In the wake of Pearl Harbor's surprise attack, World War II hero, Lt. John Brickley's experimental squadron of agile fast-attack Patrol Torpedo boats is sent to warm and humid Manila to avert a potentially imminent Japanese invasion. As he and his second-in-command, Lieutenant "Rusty" Ryan, desperately try to prove the newly-founded naval unit's worth, the enemy launches a devastating all-out attack--and despite the PT boat flotilla's undeniable success--the considerably outnumbered and outgunned American soldiers are fighting a losing battle. Little by little, the Philippine campaign is doomed to cave in, as comrades-in-arms perish in the sea. Is there glory in defeat?Written by
Robert Montgomery was a real-life PT skipper in World War 2. He helped direct some of the PT sequences for the film when John Ford broke his leg three weeks into filming. Montgomery finished the film and was complimented by Ford for his work. Ford claimed he couldn't tell the difference between his footage and Montgomery's, who took no screen credit. See more »
In the bar scene after the funeral for Squarehead Larsen and Slug Mahan, the radio station playing music and announcing the fall of Bataan is identified as WBKR San Francisco. Stations with call signs beginning with W are in the eastern US. WBKR is currently assigned to an FM station in Owensboro, KY. See more »
Opening credits prologue: Manila Bay In the Year of Our Lord Nineteen hundred and Forty-one See more »
MGM produced a different version, dubbed and with credits in Spanish, probably to be used by television stations. This version omits the final sequence (nearly more than 15 minutes of running time) and the film ends a previous scene with Robert Montgomery and John Wayne saying farewell to the soldiers that had to remain in the Phillipines, then the scene cuts to a plane leaving the island and to a "The End" title in Spanish. This version aired in Argentina in a cable station called "Space". Turner Network Televsion, in all Latin American countries, used to air the film in its original form. However, they lifted the Spanish language dubbing from the old version and, without any explanation why, the last minutes of the film play in English. See more »
The best war films pull no punches. They also make the point that -- irrespective of natural sentiment and political bias -- war is by nature an aberration, lacking any rational basis for justifying its recurrence through the centuries. War is essentially uncivilized, and can be excused only when a disputant being attacked can define a clear and present danger against which no alternative obtains.
Lesser war films tend to extol the virtues of war, glamorize heroism in battle, play on the viewer's emotions, blow things up for the sake of thrills, exaggerate false sentiment, betray a jingoist point of view, and most reprehensible of all cloak themselves in Orwellian speeches that seek to manipulate an unwitting audience into action.
This film is simply one of the best of the best. Except for one or two sequences it relies on believable, non-heroic characters involved in acts of concentrated heroism under the most stressful and suspenseful conditions imaginable. Its tone is that of having been filmed in actual wartime using many actors who themselves were recent combatants. Yet it covers a full range of cinematic possibilities, from a sensitive script to an excellent musical score.
I will not dwell on all the aspects of authentic, almost documentary, elements in this film. I spent the war on the home front, and thus do not know of all the technically correct parts that others here have commented on. My own recollection was that most of the ordinary joes were always referring to Douglas MacArthur as "Dugout Doug," a derogatory swipe at his flight to Australia and reluctance to go on the offensive for some time thereafter.
Like other great war films such as All Quiet on the Western Front and Paths of Glory, this one takes its place right up there.
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