Thursday, August 13, 2015

LIVE: Tarawa Beachhead (1958)

                The movie opens on Guadalcanal.  We get footage of shore bombardment and I recognize the bunker from “Sands of Iwo Jima”.  Suddenly we are inland.  The Japanese are in caves.  The cocky Lt. Brady (Ray Danton – yes, thee Ray Danton!) offers to take the caves.  His attitude is:  “The war is the key to the city.  We make it here, we make it back home.”  There is a frontal attack with grenades and a satchel charge, but a counterattack puts them on the run and only three survive.  One panics and the Lt. shoots him and tells Sgt. Sloan (Kerwin Matthews) to lie about it.  Sloan goes along, but vows revenge.  Brady and Sloan are promoted and sent to New Zealand.  Brady goes to see the dead guy’s wife and based on the music and their eyes, something is going to develop here.  She invites him back.  Slut!  She has a hot kid sister who is dating – you guessed it.  Sloan is working on the plans for Tarawa.  Brady leads a raid on an island to check out the pillboxes that are similar to Tarawa.  Sloan is along.  Does Brady want him dead?  They take the pillboxes with no problem, but some tanks arrive and Sloan leaves Brady behind.  Brady makes it back and confronts Sloan with a pistol, but then he’s interrupted by the director waving the script.  The invasion of Tarawa has some good footage that includes the sea wall and amphtracs.  Surprisingly, Brady fights bravely.  Sloan is in command of a unit on the flank.  Sloan encounters Brady in a bunker, but he has cracked up.  They are stuck together.  Brady makes a suicide attack and is killed.  Before he dies he says:  “It’s men like me that win wars.”  Suddenly the battle is over.  Sloan:  “Maybe it’s guys like him that win wars, maybe they start ‘em.”

The movie has an interesting plot.  It is unclear whether Brady is evil.  Was he wrong to attack the caves and to shoot Campbell when he was going to run away?  The movie is low budget and the actors are B-list, but the acting is not as bad as you would expect from a movie like this.  The combat is unrealistic, but the film makes pretty good use of archival footage.  It could have looked more authentic, except that the Marines refused to cooperate due to the plot.  It goes without saying that the romantic subplot is ridiculous, but it is dropped quickly.  Overall, the movie is average.  It is a shame no one has made a good movie about Tarawa and it’s not likely to happen any time soon.  And yet we have four movies on Stalingrad.


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