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Film Makers in Hollywood weren`t allowed to make anti-vietnam war films in
the late 60`s , early 70`s so they decided to make allegories instead.
Famous examples are MASH and SOLDIER BLUE. What strikes me is that no one
ever refers to this great war film as the definitive Hollywood proxy Nam
The story is simple : Soldiers carry out dangerous mission. But these soldiers are badly led and totally reluctant to carry out their duty. They`d rather " frag " their commander and go home than earn medals . And war isn`t shown as a glorious thing , it`s brutal , dehumanising and most of all terrifying. Also watch out for the very humane portrayal of the enemy officer. Is it sympathy for the Japanese or the Vietnamese that he`s shown this way ?
I could point out all the things I love about this film but it`d take too long. The only two things I disliked about TOO LATE THE HERO was a couple of plot holes. First one`s the fact that the Japanese are good at stopping the enemy from escaping the jungle but are totally hopeless at letting them enter it in the first place ! A major strategic mistake I`d have thought. Secondly Lawson decides he wants to carry out his mission after all which turns him into a bit of a cliche. But don`t let that put you off. TOO LATE THE HERO is compelling , bloody and intelligent.
This movie is a personal one for me. I was a high school student at George Dewey H.S., Subic Bay, Philippines from 1968-70. My buddies and I were extras in the movie when it was made out there. We would cut classes and our principal would come out to the movie set to take our names down. We got in trouble when we got back, but this was a once in a lifetime deal. We were paid $12 a day. It was cheaper to use off-duty sailors and marines as well as the high school guys as extras than to pay for extras to be flown in from the U.S. We picked up buses from various parts of the base early in the morning and were taken to the naval magazine where the movie was being filmed. We were out from 6:00 A.M. to about 4:00 P.M. I remember the prop people built this fantastic set with huts and a fake stone church that was used as the Colonel's headquarters. It was nicer than the huts the Filipino people lived in and they wanted to keep them after the movie was finished. They had to be torn down though because of insurance purposes. They had brought these British Army uniforms for us to wear but they were new and looked too good so they ran over them with trucks to give them a rough look. To this day I remember many wild times on the set. Once when Cliff Robertson arrived at the base and was in the Colonel's headquarters, the director Mr. Aldridge yelled at myself and a buddy because we were playing our acoustic guitars too loudly on top of the fake stone church and it could be heard during the scene. I guess Hendrix music was not around in WW2. Another time between takes, Michael Caine and his buddies were on the steps of a building and he started to sing "Hey Jude" by the Beatles. Everyone sang along. It was great and to this day whenever I hear that song it takes me back to that great time! (that was 37 years ago) One of the side actors brought along his girlfriend and she ran around on the beach in her bikini. That was indeed a great sight as sailors, marines and high school kids took breaks from the set to hang out on the beach. I remember meeting the British actor with the broken nose who was in "Flight of the Phoenix" with Jimmy Stewart. He was in the movie and seemed to be a nice guy. A Philippine patrol boat parked at the beach dock. They were kind enough to let us dive off their boat into the water during lunch breaks. Some of the guys earned $18 a day by lying in an open field being dead bodies. These were the soldiers from the movie who were shot by the Japanese snipers. There was a fire on the set one day and shooting had to be stopped. They repaired the set and the movie went on. Parts of the movie were shot near our base hospital on the mountain at Cubi Point in the jungle. These were the scenes where the commando team was in the jungle on the mission. The movie people would party at the Officer's Club at Cubi. It was not well received by all the officers. The movie guys had long hair and dressed very casually, and the marine fighter pilots did not care for this group. I did not hear of any fights though. My buddy next door to our quarters had Michael Caine and some others over for a home cooked dinner. It was well received. It was a great time to be in the Philippines back in those days. After we finished our tour out there we went back to a naval base at Pax River, Maryland. I went up to New York to visit my aunt and she took me to see the movie. It was pretty good. I especially enjoyed it since I could see all my buddies walking around in the background with rifles or just hanging out. It was a great movie and I must say it was filmed in the real jungle setting with snakes and all. No Hollywood back-set here!
What do you know about psychological warfare? Not much I guess.
