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I was really delighted to see the DVD of "Beach Red" in a video store
last week, and of course I immediately bought it. I see that several
commentators here have said something like "where did this come from,
and how come I never saw it before?" Indeed, it's become something of a
rare film over the years. I saw it in 1967 with my uncle, who was a
World War II veteran who served in Europe. I was about 14 then, and its
style, which was strikingly progressive for that time, made a deep
impression on me. To me it seemed moody and dream-like, and it's been
so long since I saw it, or even any discussion of it, that I almost
felt as if I had dreamed seeing it in the first place. I was bowled
over by it at the time. My uncle didn't care for it, as I think he
expected a more traditional war film. He was one of those "sees things
in black and white" types of guys, and though he didn't bother to
explain it to me, I think the internal monologues, flashbacks, sexual
encounters, and humanizing of the enemy in a war film just didn't wash
Now, close to 40 years later, I finally saw it for a second time. I can see some clumsiness in the characterization and dialog that didn't strike me way back then. But I can also see why it seemed so audacious in 1967 as well. From my perspective, this was the first of what I would consider a "modern" war film that I experienced, and as such I tend to regard it as sort of a landmark. I can appreciate it more now as a pure ANTI-war film than I could back then, when it just struck me as strange, exotic, and titillating both for its sexual content and graphic violence. Just like the Sergio Leone spaghetti-westerns made traditional American westerns seem old-hat overnight, I could never look at traditional war films with the same eye again after seeing this back in 1967. I'm very glad to make its acquaintance again after all these years.
I can't imagine this movie escaping my notice, as I'm something of a war-movie buff but this was a new one to me. First of all, the violence is shocking. This movie does not conform to what Paul Fussell (A WWII veteran) has described as Hollywood's sanitizing of combat. Men's limbs come off. People bleed out after getting stabbed. You are made to care for the soldiers on both sides. You witness seppuku (ritual disembowelment). It's an utterly unorthodox take on Pacific-island combat, replete with unbelievably accurate on-screen ordnance. Flamethrowers, mortars, chattering water-cooled guns. It's harrowing and deeply touching, reminding the viewer how wasteful but ultimately necessary it may be to kill fanatics. Awesome. The flashback scenes are weird; the lock-down focus zooms are quite strange but somehow appropriate. The combat footage is indistinguishable from actual War Department stuff. Indeed, a cameraman plays a key roll. The fact that there is a not a sanitized ending merely strengthens this movie, in my opinion. Being a US Marine has never been easy, I would guess. But taking an island defended by soldiers who would die to a man is even tougher. It humanizes the war; puts a face on it. Then part of that face is blown off. I've never seen anything like it. It's more "Band of Brothers" than "Saving Private Ryan" and, given the context of 1967, even more amazing. A must-see.
This masterful, beautiful picture by the underknown and underrated Cornel
Wilde is a haunting look at the combat experience. Depending on one's
of view, Terrence Malick either paid tribute to it or blatantly copied it
THE THIN RED LINE (1998). The movies are amazingly similar in the way
use flashbacks and voiceover narration (as characters' thoughts spoken
aloud) to immerse the audience in the characters as they fight. I love
movies -- Malick's has things going for it that Wilde's doesn't, such as
physical beauty and a superb score -- but BEACH RED is in some ways the
powerful of the two. It's even more immediate. The voiceovers are less
forced and don't really go into the philosophizing that the voiceovers in
THIN RED LINE do. The effect is to keep the audience more focused on the
combat itself. In short, BEACH RED is more emotional (whereas THIN RED
is emotional AND philosophical/metaphorical).
The way this movie opens with 30 minutes of pure combat on a beach is also similar to SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. In fact, BEACH RED is something of a combination of that movie and THIN RED LINE. Spielberg and Malick surely must both have studied this picture carefully. The last 5 minutes of BEACH RED comprise one of the most haunting and powerful statements on combat I have ever seen. This is a movie that will leave you thinking for a long time.
