes were shot in Studio City, CA . They were built from photos taken at Paris Island and from on site trips and Marine advisers from Paris Island. Sorry, you were in the real buildings, not the sets.
"schappe1" brought up many good points, but, about the incident with the platoon at Paris Island at the time all that jack Webb said to us was, "The movie came about because of the accident, and the Marine Corps didn't want to put out anything that would impact any of the family members of the Marines that died that night. Although, the Marine Corps would provide any Marines and assistance needed for a movie answering to the public why a Marine DI does what he does".
As mentioned by a few of you, I also at the time we were shooting the scenes caught my self thinking this dialog has been cleaned up to much and obviously isn't how it goes down in real life. Back in the 50's,that is how it had to be done.
One story I would like to pass on is about the interaction that occurred between us Marines and the Movie Crew, and between the Movie Crew and Jack Webb. From the start by custom the Marines replied "Yes Sir" to anybody that moved. Going into the second week it was getting more common to hear "Yes Sir" coming from all directions. On stage someone would bark out a request for something to be done with the lighting and from out of nowhere up on a catwalk above the set a reply of "Yes Sir" would sound out. To all of this at one of our informal gatherings, Jack Webb stated. "If I had known that I would have gotten this much respect from this crew, I would have brought you guys up here years ago." There was a Lt. brought up from San Diego to play the role of the DI from the other platoon and the one Jack Webb fights with, but during one shooting secessions He was up to take number 32, and still Webb kept trying to work him through how he wanted it done and didn't show any lack of patience with him. The next day they used the Paris Island adviser who was a DI Sgt. from Paris Island and He worked out fine.
At the time I was somewhat of a camera buff and got to know the Still Camera Man to get some pointer from him and as it turned out He would give me still shots and some of the 35mm film of the daily shooting that were not going to be used. Those film strips I cut up and made slides out of them. After the movie came out in VHS tape (The DI, 11706 B&W/106 min.) my kids and the grand kids have a blast when they try to se who can find me the most times on the screen.
I am a Sergeant in the US Army who has had ten years experience on active duty and six years in the National Guard, I also served in Operation Desert Storm. I think I am in a better position to review this film then many others have done. Jack Webb always wanted realism in his films and television shows. He made The DI between the Dragnet series that he did and it is an excellent film that has not aged at all. It is as tough-hitting and realistic as ever. Maybe Jack isn't as good as Louis Gosset or Lee Ermey was in his portrayal of a Marine drill instructor, but he is damn close I can tell you! Maybe people think that drill sergeants are so mean, but I can tell you from my experience that they HAVE to be that way! You don't train young Marines or soldiers effectively by being kind. You have to get in their face and let them know that its all business. You tear them down and build them up all over again. That is the purpose of military training that they show in this film. The year before this film was made, on April 8, 1956 as a matter of fact, a Marine drill instructor marched his platoon into Ribbon Creek swamp at Parris Island as punishment. There was an unexpected storm and tidal wave and six Marines drowned as a result. This black mark on The Marine Corps resulted in a very negative thing. They have made military training far TOO easy as a result. Did you know that today drill sergeants are not even allowed to swear at privates when they do something dumb! They are not allowed to touch them and its like they have made basic training like a girl scout summer camp! I hated Private Owens because he reminded me of a lot of soldiers I have known in my career that were just babies who had been passed thru training and would have been killed on day 1 in combat!
I was a Marine at Camp Pendleton when the D.I. came out (1st Marine
Division, 11th Marine Regiment, 3rd Battalion, I-Battery). I still
remember standing in line with a bunch of other Marines to see the
movie at the "Star" theater in Oceanside, California.
We did not remotely expect the movie to portray everything we experienced in boot camp but we were all pleasantly surprised at how well done the movie was. The idea of using real Marines in the movie was a great idea (I believe they were all real Drill Instructors too). As good an actor as Jack Webb was, he just couldn't "call cadence" like a real Marine Drill Instructor.
All of us got a laugh when the "problem" recruit's mother came to boot camp to talk to the Captain. Never in a million years would this have happened, but that's Hollywood, and we didn't let that episode keep us from enjoying the movie.
I went through boot camp at MCRD in San Diego during the summer of 1956, and at that time there was virtually no limits as to what the D.I.'s could do to you. The "Ribbon Creek" event at Parris Island had not yet affected boot camp, at least not at MCRD - San Diego.
I agree with what a lot of the other reviewers have commented on concerning Sgt. Moore's "stiffness" around his girl friend. I believe this was just Webb's acting style, and although they could have deleted this part of the movie, it didn't really hurt the production that much.