Well, this is a war movie with a major twist. It's much less about shelling the enemy or just drill some holes in him, but more about "really" to outsmart him.
An American officer, an Interpreter in Japanese, who's a real artist when it comes to avoid the battlefield, is about to get a long awaited leave when he suddenly is tasked to help a bunch of British raiders in their endeavor to capture and destroy a forward listening Japanese outpost.
Through thick and through thin (literally), men who hate each other as well as hating the American officer (played by Cliff Robertson) have to face a common enemy who masterfully hides in the Jungle.
One by one they get hunted down by the Japanese. Nevertheless, the mission succeeds, but now the remaining force has to return to base. Not an easy task, considering that the Japanese made prisoners and are using them as bait while they communicate with the only two remaining raiders (Robertson and Michael Caine). Through a microphone and various loudspeakers scattered throughout the Jungle and by performing a highly skillful and mind-shattering blackmail, they try to lure the two to surrender.
A well timed war drama, masterfully played by all the actors involved figuring Ian Bannen ("The Hill", "The Outrage" etc.), Harry Andrews ("The Hill", "The Charge of the Light Brigade", "Battle of Britain"), Denholm Elliot ("Raiders of the Lost Ark", "A Room with a View"), Ronald Fraser ("The Hill", "The Wild Geese") and Ken Takakura ("The Yakuza", "Antarctica", "Black Rain").
If you like two movies into one: a War Movie and a Suspense Thriller, then the price is really low.
The DVD edition is as one may expect from Anchor Bay. No extras included, except for the trailer, but the movie alone is, in my view, a tiny masterpiece and well worth the effort.
By the way, if you're looking for a similar movie, forget it. It's the only one in its genre. Think about it.
TOO LATE THE HERO is a top notch war film about a british unit plus one american who must destroy a japanese communications station on a island. The mission for all purposes is impossible. TOO LATE THE HERO is long in a few spots, yet the film overcomes this flaw and the pace flows smoothly again. The film has a gritty realism to it which is aided by the deep jungle locations the film was shot at. Fans of FARWELL TO THE KING will enjoy this film as well, as it is up the same alley as that Nick Nolte film. OOne thing I enjoyed about this film were the casualty levels on the japanese and allied sides; these were were very realistic.
Too Late the Hero is a cynical war adventure with a set of rather unsavoury, antagonistic characters caught in an unforgiving, hot environment where they risk being embushed at any time by Japanese soldiers. It manages to stay interesting for two hours until building up into a fabulous, exciting finale. Not a big soldiers action film like The Dirty Dozen or Platoon, Too Late the Hero is nevertheless my favourite of the genre, although it took a couple of watchings to appreciate the simple, yet original, intelligent plot development, the realistic, yet interesting and even at times amusing dialogue and characters (for instance, Caine telling Robertson in his cockney accent: "now what's got you jumping about like a frog with a bullet up his ass..") and the suspenseful and well-made action sequences. It is not always easy for this kind of film to retain a kind of unsentimental realism and be entertaining at the same time. Yet, Too Late the Hero does it. While they are not particularly sympathetic characters (there are none in the film, except maybe for the Japanese major), Cliff Robertson and Michael Caine manage to become likeable anti-heroes in their own way, each giving excellent performances; American Robertson wondering what the hell he is doing among a rough bunch of Brits fighting the Japanese on a Pacific island until he decides to find his destiny as a hero, and Caine as a brash, cynical, rude, insubordinate and altogether hilarious cockney, mainly concerned about saving his skin. Too Late the Hero does not dwell into making an elaborate anti-war statement. It takes for granted that war is hell and any sane man would just worry about surviving like Caine, Robertson or most of the other soldiers on an increasingly suicidal mission - not as the leader of the group, brilliantly played by Denholm Elliott, who appears suspect and foolish for trying to maintain traditional combat values and discipline. The interactions between Robertson and his unfriendly British companions add to the interest and credibility of the film, while the unusual chase through the jungle and its exciting conclusion contribute to its originality. Not the best war film ever, but a unique one.
