“Beach Red” is set on an unnamed island in the Pacific in WWII. It was shot in the Philippines and the Philippine army provided soldiers to play the Japanese. It is supposed to represent any of the small islands we assaulted in 1943-1944.
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The movie opens with Marines waiting to board landing craft. We hear the men’s thoughts, which is the first indication that this will not be a traditional war movie. We also get the first of a recurring shot of a cock roach about to be stomped. (If you have to ask why, you just don’t get it, man.) Wilde is directing outside the box. The landing uses actual combat footage interspersed with Wilde’s action. There is lots of action and the actors are realistically sweating. However, this was pre-boot camp for war movie actors, so the actors look like actors playing war. We get the old school fake, bloodless deaths. Invariably, men throw their arms up in the air as they go down from bullet wounds. One guy loses his arm in a shot that supposedly influenced “Saving Private Ryan”.
From the beach, they proceed into a grassy meadow that does not do a good job portraying a jungle. Doesn’t the Philippines have some jungle they could have used? They proceed inland with some clearly too-modern tanks (actually M41 Walker Bulldogs – post WWII). We continue to hear the thoughts of the men and see flashbacks to civilian life. The flashbacks are shown via still photos (WTF) and some home-movie like shots. Interestingly, the Japanese also get their time on screen, but without subtitles. The Japs stand in for the Viet Cong, apparently.
The commander is a Capt. MacDonald (Wilde) who is a reluctant warrior type who is sensitive and humane. His subordinate Gunnery Sgt. Honeywell (Rip Torn) is the opposite. He growls lines like “That’s what we’re here for. To kill. The rest is all crap.” He chews the scenery as much as his cigar. Geneva Convention? What Geneva Convention? In one act, he breaks both arms of a prisoner.
A group is sent out to capture prisoners. This results in some unrealistic hand-to-hand fighting. Later, a patrol is sent out to recon. They bring a spool of communications wire which they unspool as they twist and turn through the jungle! They find the Japanese planning a counterattack and head home. The Japs are wearing Marine uniforms. Can they do that? All’s fair in love and war. Of course, you have to wonder how in the hell they acquired the uniforms. MacDonald calls in an air strike so the Japanese are slaughtered by phony planes dropping nonexistent bombs. The Japanese commander commits hari-kari, naturally.
Two BFFs – Cliff (Patrick Wolfe) and Egan (Burr DeBenning) – are featured in the movie. Cliff is a middle-class college boy type. Egan is a yokel who loves canned beans. Cliff must have a bad sense of smell. Did you know that opposites attract? At one point, they encounter one of the Japanese characters and there is a ridiculous fight scene to close the movie.
I went to Rotten Tomatoes to check out the reviews. There were only three and shockingly they were all positive. One supposed movie critic actually claimed that “Beach Red” was a better movie than “Saving Private Ryan” and “The Thin Red Line”! Drug use is a bad thing. Another reviewer theorized that Wilde’s film influenced those other movies. That’s right, Speilberg and Malick copied Cornell Wilde! They are frauds. For some reason, Speilberg and Malick did not borrow Wilde's idea of having a sappy song (see clip below) recur throughout their movies, go figure.
This movie is laughably bad. Literally. It is a ridiculous blend of old school war movie with avant-garde gimmicks. It is unrealistic, inaccurate, and badly acted. When your third and fourth bills are Patrick Wolfe and Burr DeBenning, you know you are not in Oscar territory. If you insist on watching it, have a six pack at hand and take a drink every time someone says something stupid or something pretentious happens. You’ll be drunk soon and will enjoy the movie better. Afterwards, you can argue with your friends about how “Beach Red” is superior to “Saving Private Ryan”. “Screw you, dude, there never would have been a Thin Red Line if it hadn’t been for the genius of Cornel Wilde”. Swings punch, misses, falls over coffee table, arms up in the air, fake blood.
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