5 April 2010 | JoeytheBrit
The stage play origins of this badly-dated wartime propaganda film are plain to see - or hear. People talk endlessly, and for the main part the aim seems to be to show just how ordinary their characters are. That's all very laudable, but it doesn't exactly make for riveting cinema.
William Eythe, one of Hollywood's blandest leading men - whose faltering career would drive him to alcoholic despair and an early grave - fails to grab our attention or empathy as a farm boy who finds himself battling with the Japs on some Philippine island. Although he's listed as the leading man, the status is nominal, and he finds himself struggling to stand out amongst an ensemble cast that includes the likes of Harry Morgan and Vincent Price. Morgan is the voice of doubt in the unit, who looks to the past when forming an opinion instead of acting for the future of the next generation; Price is an impoverished Southern aristocrat type, given to quoting Shakespeare at the drop of a hat; it's an eye-catching performance, although not, perhaps, for the right reasons. His southern accent is so weak it barely manages to crawl from his mouth before tripping from his lips with a dull thud.
The story plays second fiddle to the morale-boosting philosophising of its characters, and too much talk means the pace drags badly. In the final reel, the propaganda is ladled on like a thick creamy soup with characters speaking lines that must have had the audience squirming even back then. Essentially, the final message is a call to the parents of the nation to pass the baton to the next generation and allow all their fuzzy-cheeked boys to place themselves in the firing line.