"Too Late the Hero" is an excellent WWII piece whose plot served as the
basis for "Aliens" and "Southern Comfort" and is just as good as those other
excellent movies: reluctant hero Cliff Robertson joins a motley group of
soldiers (here British troops, including loud-mouthed Michael Caine and mad
Ian Bannen) led by an incompetent officer, Denholm Elliot, and an
experienced sergeant, Percy Herbert, who dies early on. Soon they are being
stalked by a very ruthless enemy (Japanese troops led by Ken Takakura, whose
role is, refreshingly, not a stereotype - coming across as a rather
efficient officer) and shifty Ronald Fraser attempts to save his skin at the
expense of the others.
As this is Robert Aldrich there is a lot of brutal action, the characters
have very few redeeming features but are excellently portrayed by Robertson
and the excellent selection of British character actors, and are very
The climactic scene where the survivors race across open ground under fire
from the Japanese is one of the best climaxes ever!
In the spring of 1942, in Southwest Pacific, Captain John G. Nolan
(Henry Fonda) postpones the leave of the volunteer Lieutenant Sam
Lawson (Cliff Robertson) and gives an assignment in New Hebrides Island
with the British troops based on the required profile fluency in
Japanese and good shape. When Lt. Lawson arrives in the base, the
commander explains that the island is divided in the British and
Japanese sectors and he should go with a group of soldiers behind the
Japanese lines to destroy their radio and transmit a false message to
the Japanese forces. Captain Hornsby (Denholm Elliott) is assigned to
lead the group, but during the tense mission, he has friction with
Private Tosh Hearne (Michael Caine). When things go wrong, the soldiers
have to fight to survive while exposing their weakness in character.
"Too Late the Hero" is a realistic and original war movie with human and cynical characters in the jungle of an island in Pacific. Michael Caine plays a rude and insubordinate cockney soldier that is only interested in surviving. Most of the soldiers are cowards that fight only to save their lives and not for patriotism or idealism. The hero of the title is actually an anti-hero that redeems himself in the end. The dialogs are cynical and Tosh has the best lines, like for example, when he proposes to Lawson to go North; or when he talks about the hole where he lives in his hometown in a total lack of perspective. My only remark is the long running time that could be a little shorter. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): "Assim Nascem os Heróis" ("This Way the Heroes Are Born")
ASSOCIATED BRITISH COMPANY comes this well told tale of a WW 2 SOE/OSS commando mission to destroy a japanese communications base. The film also stars KEN TAKAKURA as a non sadisitic japanese commander which is a change of pace from the john wayne..."let's avenge the USS ARIZONA" SANDS OF IWO JIMA fare. The character he portrays (takakura) is full of honor and humanity.he is a soldier fighting on what the US would consider the wrong side of the war but from his perspective his side is the right side. I rather enjoy this film as CLIFF ROBERTSON and MICHAEL CAINE give two brilliant performances. The original score adds to the films flavor and it is one of the better produced WW 2 commando films I ate up as a kid on tv. ASSOCIATE BRITISH COMPANY has no relation to the united states tv network ABC for a while they were a british company that did work with BBC and THAMES etc. The look of the film is authentic and Caine gives a briliant performance as a pessimist..the anti secular humansit hot off the heels of BATTLE OF BRITAIN..the nice thing is in this movie he doesn't get eliminated early in the feature. I recommend this movie to WW 2 and action buffs. this and OBSESSION are two of CLIFF ROBERTSONS best roles.
Too Late the Hero is directed by Robert Aldrich who also co-writes the
screenplay with Lukas Heller and Robert Sherman. It stars Michael
Caine, Cliff Robertson, Henry Fonda, Ken Takakura, Denholm Elliott,
Lance Percival, Ronald Fraser and Ian Bannen. Music is by Gerald Fried
and cinematography by Joseph F. Biroc.
Lawson (Cliff Robertson) is an American naval officer who specialises in Asiatic languages, thus he is sent to a Pacific island to assist a group of British soldiers on what seems a routine mission. The mission is to simply knock out the Japanese army's key transmitter, but as the men get deeper into the jungle terrain it becomes obvious that the odds of survival are minimal at best. With inner fighting escalating and a hostile enemy closing in fast, it's a time for heroes to be born and friendships to be laid bare.
