Beachhead Stuart Heisler

There's a fine line between action-packed and insanely earnest, and Beachhead crawls defiantly from the former to the latter. It's WWII and four soldiers are sent to collect information from a French planter behind Japanese lines. By the time they've crawled through a substantial stretch of jungle, they've been reduced to two (conflicted CO Frank Lovejoy and lesser-ranked badass Tony Curtis), neither of whom particularly likes the other. The jungle is hot, the enemy is deadly and to top it all off the planter in question is very possibly a spy — just another day at the war office. As a specimen of the Sgt. Rock genus, this has its qualities, particularly a strong sense of conviction and grungy atmospherics that make you feel the sweat and filth of jungle conflict. But though it takes great pains to make the fighting look plenty unpleasant, it also uses that unpleasantness to bolster the manly disposition of the leads. You wind up admiring their laboured guts so much that you decide you want a little some of that for yourself, and its "war is hell/let's kick ass" way of thinking pretty much sums up the conservative doubletalk about combat then and now. The viewer has his/her own dualistic problems. Do you respect the film's undeniable craft and power, and let it carry you through sheer force of filmmaking or do you cringe at the motives, the macho masochism and the constant references to the Japanese as "nips"? The casual filmgoer may vacillate, but anyone who's seen the great anti-militarist war movies of Sam Fuller knows where they stand, and it ain't with Tony Curtis. Make sure you watch to the incongruous happy ending capping off 90 minutes of jungle pain. (MGM)