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A group of US Marines get fit, find love and go to war in WWII, Van Heflin plays their commander, trying to get his men the tough combat action they yearn for.
The most interesting--and entertaining--aspect of Battle Cry, a long, episodic World War II drama, is that it marked the debut of one Justus E McQueen, who subsequently took the name of the good ol' Arkansas boy he played in the movie: LQ Jones. He's only one of eight or nine marine recruits who divide the screen time with commanding officer Van Heflin and James Whitmore as a lifer sergeant named Mac, "just Mac", who ramrods their squad and also delivers the movie's overbearing narration. Unfortunately, the narration is necessary to maintain continuity as the CinemaScope production galumphs its way from rounding up the melting-pot cast to seeing them through basic training and sundry, mostly amatory misadventures in San Diego, to further training in New Zealand and finally to baptism of fire on Guadalcanal.
Trouble is, among the recruits only McQueen/Jones (whose job is mostly comic relief) and Aldo Ray (as a brawling lumberjack who's never known family life) have any charisma or acting chops--and that's not forgetting Tab Hunter, whose matinee-idol status at the time does not speak well for the 50s. Battle Cry is also a cardinal example of Hollywood's penchant for buying big, lusty, profane bestsellers (by Leon Uris, in this case) and then bowdlerising all the lustiness and profanity to appease the censors. Raoul Walsh, the poet laureate of lowdown gusto, does what he can in the circumstances, and as one of the first guys ever to direct a widescreen movie (1930's The Big Trail), he makes the battle scenes roar. --Richard T. Jameson