Set during the Pacific War against the Japanese, this WW2 drama discerns between achieving one's mission at any cost versus preserving the lives under one's command and enforcing discipline through fear as opposed to mutual respect.
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In the Pacific during World War 2, the officers live a comfortable life with good food, good drink and good quarters. To them, war is a game which they know they will win and the common soldiers are the pawns on the board. When the campaign slows down, the Commander sends a squad to the top of a mountain behind enemy lines to report on the Japanese troop movements. The squad is commanded by a tough cynical Sergeant who takes no prisoners and even takes the gold from the teeth of the enemy dead. Before the mission starts, the lieutenant, who has had a cushy job due to a life of wealth and privilege, criticizes the Commander over his attitude towards the common soldier and is re-assigned to lead the squad. The veteran Sergeant wants to complete this mission as ordered, and he will do everything he can do to see that it is successful. Written by
Tony Fontana <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The film was not actually shot in widescreen. It was converted to CinemaScope in the final print after having been shot in standard Academy ratio, much like some films which are "matted" after having been shot in Academy ratio. The process used was contemporary of Superscope and a forerunner of Super 35. It was filmed using spherical lenses at an aspect ratio of 1.37:1. In the printing process, the images were cropped to a height of 2 perforations giving them an aspect ratio of 2.36:1. The images were then stretched vertically to a height of 4 perforations, at which point they conformed to the standard CinemaScope-2 format. See more »
In the film, General Cummings is shown to be a Brigadier (one star) General. In the Norman Mailer novel on which the film is based, General Cummings is a Major General (two stars), the normal rank an Army division commander holds. See more »
Mailer's uncompromising novel, gets a bit compromised for the screen
Though Norman Mailer wrote many other works like David O. Selznick with
Gone With The Wind, Mailer never wrote anything as good as The Naked
And The Dead. It must have been a source of some frustration to him in
trying to top this literary masterpiece.
Coming to the screen The Naked And The Dead's impact was neutered
somewhat with changes, most importantly the death of a main character
was eliminated and that person allowed to survive. Still what you get
here is a really rancid version of a military campaign in the South
Pacific Theater, the kind that Hollywood wasn't showing up to that
There are three main characters. First Cliff Robertson who comes from
wealth and privilege and clashes with his martinet of a commanding
officer. For that breach of military etiquette, Robertson is assigned
to lead a patrol behind enemy lines to gather valuable intelligence.
The commander he insulted is General Raymond Massey who likes being the
martinet, but in the end gets showed up rather beautifully by an eager
subordinate who took some initiative during a combat situation.
Thirdly there is Sergeant Aldo Ray who was probably no prize, but whose
character was totally twisted by the unfaithfulness of his wife Barbara
Nichols. Nichols is just great in a flashback episode as a woman who
might just as well have had a sandwich board sign labeled 'floozy' all
over her. In some ways her small part is the most memorable in this war
film. He's been leading his squad without any officers over him and
would like to keep it that way. But he knows his job.
Over 59 years later The Naked And The Dead while not totally true to
Mailer's words and plot, still hasn't aged one single bit. I could see
a remake of this one in the future.
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