Often, and wrongly, considered a weak attempt by Aldrich to cash in on the success of his Dirty Dozen movie three years earlier, Too Late the Hero had been written some ten year previously. Although some way away from the gutsy grandeur and bulging biceps of The Dirty Dozen, TLTH is still a potent war movie. Often claustrophobic in mood and acerbic in war character observations, film holds narrative attention from first reel to last. Bursts of violence drift in and out of the plot to keep things on the boil, but it's the excellently drawn characterisations of the major players that stops this from merely being another run of the mill "insanity of war" movie. It's also nice to find the Japanese are portrayed as an intelligent foe, and not the irksome machine gun fodder so rife in other films of the ilk. It helps to have Takakura turning in a stoic performance as part of the latter, too.
Some other astute reviewers has given this film a tag line of it being a unique war film, not a truer line has been typed on the internet forums. This film, tho not bringing anything new by way of the psychological aspects of men under duress, always remains a thoroughly engrossing picture. Helmed by the criminally undervalued Aldrich, film boasts a ream of excellent performers making it unique by bringing to life a screenplay that's not pandering to any conformity's of the genre, it relies totally on strength of dialogue and character formations to capture our interest. Really the only charge from dissenters that might stick here is that it's arguably just another Vietnam allegory that the 70s seemed intent on giving us. Arguably, mind.
It's a bloody suicide mission!
That the cast list contains Michael Caine (brilliant here with gritty swagger), Cliff Robertson, Denholm Elliott and a barely used Henry Fonda is of obvious interest from the start, but the ace card in Too Late The Hero's pack is with its supporting players, Ian Bannen, Harry Andrews, Ronald Fraser and a serious turn from comedy specialist, Lance Percival, where all of them in the sweltering confines of the Phillipines location manage to pull the viewer into the mix and fully realise the crispness of Aldrich's excellent screenplay; aided superbly by Biroc who manages to convey via his photography some apt sweaty jungle madness. Yes! This is not a film for those wanting guns a blazing at every turn, it's simply not that type of Gung-Ho picture, those bursts of action, while hitting hard, are swamped by the focused action of the human mind at work, the kind where greed, mistrust and a basic survival instinct are the order of the day.
The set-up of the two opposing armies on this island is a bit daft, so some suspension of logic is needed from the off, while there's no escaping the fact that there are a number of war movie clichés within. Yet this is still potent stuff, a film with things to say and corrosive in its telling. Making for once, the negativity of such material, still a rewarding viewing experience. 8/10
This taut war film is set during spring 1942 WWII, a superior
officer(Henry Fonda) assigns a reluctant American lieutenant (Clift
Robertson) a dangerous mission in island of New Hebridas . At the
island of Pacific , British military rule over the South region, while
Japanese govern the North part . The goal of US Navy turns out to be
the occupying the Japanese zone . For getting the objective is
necessary destroying a radio station from Japanese . The lieutenant
goes to the regiment commanded by a colonel (Harry Andrews) joining
forces for participate the suicidal mission . It's formed a commando
under orders a captain (Denholm Elliott) and a motley gang of soldiers
released after fall of Singapur , as a tough sergeant (Percy Herbert
who was actually a prisoner of the Japanese Army in The Second World
War) , a mad soldier (Ian Bannen), a despicable private (Ronald Frazer)
, among them.
This exciting war movie contains thrills , noisy action , rousing adventure , tension , lots of violence and twists and turns . Well made plot is based on a story by Robert Sherman and the same director Robert Aldrich . The powerful Aldrich camera crams in as much shock impact as possible . The picture kept afloat by the skills of their all-star cast formed by largely British actors . Michael Caine as a cynical soldier sustains and compels interest by careful concentration on his acting with cockney accent . Clift Robertson as lieutenant avoiding patriotism , gives a good performance , as always . There're strong portrayals by Ronald Fraser as a rogue private and Ken Takakura as Japanese officer . Thrilling and suspenseful musical score by musician Gerard Fried, Stanley Kubrik's usual . Nice cinematography by Joseph Biroc reflecting appropriately the lush jungle . Tense and brilliant direction by Robert Aldrich , a warlike (Dirty Dozen,Attack) and Western (Ulzana's raid , Apache , Veracruz) expert . It's a must see and a standout in its genre .
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