During World War II, Brig. Gen. Merrill (Jeff Chandler) commands a unit of 3000 soldiers, known as "Merrill's Marauders," on a secret mission through Burma, which is occupied by the Japanese. With the help of an elite intelligence troop, headed by 2nd Lt. Stockton (Ty Hardin), the Marauders manage to traverse hundreds of miles of jungle unnoticed. But, as soon as they make it out alive, they're informed by military higher-ups that they've completed only the first of many harrowing objectives.
solid war movie
It's 1942 and the Axis powers are at their zenith. Allied forces are retreading in Burma. Gen. Frank D. Merrill directs three thousand American soldiers through the jungle to attack the Japanese forces in Walawbum. After gaining a difficult victory, they're ordered to do an impossible march over mountains and attack.
Like the epic march, this is also a bit of a slough. The characters aren't really the star of this movie. It's the march. It has the elements but it doesn't have the tension. The jungle battle scenes have lots of extras running around but they lack the thrills of great action directing. This is a solid war movie and the final numbers are shocking. It may be worthwhile to keep a running tally on that number.
Tedious war movie
This is the story of the fore-runners of the US Special Forces, a unit of guerrillas headed up by General Merrill, played ruggedly by Jeff Chandler.
They are relentlessly heroic, exemplars of the undaunted warriors who will carry on and push themselves, dragging up reserves of will and energy that Andrew Duggan, the MO, simply cannot believe.
They shoot a lot of the enemy, a lot of them get killed, more get wounded, and only a minority survive.
But it's very boring. It's simply a series of jungle warfare sequences. One can amuse oneself by awarding points for realism and artistic merit for the extras' deaths, but otherwise, unless you are completely addicted to jungle war movies, give this one a miss.
Good, not great, war movie
This movie was like any other war movie at the time (1962). It was a good movie because it depicted the only American force to be fighting in Burma and the India border. This movie, I think, was able to bring the 3rd theatre of war (The Burman theatre) to Americans, to show in a greater sense just how much of a world war WW2 was. Good movie, but still some American hollywoodism at its best. Good depiction of the fighting, showing American and Japanese fighting, but also the British, who were defending India and trying to liberate Burma and the rest of Eastern Asia. It showed that the Americans were certainly not the only ones fighting the Japanese.
Overall, fairly true to the real story, well written (except for certain stupid things - hollywoodism again), mostly well acted, and well directed and filmed. After watching, I was not thrilled by it, but was happy to see that the Americans did fight in Burma and that they were not the only ones fighting the Japanese.
This probably was not Sam Fuller's lowest budget movie. In fact, if the information here on IMDb is correct, it had a fairly decent budget. But I suspect that makes no difference at all to his style or the movie that he made. There is no CGI, no jump cuts and no shaky-cam. He got his actors to act and made effective use of pyrotechnics and extras to put realistic and horrifying battle on film.
I am not a prolific reviewer, in fact I probably average 2 or 3 reviews a year. That's because I normally only bother when a movie makes me feel something (or it really makes me mad). It might be laughter or it might be horror but to me a worthwhile movie has to make you react. And this movie certainly does that.
The story is worth telling but like most of Fuller's work the focus is really on the people and not on glory. The acting is superb and supremely believable. The actors in this movie aren't really known for award quality work but they really impress here. Samuel Fuller ignores the usual formulaic tropes and tells the story his way. There's an unneeded intro and a bombastic outro that I suspect were added by the studio but it starts where it starts and ends where it ends. No attempts to make a neat little package.
The story is gripping and Fuller makes you feel like you have a personal interest in the outcome. His writing is top notch and tight with no filler. There is no obligatory love interest in this movie and no cheesy flashbacks either. It's relentless and often grim but always effective. I'm not a historian but I feel that it captures the essence of the real life battles.
His direction is masterful. From the claustrophobic to the panoramic he makes the land itself an important character in the film. And he gets amazingly good performances from his actors. You can feel their pain and exhaustion.
Jeff Chandler is more believable than in any other role that I can think of him playing. Most people have likely forgotten that he was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Cochise in Broken Arrow. That was over-shadowed by the the fact that most of his roles were in B and C-grade pictures. Personally I would rate most of his work as competent but not impressive. However I was very impressed by his portrayal of General Merrill. Sadly this was his last film. He died of complications from back surgery before it was released.
One other stand out was Claude Akins. A very competent character actor who really shines in his role as Sergeant Kolowicz. There is a scene with him and a young native boy and an old woman that blew me away. Not a word of dialogue but he makes you feel his pain and it made me tear up in sympathy.
The only bad part about this movie is the knowledge that we will never see it's like again. Give one of today's hotshot directors 500 times the budget and he will probably spend 200 million on CGI that will be impressive as heck but won't really make you feel anything at a visceral level. I suspect that it's a difference in life experience. Sam Fuller and most of the actors in this movie actually lived and fought through the Second World War.
Battle for Burma.
Merrill's Marauders is directed by Samuel Fuller, who also co-adapts the screenplay with Milton Sperling from the book, The Marauders, written by Charlton Ogburn Jr. It stars Jeff Chandler, Ty Hardin, Andrew Duggan, Claude Akins, Peter brown, Will Hutchins and John Hoyt. A Cinemascope/Technicolor production with music by Howard Jackson and cinematography by William H. Clothier.
Cracker-jack war movie, packed to the rafters with blood, sweat and tears, and best of all, gritty realism. Story is about the warfare unit led by Frank Merrill (Chandler) during the Burmese campaign in 1944. Their mission was to destroy Japanese bases to avert the Japanese from making their way into India and onto a rendezvous with Hitler's forces. Their efforts was a success but it came at great cost of lives.
Fuller, an ex-soldier himself, isn't interested in glorifying war for entertainment purpose, he wants to keep the focus on the men and what the mission does to them, both physically and mentally. The mission was only meant to be a short sharp shocker, but they keep getting "requested" to push on further beyond what was originally required, pushed to their limits by their leader who asked they follow his lead.
In turn the men suffer through lack of food whilst some of them fall to typhus and malaria, inhospitable conditions take their toll, like trekking through miles and miles of swampy terrain, and of course they encounter the enemy on several nerve shredding occasions.
As comrades fall and heart breaking letters are written to families, Fuller peppers the picture with haunting moments. A sweep of the aftermath of a battle finds dead bodies from both sides strewn about the place, the surviving Marauders too exhausted to lift themselves off the soil. A soldier breaking down crying, another willing to carry his donkey's load so it will not be shot for holding up the trek and on it goes, a whole ream of memorable instances designed to give us some idea of what the war is hell statement actually means.
Filmed on location in the Philippines, it seems a little weird to say that the photography is beautiful given that so much emotional hardship and misery is being portrayed, but Clothier really brings everything to life with his superb use of colour, the great lens-man the ideal fit for Fuller's keen eye for lingering details.
Performances are across the board on the good side of good, with Chandler - in what sadly would be his last film before his premature death aged 42 – turning in his best ever work. He puts his all into portraying Merrill, giving him great personality whilst hitting the mark for the various emotional beats required for a leader of men. A leader who himself carries a secret that he doesn't want his men to know about.
Stock footage usage from another movie and musical lifts from two more, hint at the economical restraints on the production, but neither affects the all round quality of the picture. Free of cliché's or extraneous pap, this is one excellent – exciting - haunting war movie.
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