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John Kent Harrison
Three Marines take shore leave in San Francisco during World War II. Frankie O'Neill visits his lower-class dysfunctional family; Nico Kantaylis visits his pregnant fiancée; and the upper-class Alan Newcombe visits his high-living playgirl girlfriend. Each must decide whether to make the best of his situation or break out of it. O'Neill drowns his troubles in alcohol, losing the respect of a potential lover; Kantaylis marries his fiancée, but realizes he may not survive the war to see his child; while Newcombe sheds his decadent girlfriend for a pure-hearted Hawaiian nurse. Later, in battle, a heroic act costs one of the Marines his life.Written by
The story follows three marines, and their girls, from home leave to combat in the Pacific.
The movie's very much a mixed package. With a couple exceptions, war films of the 1950's shied away from combat realism, whose trauma might easily overwhelm audiences. The second half of this war film does a pretty good job portraying the so-called fog of war, along with perfectly natural emotional and physical reactions to combat death. These scenes are done on exterior sets and are uglified to maximal extent. Such grim scenes are then intercut with sunny scenes in San Francisco, done in glowing candy box colors. The resulting contrast is appropriately jolting, to say the least, and leaves no doubt that between "love" and "war", which is to be preferred.
The trouble lies with a swollen narrative that is too conventional in the "Love" part. It also shows what happens when a big studio, TCF, decides to promote a younger cast into possible stardom. Everybody—about the top seven in the cast list—gets cameo screen time, in the film's first half, especially. This draws out the runtime, and coupled with a conventional script, tends to drag out the first part, long after we've gotten the idea. The actors perform well enough, though O'Neill's (Wagner) drunken binge is over the top, maybe the only time in the actor's generally restrained career. Note, in passing, the post-war symbolism of pairing Newcombe (Dillman) with Kalai (Nuyen).
All in all, the movie's a good look at how Hollywood shaped WWII to commercial needs of the big screen. But is otherwise forgettable.
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