Starring Van Heflin, Aldo Ray, James Whitmore, Nancy Olson, Tab Hunter, Anne Francis, Dorothy Malone, Mona Freeman, William Campbell, John Lupton, Perry Lopez, Justus E. McQueen, Fess Parker. Directed by Raoul Walsh. (1955, 148 min).
Battle Cry is definitely one of those classics that can only be appreciated if viewed in the context of when it was made.
Once upon a time in Hollywood, war was a good thing, young men craved battle, women were dames, enemies were Japs and soldiers' dads approved of their sons' decision to start smoking. Yeah, Battle Cry is definitely a gung-ho movie that wears its nationalism proudly, but so were most war movies of the time.
And really, Battle Cry is not-so-much a war movie as it is a melodrama that just happens to take place during World War II. Despite a lot of tough talking narration by dedicated platoon leader Sgt. Mac (James Whitmore), very little of this film takes place on the battlefield. The narrative follows a variety of Marine recruits ("Huxley's Harlots") from basic training through their return home to their wives, girlfriends and families (those who survive, that is). We mostly see how they live & love while waiting to be called to fight, growing increasingly frustrated at being regulated to "mopping up" after battles, much to the chagrin of their CO, Colonel Huxley (Van Heflin).
|"Sorry, kid...got lost in your eyes for a sec."|
|"I give up...what does the fox say?"|
But even with its narrative shortcomings, Battle Cry remains consistently engaging. In some ways, I was reminded of 1970's Airport (coincidentally also featuring Heflin), which was marvelously entertaining despite of a plethora of shallow characters and eye-rolling dialogue. While Battle Cry isn't as dumb, it juggles nearly as many melodramatic subplots and does it very well. It also helps if you keep in-mind when this was was made.