For today’s movie, we have the 1962 war film Merrill’s Marauders, starring Jeff Chandler, Ty Hardin, Peter Brown, Will Hutchins and Andrew Duggan. But before we get into that, here’s my poll for picking the “Star Of The Month” for February 2021!
Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming (I know it’s cliche, but I like it just the same)…
Coming Up Shorts! with… Dial “P” For Pink (1965)
(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 1 (1964-1966) from Kino Lorber)
(Length: 6 minutes, 31 seconds)
A klutzy safecracker tries to rob a safe that the Pink Panther has taken up residence in. A few enjoyable gags as the safecracker keeps having trouble getting into the safe, whether with the dial, tools or explosives that don’t work in is favor. Maybe not the cartoon series at its absolute best, but it certainly keeps on making things work well! At least I had fun watching it!
And Now For The Main Feature…
In the jungles of Burma during World War II, a group of Allied forces under the command of Brigadier General Frank Merrill (Jeff Chandler) prepare for an assault on the Japanese-held village of Walawbum. Between Frank’s group and that of his Second lieutenant Lee Stockton (Ty Hardin), their attack is successful. All the men, including Frank, are hopeful that their victory means that they can go home, but General Joseph W. Stillwell (John Hoyt) arrives. He orders Frank to take his men and attack the railroad center at Shaduzup as well as the airstrip at Myitkyina. Reluctantly, Frank orders his men to keep moving toward Shaduzup, as they travel through swamps and rivers to get there. Along the way, the men have to deal with leeches, illness and hunger. Even Frank has health issues, as he is forced to confide in his doctor, Captain Abraham Lewis Kolodny (Andrew Duggan), although he asks the doctor to keep this to himself. The men manage to beat the Japanese at Shaduzup, but they lose quite a few men and are completely exhausted afterwards. After much thought, Frank decides they should still move on to Myitkyina, much to the dismay and anger of his men. But can they make it, exhausted as they are, and still beat the enemy?
Merrill’s Marauders was based on the 1959 book The Marauders by Charles Ogburn, a communications officer who had been involved with the original group. Director Sam Fuller had been trying to make a push for Warner Brothers to produce his own autobiographical film The Big Red One, and he went along with Warner’s choice to do this film, as it was considered to be a “dry run” for his own film. Fuller had wanted Gary Cooper for the lead role, and Gary did accept it at first, but he was diagnosed with the cancer that would kill him, so he had to turn it down. And while Sam Fuller was able to get Jeff Chandler to do the role, Jeff’s own back issues caused him trouble, and after filming was done, he underwent surgery for a spinal disc herniation, only to die from complications. The movie ended up being a hit, but Sam Fuller was less than thrilled with the studio-mandated replacements of different scenes with footage done by another director, resulting in his film The Big Red One being delayed for almost twenty years.
Personally, I enjoyed this movie very much. I had fun seeing TV actors Will Hutchins (whom I mainly know from the Warner TV Western Sugarfoot) and Ty Hardin (best known from the Warner TV Western Bronco) in this movie, along with a few other familiar faces. A lot of the movie’s charm is its emphasis on the characters (well, some of the leaders moreso than some of the minor characters), and not as much on the battle scenes (although I thought they were well done, too). You certainly do get to feel for the men, especially when we see how all the fighting and traveling just wears them down, yet they have to keep pushing on. Admittedly, for those who prefer more modern films with all the blood and gore, you won’t find that here (which suits me just fine, as I prefer movies without it). The only point about the movie that lets me down a little is its ending, which seems a little too quick, as I wish they would have continued on just a bit. Other than that, I really enjoyed this movie, and it’s certainly one I would easily recommend!
What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2019) with… Merrill’s Marauders (1962)
This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive Collection. While this is my first time seeing this movie, I will definitely say that the transfer looks great! The colors all look quite natural, the detail is amazing, and the removal of dirt and specks, etc., is quite good, so if you want to see this movie, then the recent Blu-ray release is most certainly the way to go!
Film Length: 1 hour 38 minutes
My Rating: 9/10