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  Battle Cry The Long Road Back
Year: 1955
Director: Raoul Walsh
Stars: Van Heflin, Aldo Ray, Mona Freeman, Nancy Olson, James Whitmore, Raymond Massey, Tab Hunter, Dorothy Malone, Anne Francis, William Campbell, John Lupton, L.Q. Jones, Perry Lopez, Fess Parker, Jonas Applegarth, Tommy Cook, Felix Noriego, Susan Morrow
Genre: Drama, WarBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: His name is Mac (James Whitmore) and he is a sergeant in the marines, but that's not important right now. He tells us of the new recruits to his outfit in January 1942, just as the United States of America was entering the Second World War. Some of them had sweethearts who waved them goodbye as they left on the train, promising to be faithful to them until they got back, though sadly this was not always going to be the case. They were drawn from all areas of society, from the poor immigrants to the Native Americans to the intellectual bookworms to the regular guys, but they would all be put through the regime to make soldiers of them...

Leon Uris adapted his blockbusting bestseller novel Battle Cry for this film version, directed by an expert in two-fisted action movies in Raoul Walsh, but if you were expecting two-and-a-half hours of hell in the Pacific, then you might have been disappointed. What you actually got for your ticket was closer in spirit to a women's picture of the day, as the story was more concerned with the love lives of the marines-to-be, and the females who gave them a reason to fight, someone to come home to.

It's interesting to compare this to a later film that took half of its running time to examine the nature of training: Full Metal Jacket. They both have faith that the military machine will mould these young men into fighting warriors, but here they're far more noble, if just as callow at the start. We see them drilling and being humiliated by their superiors so they understand their place in this war, but although harsh, we can see that this is a benevolent set-up really, unlike the cynical trappings of the Stanley Kubrick film.

Although, there are still crack-ups to be suffered through, but here it's not so much the pressure of having to learn how to kill that tips these men over the edge, temporarily for all of them granted, but the fact that they will be without female company. One of them has a breakdown when he receives a "Dear John" letter and goes on a drinking binge that he has to be saved from by his buddies (a massive barroom punch-up ensues), while another, Danny (a young Tab Hunter) frets over the fiancée he has left back home; he is one of the lucky ones, however, as she stands by her man.

The biggest subplot - the combat being the main one - features Aldo Ray's Andy who falls in love with a young widow, Pat (Nancy Olson), he meets in New Zealand where the marines are stationed. She is reluctant at first, but he wins her over with his rough-hewn charm, and here is an interesting example of pre-marital sex being treated as not something sinful as it was in most fifties Hollywood movies, but as a fact of life and even bringing a sense of purpose when Pat falls pregnant. Now Andy has something to go on for, and if he considers deserting, he is shown the light when Pat explains that he and millions like him have a job to do to secure freedom for the world. It's aspects like these that make Battle Cry stand out as more sympathetic than some of its peers; yes, there is still flagwaving and corn aplenty - witness Major Van Heflin's reward for being too keen to enter the fray - but there was emotional depth here. Music by Max Steiner.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Raoul Walsh  (1887 - 1980)

American director with a talent for crime thrillers. Originally an actor (he played John Wilkes Booth in Birth of a Nation) his biggest silent movie successes were The Thief of Bagdad and What Price Glory? He lost an eye while directing In Old Arizona, but went on to steady work helming a variety of films throughout the thirties, including The Bowery and Artists and Models.

After directing The Roaring Twenties, Walsh really hit his stride in the forties: They Drive By Night, High Sierra, Gentleman Jim, The Strawberry Blonde, Desperate Journey, Objective Burma!, Colorado Territory and the gangster classic White Heat were all highlights. Come the fifties, films included A Lion is in the Streets and The Naked and the Dead, but the quality dipped, although he continued working into the sixties. He also directed the infamous Jack Benny film The Horn Blows at Midnight (which isn't that bad!).

 
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