"Well, most people like it and I like it, and I'm working hard and trying to keep the cost down"

J. Russell Finch CEO & President
The Pacific Edible Seaweed Company
Fresno, CA.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

HALLS OF MONTEZUMA 1950


Hosted by The Hannibal 8


"Action With The Battling Leathernecks !"




    Released by Fox, this 1950 Technicolor war epic features a terrific cast (many of whom were just starting out) and while at first glance it does seem to be something that would have been made about 6 years or so earlier (one of the "why we need to fight" WWII pictures) it does attempt to get into a bit more into the psychological side of things and thanks to full corporation on the USMC it features scads of post WWII Marine armor and vehicles. Filmed in Southern Calif. around Camp Pendleton (along with a stop off at famous Bronson Cavern) the filmmakers were allowed access to hundred of Marines for use as extras.
    Although basically a 113 minute recruiting advertisement for the Marines (recruiting stations were set up in theatre lobbies) it was directed by Lewis Milestone who rather ironically had directed what is considered to be one of the greatest anti-war films ever - ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT from 1930. Although filled with gung-ho rousing action sequences (with the Marine Hymn blasting away on the soundtrack) as mentioned the story does attempt to get a little deeper into a few of the soldiers back story (admittedly with somewhat overdone melodrama) and when characters do die, they die an agonizingly slow death while dragging themselves through the mud (albeit still heroically). The movie was parodied in Robert Altman's MASH from 1970 as one of the PA announcements for an upcoming movie night.



    Focusing on a Marine platoon during an unnamed WWII Pacific battle (it's based loosely upon Okinawa) the film feature Richard Widmark as the Lt., Karl Malden as the medic, along with Neville Brand, Jack Palance, Skip Homeier, Robert Wagner, Martin Milner, Brett Freed (who as the tough Sgt. here would in a few years would be replaced by Aldo Ray in this type of role) and Richard Hylton as the remainder as the central group of soldiers that we're introduced to in the films opening sequences. The remainder of the cast includes Richard Boone (in his big screen debut) as the command figure in the form of a Col. perpetually suffering from a cold, Reginald Gardner as an intelligence officer and Japanese interpreter (also supplying a bit of comedy relief) and Jack Webb as a war correspondent.
     This ensemble (sans Boone) is sent on a mission to locate a hidden Japanese rocket battery that has to be destroyed by a certain time in order for an offensive to start. Earlier in the movie we were introduced to various members of the squad and how their problems such as Widmark's migraine headaches, Hylton's cowardice and Homeier's tough guy attitude play out in the upcoming plot as the groups numbers are whittled down and they become more desperate and disillusioned. It's interesting to see how it's mostly the younger actors (and perhaps those newly under contract) receive the lions share of the back story sequences with Wagner, Homeier and Hylton each receiving a segment. The movie features some spectacular battle footage with actual color combat footage neatly worked in and once the action moves primarily to the island  and the "mission" begins the plot holds interest and excitement in spite of its rather long running time (and as far as a war picture, you couldn't ask for a better cast).



   Playing the war correspondent Dickerman Webb brings the same easy going persona & low key sense of humor that he did in 1948's HE WALKED BY NIGHT and serves as the conscience of the group. There's even an interrogation scene in which he participates that seems to look forward to DRAGNET. It's always interesting to watch Webb in his early movies as you swear you actually see the wheels turning in his head as he observes the creative process. He would later use Boone in the 1954 DRAGNET movie (where he would essentially play the same character as here) and with even more fortuity this would be his first meeting with a young actor named Martin Milner. HALLS ON MONTEZUMA is available on a Fox DVD that's re-packaged every so often in multi-packs with other Fox war films. Once again a big thanks to Toby over at The Hannibal 8 for hosting this.





         
    

3 comments:

  1. I find the movie more interesting than involving. Strong cast, but scattered script.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do agree, it does seem to have some trouble finding it's center. I'm a sucker for these type of movies however and as you said it's got a strong cast - which helps immensely.

      Delete
  2. I found you by way of Toby's Blogathon. Thanks for posting the still of Martin Milner.

    It's really cool how Jack made a star of him in Adam-12.

    Best,
    Suzy Dragnet

    ReplyDelete