on 24 July 2011
Films about attack transport vessels in the Pacific are few and far between, so this is a rare opportunity to learn more about such operations. Add to that plenty of action, dashes of humour and strong characters and you have a film definitely worth watching. Like other reviewers here, I have had my experiences with poor quality Pegasus DVDs, but apart from coloured stripes fluttering across the screen a couple of times, this one was OK.
I liked this old war film showing the life (and death) of men serving on board of a not very glamorous but important ship - an attack transport. Below, more of my impressions, with limited SPOILERS.
This film is partly based on the novel "Away all boats" written in 1953 by Kenneth Dodson, a sailor who served during Pacific War on board of USS "Pierce", one of three attack transports of Ormsby class. Commissioned in 1943, and with displacement of 13 thousand tons fully charged, she was a modern and large ship. She was also quite powerfully armed, carrying two 5-inch guns, two 40 mm Bofors anti-aircraft guns and twenty 20 mm Oerlikon automatic anti-aircraft guns. But her real importance resided in the capacity to carry 1550 fully armed marines or soldiers, as well as small landing crafts necessary to bring them to the targeted beaches. USS "Pierce" had a very busy war, as she participated in invasions of following islands: Makin (November 1943), Kwajalein (January-February 1944), Saipan (May-June 1944), Angaur (September 1944), Leyte (October-November 1944), Luzon (January 1945), Okinawa (April 1945).
The book was a success and Hollywood took interest. This film was turned in 1956 and performed honorably on the box office. Some changes were however made in the scenario, one of which was to rename the ship USS "Belinda".
As in many films about war at sea, here everything begins with the arrival of a new commanding officer. The new skipper of USS "Belinda", Captain Jebediah S. Hawks, is played magistrally by Jeff Chandler, made famous six years earlier by his portrayal of Cochise in "Broken Arrow". The career of this excellent actor was tragically interrupted on 17 June 1961, at age of 43, when during a relatively benign chirurgical intervention to fix a slipped disc the operating doctor cut an artery and caused an uncontrollable hemorrhaging... In this film Jeff Chandler gives a GREAT performance as a very tough, even mean commander, who nevertheless ends by being - reluctantly - respected by his men. Part of his toughness comes from personal disappointment, as he hoped for the command of a cruiser and received instead the definitely less prestigious and glamorous attack transport - but with time he mellows a little (not much, but still), because he finally develops an attachment to "Belinda"...
This is a very masculine movie and there is a real gallery of interesting male characters on board of USS "Belinda". Richard Boone and George Nader, both specialists of second roles in numerous war movies and westerns, play two subaltern officers. Lex Barker, who earlier played many times Tarzan and was later to become famous in Europe as Old Shatterhand, plays here Commander Quigley, the less than stellar executive officer. This was also one of the first films, in which appeared Clint Eastwood - but as he was in this time in the very beginning of his career, you will have to pay attention to not miss him, and the one line of his character was actually dubbed by another actor...)))
The scenario is fairly good, dialogs are pretty interesting, tensions and drama on board of "Belinda" are not half bad shown and there are also some moments of great humor (many of which include the sailor specially affected for throwing away the garbage). Action scenes are not so many, but when towards the end of the film the kamikazes make their appearance, their attack is a pretty intense moment...
So bottom line, this is a very honest, solid old war movie, with good actors, a rather good scenario and also with some unexpected twists and surprises. I think I will keep my DVD for another viewing one day. Enjoy!
Away All Boats is directed by Joseph Pevney and adapted to screenplay by Ted Sherdeman from the novel written by Kenneth M. Dodson. It stars Jeff Chandler, George Nader, Lex Barker, Julie Adams, Richard Boone and Charles McGraw. A Technicolor/Vista/Vision production, music is by Frank Skinner and Heinz Roemheld and cinematograpy by William H. Daniels.
Captain Jebediah Hawks (Chandler) is determined to whip his newly acquired crew into shape aboard The Belinda, a transport ship serving the waters of the South Pacific as the Japanese hone in for the kill.
Standard rank and file war movie of the era here, it looks nice, action is decently put together and is dotted along the narrative at regular intervals. The cast are watchable thesps as well, but it lacks heart in the characterisations as written on the page. The core meat of the story is the emotional hodge-podge aboard the Belinda, as Captain Jebediah rules with an iron fist and his charges respond to varying degrees of annoyance, we await the inevitable bond of men and flag waving histrionics. It just takes too long to develop and when the finale comes, what should be a moment of emotional wallop, comes rather as a merciful release that finally the near two hour movie is over. 6/10
on 11 December 2011
Saw this film at our local cinema Christmas Eve 1956. Not traditional festive entertaimnent to be sure, but the it struck me as being far more expansive, and expensive than normal Universal releases of the time. Nice to revisit it on this new DVD. Jeff Chandler gives a credible performance, as does the rest of the cast, with a touch of comedy provided by a dedicated "Waste Disposal" rating.
The trailer alone is worth the price of the disc. They really did make you want to see the film back then.
on 8 December 2011
I saw 'Away All Boats' at the cinema many years ago. I have always appreciated the technical stuff of landing craft, and this film shows this. Like most films there has to be a female to offset all the men in the film, but I don't think many ladies would enjoy this great film.