Beach Red Cornel Wilde

Beach Red is so naïve and so clumsy that it nearly falls apart in your hands, but its vision of war as hell has such innocent sincerity that it somehow never does. Director Cornel Wilde stars as the leader of some WWII pups as they storm some Pacific Theatre beach — they hit the ground running, they take fire, they try to take the jungle and that, more or less, is it. Every time somebody opens their mouth the dialogue is false and preachy, but nobody really gets the chance — they're dodging bullets and facing certain death. Meaning the standard patriotic war movie blather gets the bum's rush in favour of chaos and destruction. Even the Japanese seem ambivalent and what's-it-all-about? in the face of all the slaughter — surely a Hollywood first. It's not especially subtle about how it gets its effects, and there are some photo-montage reminiscences about girls back home that are guaranteed to make you cringe. But what it lacks in skill it makes up for in earnest ambition; it wants to be a B version of Miklos Jansco's The Red and the White, and though it falls well short it goes further than some other Hollywood products of the time. If Wilde is no master (and has no ear for dialogue), he's got such faith in his material that he manages to make you care in spite of yourself, with a few good bits that might have been swiped for Apocalypse Now and The Thin Red Line. It's tempting to read it as a subterfuge Vietnam film — the parallels between another war fought by Americans against Asians are too obvious to ignore — but whatever the motive, it's a fascinating, surprisingly effective curio that's worth a look. (MGM)