REVIEW OF THE REGION 1 MGM DVD
Rarely does a low-budget film make a major impact on one's life. If one watched "Beach Red" and walks away unaffected, then I must say the fault lies with the viewer not the film. With haunting images and unflinchingly honest dialog, director Cornel Wilde drops a great big bomb on the audience.
"Beach Red" tells a straightforward story of an American Marine company which assaults a Pacific island, held by fanatical Japanese troops. The main characters include Captain MacDonald (Cornel Wilde), a former lawyer who hates the war he's forced to fight, and loves his wife and simply wants to return home. He struggles with holding the lives of men in his hands and being responsible for their deaths. Sgt. Honeywell (Rip Torn) is a career soldier, whose only goal is to kill Japanese and get his platoon through the war alive. Pvt. Cliff (Patrick Wolfe) is a minister's son who is not prepared for the horrors of war; and his only friend, Pvt. Egan (Burr de Benning), is an uneducated southerner who spends his free time flashing back to sexscapades. Rounding out the group is Colombo (Jaime Sanchez in a non-stereotypical performance), an insecure, somewhat cowardly veteran who chooses to conceal his fear with excuses to avoid criticism.
Wilde fleshes out these character using two rare techniques: the first involves brief flashbacks, often told with still frames shot in surreal colors, set to soft, soothing music while the character in question narrates the action. Characters may be conversing, but they're really talking to the audience. Each of the leads also has a number of voice-overs, which put the viewer inside their head. These voice-overs are simple and match the way a character would talk out loud; unlike the 1998 version of "The Thin Red Line", in which voice-overs were deeply philosophical, these thoughts are haunting and simple. Wilde uses the same techniques in scenes involving the Japanese, which breaks down the barrier between the "good guys" and "bad guys". These are just ordinary men on both sides of the battle line, involved in a war they don't want to be fighting. Yes, there is definitely an enemy, but they are not demonized and stereotyped as in other war films of the period. The Japanese are a formidable, foe, yes but ordinary men with lives and families just like the main American characters.
Wilde uses color cinematography ceaselessly and perfectly. The opening beach assault takes place on a sunny day, and characters bleed and die on a beautiful tropical beach and, later, in the middle of a lush jungle. The atmosphere doesn't appear deadly at first, and it's quite sad to see war ravaging and destroying such a stunning landscape. The combat sequences are superbly staged. The first half of the film focuses on an inch-by-inch assault on the beach, encounters with snipers and machine-gun nests. Wilde fills the screen with action at all times. Even though the focus is on one or two main characters, we can always see dozens often hundreds of extras in the background. As they crawl through tall grasses, we can hear rustling and heavy breathing. Men scream in pain when they get shot and the dialog is often lost amidst the deafening roar of explosions. All of the actors look like soldiers in the middle of a pitched battle: they wade through chest-deep water with forty-pound rucksacks and don't wear any makeup. They're genuine soldiers in the middle of a genuine battle. The on-location shooting in the Philippines really gives the battle scenes a look of authenticity not often found in similarly-themed films of the same time period.
Wilde doesn't sanitize the graphic nature of war, either. Unlike many films of the 1960s, he uses graphic violence quickly and shockingly to help illustrate his themes. Quick, graphic moments are used only to shock and are not dwelt on or eulogized. One character has his arm blown off on the beach and we see a close-up of him staggering about in a delirious stupor, bloody stump gushing and severed limb lying on the ground. Close-ups of bayonet and knife stabbings are also pretty gruesome. There's another, tense scene in which the American infantrymen must storm a bunker complex and use flamethrowers to drive out the Japanese within; the aftermath is more-than-effective. These shots of death and destruction are shocking and rapid; then the focus moves on. Wilde makes his point with one or two frames, a line or two of dialog, or just a facial expression. He doesn't need to dwell on it. We get the message.
