Thursday, March 12, 2015

LIVE: Beachhead! (1954)

                cool cold opening with some Marines blending into the environment / a Marine is killed by a random explosion or mine and the title comes exploding onto the screen – his mate reacts with a shrug / Sarge orders his men to put away their cigarettes – can they do that in a war movie?  reason- “They can smell those all the war to Japan!” no farting either, guys / Sarge scolds a Marine for calling him Sarge, the Japs might hear and target him ->> the Japs have two super senses (hearing and smell)  / Sarge has a history – he screwed up on Guadalcanal (redemption coming) / mission:  rescue a plantation owner who know about minefields – it’s a suicide mission movie / put on your Chuck Taylors – they literally do this / Sarge takes Tony Curtis and two other guys who are not Tony Curtis /  the Sarge decides not to ambush some sitting duck Japs (is he a coward?), but then decides to order one of the men to drop a grenade into a tank (is he reckless?); the guy gets pulled into the tank before the grenade goes off killing him and the Japs --> that’s a new one at least / they are being chased so they get three Japanese bodies to fake out the pursuers / Tony goes out at night with a knife between his teeth – “This is where I was born.” huh? / the plantation owner has a daughter and she is hot – not!  is there some sexual tension between Tony and Nina, even though he doesn’t like dames on a mission? / they reach a radio station, but it’s booby-trapped;  Sarge lures the chasing Japs into the station and they are blown up by their own explosion – ironic / on the run again, now the enemy has a sniper with them / Tony asks Nina to be his girl, but she jilts him / a love triangle develops as Sarge’s tale of Guadalcanal engenders sympathy from Nina / they capture a sad sack Jap, but trade him to some vengeance-minded natives for a boat! torture noises in the background / Nina manages to fall out of the boat and breaks her ankle / Tony duels with the sniper and it ends up in a hilarious fight that starts outside and ends up inside of a cave / unfortunately Tony survives to snuggle with Nina – yuck! / they reach the rendezvous, but a Japanese destroyer opens fire and destroys one of the PT-boats sent to pick them up; this is actually a lucky break because Tony swims out and uses a grenade to ignite the oil and blow up the destroyer!  very poor special effects / here comes another Jap warship – that sucks, but wait –it’s American! God bless America!

"Take my career with you, Tony"
                “Beachhead!” was directed by Stuart Heisler from the novel “I’ve Got Mine” by Richard Hubler.  It was filmed in Hawaii which must have been nice for the people involved.  The Marines refused to cooperate with the production because of the 50% casualty rate for the mission.  That was bad for recruiting.  Tony Curtis was a big get for the otherwise B-movie pretensions.  Curtis was coming off “Houdini” and probably wished he could have made “Beachhead!” disappear from his resume.  Curtis was a veteran of the war in the Pacific.  He served on a submarine tender which is where he must have learned how to blow up a destroyer with a grenade and an oil slick.

                The movie is surprisingly not terrible.  The acting is tolerable with the exception of Mary Murphy as Nina.  She is atrocious and not good enough looking to overcome it.  The story is unusual and has some elements that you rarely if ever see in a war movie.  There’s probably a reason for that.  Cliches are clichés because they work as entertainment.  The twist of turning over the Japanese captive is a nice one and fits a 1960s war film better than an Old School 1950s flick.  On the other hand, the romance is very predictable and lame.  The music is better than you could expect, but the cinematography does not stand out.  This is odd because I have read that the movie is an early example of cinema verite.  I did not catch that Heisler was trying to achieve observational cinema.  I have a feeling he did not realize the style he was using until the critics lauded him for it.  “Yeah, that’s what I was going for.”

"Your gun is so big.  What are you going to do with it?"

P.S. Check out that tag line "an untamed (nope) captive (nope) beauty (nope)".


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