One minor note, the character (uncredited) of "Pvt. Rodriguez" was played by one of my Drill Instructors, Sgt. Peter J. O'Neill. Sgt. O'Neill used to tell us that some day he wanted to be an actor. We secretly laughed at this, but he surprised us all. He was a great Drill Instructor, and I thought he did well in his bit part. Also, he really did enjoy throwing knives. He often demonstrated his skill to us that summer in boot camp. I have often wondered if he is still alive.
I was a working DI at MCRD San Diego when I was selected to play in the movie. I was the first Marine so selected by Webb. I am (or was, Technical Sergeant Charles A Love, USMC. Concerning the sun glasses scene which we shot at DelMar..I was wearing the glasses because I had supposedly gotten a black eye while scuffling with Dubbins at the wash rack scene. If you look closely you can see the makeup of such on my face. They originally had normal looking glasses but Colonel Carneal had them changed to the silly ones so as to make it not look they were medically unnecessary...Semper Fi Marines..I will be glad to answer any queries you may have about the making of the movie. I presently live in Deland, Florida. TechSgt Lou Lazarko lives nearby. (He had a run in with Webb in the bar) I have been in touch with some of the Marines.Notably Pete O'Neal, whose face I slapped to kill the supposedly one that Dubbins had killed and which I subsequently took up to Webb who visually verified that this was a female flea and not the male one that Dubbins had slapped. Some of the other Marines have written on this site with good information. Actually Lou Lazarko is the one who took Lt. Schmidt's role when he couldn't properly deliver the line of "What's this, the brand called X" in the Duty hut when Jack threw the cup at him and hit the door. Lou originally went to Hollywood with us as a troop handler and then took Schmidts place. Lou and I then were the handlers of the thirty five recently graduated Marines who were use in the movie. At that time Lou was a working DI at MCRD San Diego, not PI as someone has indicated. Jack took the four of use with the main parts to Chicago for what they called the World Premiere where we appeared on stage between each showing of the movie. As someone pointed out Jack never could quite get down the real DI cadence and they used Sgt Prutzman's and my cadence calling in the movie. I will probably write more about the movie as time goes on. I will be happy to answer any emails about it...Semper Fi. (email@example.com)
I had the good fortune to be at Perris Island in the fall of 1959. The
DI showed one evening at the outdoor theater directly in front of our
barracks, Plt 162, B Co, 1st Bn, 1st ITR.
Although we hadn't been there long enough to even think about seeing a movie, we could hear those that were laughing. It's one of the many indelible memories of my thirteen weeks at PI.
At some later date, I got to actually see it in a theater. I'm still convinced that, to date, it remains the most realistic portrayal of the experience in the late 1950's ever done. No one has done it better than Jack Webb...
THE D.I. (4 outta 5 stars) Wow, I certainly did not expect to be enjoying this movie as much as I did. I had never even heard of it until I saw it sitting in the discount video bin one day. I figured Jack Webb playing an army drill instructor might be good for a chuckle but figured the drama would pale in comparison to such recent movie D.I.s as portrayed in "Full Metal Jacket" or "An Officer and a Gentleman". Boy, was I wrong. This is probably the best work Webb has ever done... far and away better than his one-note "Dragnet" performances. The delivery of his tough guy dialogue is just brilliant... done in his patented deadpan monotone and yet you *know* that the guy means every word of it. The story might seem a little hokey compared to the grittier military movies that have followed but I still found the movie fascinating and compelling. Even a completely unnecessarily musical interlude in an army nightclub had me hooked. Anyone know where I can get a copy of that terrific Ray Coniff song "If'n You Don't, Somebody Else Will"? Webb plays the toughest dang drill instructor ever... and he's under pressure to kick out the deadbeat Private Owen but, by golly, he sees a man buried somewhere in that sissyboy and he's gonna drag him out kicking and screaming! Great stuff!
I first saw this film in the late 60's, and try to see it every time it comes on TV, which, unfortunately, isn't often. Now that I have TCM and FMC, I hope it will be on at least once a year. Like Louis Gossett Jr. in An Officer and A Gentleman, Jack Webb delivers an unbelievably great performance as a Parris Island Drill Sergeant with the classic screw-up recruit, and the story line in this one, though dated, is touching and very well acted. And having real jar-heads in the cast certainly helped in the realism of the film as well. It's a great film with top-notch acting and a superb story. See it if you have the chance-It's well worth the time!
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