Wilde's film is a moving statement about the futility of warfare. The final foxhole scene, in which two enemies sit wounded facing each other and share cigarettes and water as they lay dying, is poignant without being an overstatement. The pain and sadness on each character's face is real as they realize that the only difference between them is skin color and uniform. At heart, they're both innocent kids, caught up in a conflict they don't want to be in. They should be at home with their girlfriends and families, not sweating, bleeding and dying in the midst of an inconsequential tropical island.
"Beach Red" is simply one of the great unknown war films. The ensemble cast never misses a beat, the battle scenes are grim and expertly staged, and the scenery is captured perfectly. This is easily the best fictional film about an island campaign to date, and one of the best war films ever made.
This is a strange, moving and beautiful film. It bears a great
to the 98 Thin Red Line,( down to the colour of the tall grass and
racial/social background of the officer )and yet they're both from novels
different authors. This is presumably a tribute by Malick.
What puts this film in very select company is its attitude to its subject. By its elegant use of stills, flashbacks, repetition and multiple voice-over it shatters the lie of the boys-own adventure and invites us to consider the combat as part of life. If in our experience of life someone takes to slaughtering someone else, it gives us pause for thought.
Accordingly, the usual overheated so-called 'dramatic' plot where everything is subjugated to the 'who wins?' question is replaced here by something subtler, reflective, one side certainly wins, but this occupies our thoughts little compared to feelings about what these men are engaged in.
I'd love to know the tradition this film springs from, it's not a a satire like 'Dr Strangelove'and it doesn't have the psychological portrait of 'Full Metal Jacket' thought it does have echoes in the later half of that film. The immediacy of the combat scenes is like the end section of 'On The Fiddle' with Sean Connery.
Beach Red looks with a rare, cool gaze at the war, this allows us to feel the emotion that is there. What a shame that Spielberg is too frightened to pay us that respect, instead the crass manipulation of fodder such as 'Ryan' stiffles the expression of any thought or feeling.
So it's great that they made Beach Red (and The Thin Red Line ) so that we can see there's more to the world!
Wow, I thought I saw all the war movies. This a unique captivating war film with several unusual techniques. It has voiceovers by soldiers in the middle of combat and flashbacks to past scenes and still photos of loved ones at home. For instance, one soldier learns the password for the day is "darling" and reminices(sp) about his wife calling him that. All this occurs in-between and during brutal battle scenes some of which are hand to hand combat with bayonets. The Japanese soldiers are also shown with loved ones and to be human as well. The American flashbacks seem odd since the family members are dressed and groomed in 1950-60s fashion during this WWII movie but gave the movie kind of a universal quality. There is also some mild nudity and delicate sexual references in the flashbacks that some will detect. Watch when one of the soldiers builds a "woman" in the dirt and kisses her or Wilde's wife Julie panting in bed. One disappointment is that we never learn the fate of Columbo, whose thumb gets shot off, and the bleeding soldier he reluctantly carries on his back. Listen to the amazing detail on the litany of natural insect and plant dangers in this island jungle. The Japanese speak Japanese in this movie without subtitles yet we can understand what they are taking about. I could go on with more. Better then Saving Private Ryan for sure and it looked like much material was taken from this film for that one. 8/10
This movie is just starting to get released to the mainstream. If you
like WWII films and find it at a cheap price, buy it- you won't be
disappointed. It's the Castle Keep of the Pacific- only it makes a
little more sense This is a great quasi-anti-war movie that was created
during the earlier stages of the Vietnam war. Though it focuses on the
American forces, it gives pretty fair treatment to the Japanese
soldiers. The music and the dialogue is great, and the action is
I really like Rip Torn as Sgt Honeywell in this. I'm used to him playing the tough old guy Arty in The Larry Sanders Show. Arty acted like a tough guy, but he was old and I think everyone knew he was soft. BUT he is much younger here, and tough as nails- an intimidating character- his justification for fighting the Japanese and breaking both arms of a prisoner is bad-ass -"I'm a kill 'em, I'm a stab 'em...." Cornel Wilde plays the lead officer- pretty similar to Staros in The Thin Red Line- but he's solid The climax is a bit contrived and perhaps too overly-melodramatic, but it's fine for its time
My two knocks- there is a bit too much stock footage in the beginning, and the two main NCOs are boring backwoods idiots
First, let me ask, why isnt this available on video or dvd here in the
States? They have it in Britain & Germany! Nevertheless Im glad to see
film making the rounds on Showtime and it's satellite cousins. I agree
previous posters that Spielberg 'HAD' to have watched this great film from
the great Cornel Wilde, who incidentally plays the captain here. I
originally watched this back in the 1980s on HBO and it, usually for years
after, showed up on TNT during Memorial Day Weekend. But in the past few
years I hadn't seen it until lately with these few Showtime airings. But
back to the movie. Long before I had ever seen Saving Pvt Ryan I had just
read the reviews of it. When the reviews talked about the opening sequence
being extended pure assault, I knew that someone watched or knew of Beach
Red. Both SPR & BR open in an almost identical fashion of pure armed
violence. The only difference is the locale of the two pics. SPR on the
beaches of Normandy and BR in a distant south pacific isle.
