We’re off to the jungles of Burma for the 1959 war movie Never So Few, starring Frank Sinatra and Gina Lollobrigida.
Captain Tom Reynolds (Frank Sinatra) leads a force of American and Kachin fighters in Burma during the second World War. After losing his aid in a skirmish with the Japanese, Tom sends a message to headquarters to request a meeting with his commander. In Calcutta, he demands medicine and a doctor to help deal with his wounded soldiers. Tom and British Captain Danny De Mortimer (Richard Johnson) are forced to take two weeks leave. They are invited to stay with a wealthy merchant named Nikko Regas (Paul Henreid). Tom immediately falls for Nikko’s mistress, Carla Vesari (Gina Lollobrigida), but she rejects him at first. Tom and Danny return to their troops in time for Christmas, but during the holiday celebrations, they are attacked by the Japanese. They are able to repel the attack, but Tom is wounded and sent to the air base hospital. When he recovers, he is given orders to attack an airfield, with support from a supply convoy. When the convoy doesn’t come, they go on ahead to the airfield. Their attack is successful, but they lose quite a few men in the process. On the return trip, they run across what remains of the supply convoy, which was apparently attacked by a group of rogue Chinese, and so they cross the border of China to go after them, which has political consequences.
Originally, this movie was apparently intended to feature three members of the “Rat Pack:” Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford and Sammy Davis, Jr. However, an argument between Frank and Sammy over some of Sammy’s recent comments resulted in him being fired. So then-newcomer Steve McQueen (who at that time was mainly known for the western TV series Wanted: Dead Or Alive) was cast in his place. Between the director, John Sturges, and Frank’s urging, Steve McQueen was given a relatively prominent role, which gave him his big chance in the movies. Several years later, McQueen would work with the director again in the classic The Great Escape.
Honestly, my main problem with this movie is the romance between Frank’s Captain Reynolds and Gina’s Carla Vesari. It just feels off, and because of that, it takes up a little too much of the movie’s two hours and five minutes runtime. If there could have been less of that, and a little more time spent with the men under Captain Reynolds’ command, including a young Dean Jones (before he started doing live action movies for Disney) and Charles Bronson, the movie would have been much better. I think the war scenes work quite well (although anybody expecting lots of blood and gore would come away disappointed, as I think the censors still had enough power at the time to minimize that). So, while it has its problems, I do like this movie and would recommend giving it a shot!
Previously available on DVD from Warner Home Video, Never So Few has been given a Blu-ray upgrade by Warner Archive Collection. As the Blu-ray is my first time seeing the movie, I can’t really speak to any earlier releases/transfers, but I think that Warner Archive has given this the transfer it deserves (or better, depending on your opinion of the movie). I have no complaints on the picture quality, which allows the action and the scenery to shine through!
My Rating: 8/10