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With General MacArthur poised to strike against the Japanese defenses in the Philippines, a group of nine Marines are given a secret mission.They have to secretly land on a Philippine island in order to contact a spy who has information vital to General MacArthur's planned invasion.When their captain is killed, sergeant Corey takes charge of the group.The patrol fights its way through the Japanese-infested jungle, and only five Marines remain when they finally reach their destination.The group's radio has been destroyed, and they are unable to communicate with their base.It means that even if they find their spy and retrieve the vital intelligence they will be unable to relay this information to General MacArthur's headquarters.The Japanese, already alerted to commando's presence in the area are closing in.The Marines are running out of time. Written by
Third of three war dramas in which a character played by Mickey Rooney is killed by a hand grenade. See more »
The camouflage uniforms worn by the American raiders are not WWII military camouflage uniforms. They are wearing commercial duck hunter suits that were sold in the USA after World War II. They are based on wartime USMC camouflage uniforms and bear a passing resemblance. See more »
Opening credits prologue: THE PHILIPPINES OCTOBER 1944 See more »
Warning - alternate title: Attack of the War Movie Clichés!
Excellent majestic, dramatic location filming in the Philippines is wasted on 'Ambush Bay's' cliché crippled script and on its other, ginsu production values (e.g., very fake-looking fake blood, amateurish explosions, racks upon racks of 1966-modern electronics suites pretending to be WWII Japanese gear, shabbily unsynched post-production dubbing of spoken Japanese over the moving lips of the Filipino actors portraying them). It also doesn't help this film that most of the raiders - those who are given no character development beyond the opening scene's terse narration of each man's combat specialty; and the most laughable of these is for Mickey Rooney's character who is "expert" with a Thompson submachine gun). The DVD image and sound transfer are, however, surprisingly good.
Since I first saw 'Ambush Bay' on late-night TV (in the Age Before Cable), and many times thereafter, I've always loved the cheesy scene of the wounded Mickey Rooney sassing his Japanese interrogators before he grenades them along with himself. It's one of the cheesiest bravado scenes ever to have been captured in celluloid - and yet it's the chief reasons I watch this almost painfully cheesy movie every few years or so. That scene, indeed the entire film, is like a 1960's censors'-toned-down-for-macho-blue-language echo of men's pulp magazines, which usually bore full-color cover illustrations that depicted bosomy Nazi women whipping bare chested virile Yanks, or inscrutable sloe-eyed Japanese women bent on seducing square-jawed, and always Caucasian, G.I.s) of the 50's and 60's (see James Lileks's website for amusing samplings thereof). I might add that a man of Rooney's abbreviated stature may not have met the marines' minimum pre-WWII height requirement, which thus casts doubt on the script's revelation that his character is a "career" marine: all I know is that I've NEVER seen a Gunnery Sergeant so short as Rooney's - so diminutive is Rooney that the Thompson gun he brandishes nearly equals his gnomish height. Yet he gives a good effort despite the script's wince-provoking haplessness.
Though the marines in the film speak the most lines, it's the Filipino actors (the ones playing Filipinos, not the ones badly playing Japanese) who achieve something like verisimilitude. Plainly, some of those actors, and many of the Filipino extras, retained vivid memories of their pitiless WWII subjugation and occupation by the Japanese.
The storyline isn't worth recounting at all, except to say that it's nearly as improbable as that of 'The Guns Of Navarone' - but at least 'The Guns Of Navarone' profited from its nearly high-camp capacity to, again nearly, lampoon itself as it plays out. But 'Ambush Bay' neither has, nor attempts, any such wittiness, overt or underlying, and thus its worst, thoroughgoing flaw is that it takes itself much too seriously. The other inherent flaw is in the plot: the notion that a fixed minefield could have somehow defeated or deflected the massive 1944 U.S. invasion of the Philippines is beyond risible.
At least the prop crew got all the personal weapons on both sides, and those "beach camouflage" (that's what the pattern was officially called) gyrene uniforms, right. We even see some Japanese troops toting and firing U.S. M1903 Springfield rifles: which is factual since the Japanese captured large numbers of these when they took the Philippine archipelago in 1942, along with considerable stocks of the proper ammunition for them.
Hugh O'Brian - never a contender for acting awards - is stiff, stolid, and wooden almost to point of petrification, and it doesn't help his performance that he was given awful dialogue to try to speak convincingly; in a few instance in 'Ambush Bay,' though, it seems he would have been a perfect casting choice had Hollywood decided to adapt DC Comics' nigh-superhero Sergeant Rock character to the cinema. James Mitchum inherited precious little of his father's superb talent: here as Grenier he's just gawky, awkward, sorely unconvincing every time he recites a line; his only - and scant - saving grace here would seem to be appears to have been a natural, relaxed athleticism.
On the whole, however, viewers knowledgeable about WWII history will find 'Ambush Bay' historically lacking; and anyone familiar with the canons of scriptwriting and production technique will find its flimsy plot, hackneyed dialogue, and ginsu special effects almost unendurable. But watch it for the Classic Cheesiness in that one Mickey Rooney suicidal bravado scene, for the lovely location photography, and for some serious and fairly impressive acting by the Filipino actors whose performances, one can't help construing, benefited from their having had their hearts in this story that purports to tell, at least obliquely, of the ordeal they endured and the feats of sacrifice and fortitude they achieved throughout Japan's WWII tyrannization of them and their islands.
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