Beach Red covers a platoon from it's assault on a Japanese held beach, through the occupation of the island and finally to many of the members of Wilde's platoon losing their lives. This is bittersweet because we are taken, through flashback, to some instant in these soldiers personal lives. Wilde doesn't stop there. He also flashbacks the Japanese soldiers lives as well. This is great and considerate filmmaking as it humanizes boths sides, US & Japanese, withstanding the brutality of armed combat. This pic, unlike for instance 'The Longest Day', is filmed in rich colour. With the addition of colour in a war film this further personalizes the tragedy Wilde & his men have to go through in killing and staying alive. War is just as deadly on a bright and sunny day as it is on a gloomy or rainy type day. But Beach Red would have been a still very effective film had it been made in black & white.
For War Film buffs, I think many will be stunned by this movie when and if they have not seen it. It's always been a sort of low key picture undeservedly but thanks to home video & cable a couple of new generations will discover this unheralded classic. Wilde should have been very proud of his achievement in Beach Red, both as director & actor. And his supporting cast of the great Rip Torn as the gruff Sergeant and Burr DeBenning as the well meaning Yokel-Bumpkin are pure delight. A fine film from a fine cast. View it.
I first saw this movie in 1967 (during Vietnam era). It was very realistic in what it depicted before Spielberg and "Private Ryan". Red Beach depicted both the Japanese and the Americans as having a human side. There were battle scenes and they were bloody but the main emphasis in the movie was the people. Cornel Wilde did an excellent job of showing this humanity mainly through pictures and not much dialogue. Wilde was before his time and was really able to connect with the inner feelings of the screen characters. I recently purchased the DVD of "Red Beach" after so many years and it was well worth the wait. The movie pulls no punches. War is not pretty but this movie attempts to show you the inner thoughts of the individual soldier both the Americans and the Japanese. Wilde hit a grand slam home run with this movie.
A fair screen performer, Cornel Wilde occasionally appeared in more
interesting fare, such as the cult B-noir The Big Combo (1955), a title
held today in greater esteem these days than his other mainstream
successes. Of greater interest still is Wilde's career as a director
that, with the tense drama of Storm Fear, started the same year as
Combo. Although not a fully mature work, it still suggested some of the
themes that would inform Wilde's later films: a concern with man
confronting the elemental, whether externally or internally, and a
fondness for extreme situations.
From the mid 1960s onwards Wilde made a remarkable trilogy of work in quick succession: The Naked Prey (1966), Beach Red, and No Blade Of Grass (1970), which are the films upon which his directorial reputation rests principally today. Each concerns a journey of one sort or another, in which men must differently face up to the primitive impulse within themselves as the comforting supports of civilised society stripped away. Thus in The Naked Prey a European is pursued by relentless natives across a bleak African wilderness. In No Blade Of Grass a party of English refugees and survivors have to navigate a post-catastrophe landscape. Beach Red sees soldiers face up to their innermost fears and regrets during the bloody battle for a Pacific island. Typically in Wilde's work, a stricken or unforgiving world reflects back the straits in which the main characters find themselves whilst any final resolution is, at best, ambivalent. In Beach Red this environment is lush and dangerous, full of both natural and human perils (at one point the director gives a litany of killer flora and fauna), but one where the greatest threat to man is Man himself.
