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The Thin Red Line (1964)

In Guadalcanal during World War II, a private and his sergeant clash during the heat of battle with the Japanese.


Andrew Marton


James Jones (from the novel by), Bernard Gordon (screenplay)


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Keir Dullea ... Pvt. Doll
Jack Warden ... First Sgt. Welsh
James Philbrook James Philbrook ... Col. Tall
Bob Kanter ... Fife (as Robert Kanter)
Ray Daley Ray Daley ... Capt. Stone
Merlyn Yordan Merlyn Yordan ... Judy
Kieron Moore ... Lt. Band
Jim Gillen Jim Gillen ... Capt. Gaff (as James Gillen)
Charles Stalmaker Charles Stalmaker ... (as Charles Stalnaker)
Steve Rowland ... Mazzi
Gary Lasdun Gary Lasdun
Eddy King Eddy King ... (as Edward King)
Jeffrey O'Kelly Jeffrey O'Kelly
Jack Gaskins Jack Gaskins
Joe Collins Joe Collins


Dark tale of one man's determination to survive his tour of duty. Separated from his new wife after only eight days of marriage, private Doll suddenly decides that he will no longer blindly follow the orders of his superiors, following his own mind instead. What follows are a series of poorly planned attacks, in which Doll saves the day, time after time; eventually leading to the taking of the Elephant in the battle of Guadalcanal during World War II. Sgt. Welsh, Doll's immediate line officer grows an affinity for Doll, helping him through his first Kill, but never quite allowing himself to admit his admiration for the young soldier. The final scene of the movie brings home the true horror of war and the meaninglessness of it all. Written by Tophee

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


"From Here To Eternity" Was James Jones' Greatest... Until This One, With All The Guts And Greatness That Sold Over One Million Copies! See more »


Drama | War


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Parents Guide:

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English | Japanese

Release Date:

2 May 1964 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A última batalha See more »

Filming Locations:

Madrid, Spain

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


The film's title comes from James Jones's novel and, in turn, from an old saying. In the movie, Captain Stone, played by Ray Daley, says, "I remember an old Midwest saying, 'There's only a thin red line between the sane and the mad.' "

The original 'Thin Red Line' refers to the routing of a Russian cavalry charge by the Sutherland Highlanders 93rd (Highland) Regiment during the Battle of Balaklava on 25 October 1854, during the Crimean War. See more »


Version of The Thin Red Line (1998) See more »

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User Reviews

The Thin Red Line: the insanity of war and what men do to survive.
6 September 2006 | by RJBurke1942See all my reviews

For those who have read the James Jones novel, you should know that that the production team for this movie paid little heed to the original text. And, that's a shame, because the true horror and insanity of war as described by Jones is missing: instead, what you see is an attempt at a psychological explanation in the guise of one of the characters, Private Doll (Keir Dullea).

Briefly, the story concentrates upon Doll – a somewhat nervous but seemingly normal soldier at first -- showing how he gradually degenerates into a killing machine who not only wants to kill the enemy – in this case, the Japanese garrison at Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands – but eventually the soldiers of his own company as well. War is hell, as we know, but is that a likely result from the stress of battle and a crazy desire to survive at any cost? Apparently so, according to the screenwriter and director.

Inexplicably, top sergeant Welch (Jack Warden), who in the novel really is as crazy as hell, is portrayed instead as a tough – but sincere -- no-nonsense veteran (who's character for the movie is no doubt modeled on Duke Wayne's portrayal of Sergeant Stryker in The Sands of Iwo Jima, [1949]) who pushes Doll to the limits, goading him all the time in order to help make Doll a better soldier and thus survive the war. Does he succeed? You be the judge, should you see the movie.

The other characters of the novel are virtually ignored, except for the tussle between Col. Tall (James Philbrook) and Capt. Stone (Ray Daley) that rams home the point that nice guys always finish last. Like I said, war is hell... And, in a daring departure for the times, the overt homosexuality between Doll and Fife in the novel is actually hinted at, visually and in the dialog, on quiet a few occasions.

I liked the black and white cinematography; it brought back memories of the Iwo Jima classic and Duke Wayne. The overall production, however, lacked the realism of that, and other classics (All Quiet on the Western Front [1930], Paths of Glory [1957], The Rats of Tobruk [1944] and others), the special effects were hardly special, and the overall effect was one of a cheap production done over a few weeks somewhere in southern California (none of the terrain even vaguely resembled a tropical rain forest as exists at Gaudalcanal).

For the times, the production was about equal to any B-movie you'd see at a Saturday afternoon cinema or drive-in, and about as exciting. As a piece of Hollywood production history, it's worth seeing, I guess. For a more serious and far superior production, however, see Terence Malick's presentation of The Thin Red Line from 1998.

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