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Too Late The Hero [DVD] 
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November, 1942. A US Navy task force in the South Pacific faces imminent destruction unless the Japanese radio base on a nearby island can be silenced. The Navy's solution is to order the hard-nosed Lieutenant Lawson (Cliff Robertson) to join a bunch of British misfits - including the mouthy Tosh Hearne (Michael Caine) and the crazy Private Thornton (Ian Bannen) - in a suicidal attempt to destroy the Japanese base. The mission is dangerous enough in itself, but with all the destructive tensions in the group, it becomes almost impossible. Directed by Robert Aldrich ('Kiss Me Deadly', 'The Dirty Dozen').
Set on a Pacific island in 1942, Too Late the Hero is a hard-as-nails "men on a mission" war movie: a group of British soldiers have to traverse the New Hebrides to destroy a Japanese radio transmitter, then get back to safety while being hunted all the way. Inevitably everything goes wrong, but director Robert (The Dirty Dozen) Aldrich turns the book of WWII movie clichés on its head and springs some unnerving surprises. Even the token American star, Cliff Robertson--echoing William Holden's grafted-on role in The Bridge on the River Kwai--proves less than obviously heroic, while an outstanding Michael Caine brings considerable depth to his usual cynical cockney. Henry Fonda gets heavily billed for a brief guest appearance, but there are star performances such fine British character actors as Denholm Elliot, Ian Bannen, Ronald Fraser and Lance Percival. This portrait of battle-worn men offers greater complexity than Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan, while the jungle trek was more recently paralleled in Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line. Only the attitudes--more 1970 than 1942--detract from Aldrich's tellingly realistic vision, which with a thoughtfully ironic script and a succession of tense set pieces and brutal firefights, builds to a harrowing climax.
On the DVD: The picture is presented at approximately 1.7:1, reformatted from the original 2.2:1 70mm theatrical presentation. Despite approximately 25 per cent of the original image being missing, this loss is only really noticeable in a few scenes. Apart from the occasional fleck, the print is in superb condition, and despite the lack of anamorphic enhancement the picture is sharp, detailed and has excellent colour. The surround sound (not mono as listed on the packaging) is highly effective, with the tension being increased by a considerable amount of the music coming from the rear speakers. The special features are simply a few static pages of biographical and production notes. --Gary S. Dalkin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The conflict between the allies and the Japanese almost appears secondary in comparison with the internal conflicts between the members of the team sent out to attack a Japanese communications site. Michael Caine in one of his lesser known roles utters a classic line which my friend and I always remember "... chop your bloody head off!" (in a cockney accent).
Glad to see it finally coming to DVD, and in widescreen too.
Its the gritty, no-nonsense storyline and action that does it for me. None of your infantile jaw-clenched heroic rubbish we're fed from time to time by a jingoistic film industry. This portrays war as it usually was, by people reluctant to put themselves on the line for country and idealism.
This is in some ways the UK's answer to the Dirty Dozen, with a British held Pacific outpost on the tip of an island garrisoned by surly, indifferent soldiers and men with attitude problems. Only the officers seem keen to take the fight to the Japanese who hold the rest of the large island. There's a long stretch of no-man's land mined and covered by machine guns so that anyone trying to get from one side to another has to run the gauntlet of fire.
This changes when Cliff Robertson turns up. He's an American languages expert sent in to take part in an ambitious Allied plan to confuse the Japs by taking hold of their radio transmitter in their main HQ and relay false messages. The British are to escort him there and make sure he delivers his message. The British officer in charge is Denholm Elliot, fuming at his family's death in a bombing raid back in the UK and eager to get to grips with the enemy (even though its the Germans who killed his family). But his character is brilliantly played and you know he's not quite right in the head.
Then you have the disaffected soldiers, led by cockney Michael Caine who has absolutely no respect for anyone and digs at anyone who is in his line fo fire - he refers to one of the leaders a 'Snow White'.Read more ›
Cliff Robertson is the Aldrichian hero by essence ; he is not a coward but he prefers to enjoy the Pacific beaches rather than to take part in combats. He's a pessimistic hero in a pessimistic movie. The initial credits set extremely well the tone of the film with these at first flamboyant american, british and japanese flags that become little by little less colourful, less arrogant until they finally fade into the dusty reality.
A DVD zone Big Bob.
So what went wrong? First, the story. It doesn't make much sense. Launching a kind of "suicide mission" across the Japanese lines to destroy a radio station? REALLY? As if it was not simpler to send a squadron of bombers to simply blow it to smithereens, especially considering that everybody in the whole Pacific seems to know where this radio shack is... But OK, that is only a minor point.
Then there is the question of length. This is a very long film in which people walk and fight and die a lot in a steamy jungle. So it should be an interesting war film - but for some reason, here it doesn't work. This whole film is simply BORING. I completely couldn't develop any attachement to anybody in it - in fact, convicted murderers in "Dirty Dozen" seemed to be nicer people than this bunch of permanently aggravated, depressed, bitching, moaning and very boring guys. Even Michael Caine and Cliff Robertson couldn't make their characters interesting or likeable. As for Henry Fonda, he appears just in a cameo and the whole purpose of his participation seems to be just helping the marketing by putting his name on the poster...Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Forgot how good this film was.great to watch it again.Published 10 months ago by james wootton-thomas