Some critics have compared Wilde's cinema to that of Sam Fuller. Both forge personal cinema with an own, urgent vision. Fuller is the more assured stylist, with his tabloid-inspired contemplation of events. Wilde, too, often wears his message unashamedly on his sleeve - most obviously in the weaker No Blade Of Grass, or in some of the regretful soliloquizing of Beach Red. Like Fuller, Wilde produced and directed, but also scored and acted in two out three of his best works. (He's also heard as the narrator in the present film, and performs a similar function as a radio voice in No Blade Of Grass). Beach Red was the only one he also co-wrote, which leads one to think it had particular interest for the director. Unlike Fuller, Wilde never served in the armed forces. And unlike Fuller's war movies, Wilde's single martial opus is distinguished by its even-handedness. While the gritty realism and hard-wrought bravery of Wilde's soldiery is never in doubt the same, just, eye is applied to both sides.
The humans in uniform place the blame for the ensuing cruelty and pain not, as a rule, on individuals but on a wider commitment to duty, outside of any immediate questioning. When a soldier is guilty of any unnecessary cruelty, such as the Sergeant who breaks both the arms of a dangerous Japanese prisoner to subdue him, Captain MacDonald condemns the action outright. "We must never forget why we are killing...". In all of his major films Wilde's world is often cruel and hard - but never sadistic, his main characters determined, never cynical. MacDonald, John Custance, or the unnamed runner of The Naked Prey, do not manipulate others, but only try and survive, making the best of a bad world. (A difference in worldview that explains why Fuller made a string of excellent noir films while Wilde only made one.)
Those who have seen Saving Private Ryan will feel right at home here, and not just with the painful introspection of MacDonald as he struggles with duty. (Others have felt the flashbacks and narration anticipate Malick's The Thin Red Line, 1998.) Here, too, we see men dying in the water during a beach landing, pinned down beneath murderous machine gunfire, eviscerated, half burnt by flame throwers. Limb parts float in the water, while the young warrior 'Mouse' stands in horror, his arm ripped from his side. It's no romanticised version of war and the ending of Beach Red is less compromising than Spielberg's that, catering to different tastes, felt compelled to offer. More than in No Blade Of Grass, Wilde feels free to indulge in stylistic tricks and methods to achieve the peculiar dream-like intensity which accompanies combat experience, using stills, visual distortions, voiceovers and flashbacks. These highlight the interior life of his characters, some of these 'internalised' moments being almost as explicit and powerful as dynamic scenes elsewhere, such as during one of MacDonald's sensual reveries about his wife, when we see her presumably on the point of orgasm. There's sexual content too in the conversations between Private Egan (Burr de Benning) and minister's son Private Cliff (Patrick Wolfe), including at one point fantasising over a woman's torso fashioned from coconut shells and soil.
Memories of sensuality provides nostalgia for the soldiers. But Beach Red offers no real solutions to the horrors of war, and is unflinching. If MacDonald's supporting narration during combat is sometimes a little too matter of fact then this can be ascribed to Wilde's naiveté, in the best sense, as a director, an ongoing quality marking his best work. MacDonald, a lawyer by profession, is just a man who wants to get back to his wife. John Custance just wants to reach his brother's refuge in Scotland. 'The Man' in The Naked Prey just wants to elude his dogged pursuers. Characters are boiled down to essentials through their desires, offering a simple focus on key, almost primitive, issues in times of great adversity. When necessary, then narrator Wilde can provide the hand-on-heart commentary. This honesty means that we can overlook the odd cliché in his Beach Red, and enjoy it as one of the best war films.
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