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In the spring of 1942, following the blockade run that took General Douglas MacArthur and his staff from the Philippines to the safety of Australia, the survivors of a bombed and sunk PT boat make their way to shore. The skipper tells his men they have top priority passes if they can make their way to Del Monte airfield two hundred miles away, and advises them to split up into pairs. Ensign Chuck Palmer and crewman Jim Mitchell finally reach Tacloban on the island of Leyte. In an American mission school, Palmer meets Jeanne Martinez, who is urgently trying to see the officer in charge with a request for help for a relative, and he also learns that the Japanese have captured the airfield. Palmer tries to make Australia by a boat that sinks in a tropical storm, and has to swim for shore. All through 1942, Palmer and the other survivors dodge enemy patrols while living off the land.Written by
Les Adams <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In the book, which was based on a true story, Jeanne Martinez was not French, but a Filipina. See more »
Ensign Palmer said the navy rank of Ensign was equal to an army Major. This is not true since an Ensign is pay grade O-1 and Major is pay grade O-4. An Ensign would be equal to an Army Second Lieutenant. See more »
There were hundreds of these cheap-ish World War Two quickies in the decade following the close of the conflict itself. They differed little from those produced during the war, still being in a kind of adulatory propagandistic mode, except that they were a little more vague usually having no direct message. What's more, as more time went by the seemed to get further and further from the realities of the conflict.
An American Guerrilla in the Philippines sees Tyrone Power, swashbuckling idol of the pre-war years, as an officer battling Japs in the Philippine jungle. Power has matured as an actor since his pictures a decade earlier, appearing tougher and less boyish, although he has also become less interesting in the process. His performance is steady and natural, but he is unable to make anything of what is admittedly a rather bland character on paper anyway. His buddy Tom Ewell is an unusual addition to the cast. He was in later years a very fine comedy actor, but it's hard to tell if he's appearing here as comic relief or not. In some moments, such as his burbling in the water trying to stay afloat, seem as if he is trying to play them for laughs, inappropriately if so, and certainly not at all funny. The rest of the cast is simply plain bad or plain boring.
Director Fritz Lang is normally someone who can give a nice baroque touch to even the most American of film formats, while still remain true to genre and tone. He seems uncertain however quite what to do with this one. He gives many shots in the jungle an abstract feel, with no familiar points of reference, giving them a threateningly wild look. Often his camera takes a spectator's position, peeping out through foliage. It's hard to tell what purpose this serves, as it distances us from the events on screen. Incidentally, Lang was a very good director of crowds and action, as evidenced in his big-budget silent pictures. There are some very powerful moments, with characters moving straight towards us down the middle of the shot and memorably stylised movements. However for a director who is normally so good at imbuing his work with a dark and nightmarish feel, An American Guerrilla in the Philippines has none of the bleak terror of, say, Operation Burma, a picture which really worked because it made us the audience feel lost within the jungle ourselves.
And ultimately An American Guerrilla in the Philippines is too light, and too sparing on any true sense of tragedy. It's lack of a real feeling of danger gives it many dull stretches, and its lack of realism does a disservice to those involved in the conflict. All of which is rather odd because the picture is also far from being a comedy. The only thing which saves it and makes it watchable is Fritz Lang's strong, vibrant imagery, such as dozens of hats waving in the air or a soldier's dying scream just inches from the lens. Having said that, there are far better Fritz Lang pictures to see these brilliant touches in.
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