AMERICAN GUERRILLA IN THE PHILIPPINES (aka: I SHALL RETURN)
(director: Fritz Lang; screenwriters: Lamar Trotti/from the book by Ira Wolfert; cinematographer: Harry Jackson; editor: Robert Simpson; music: Cyril Mockridge; cast: Tyrone Power (Ensign Chuck Palmer), Micheline Prelle (Jeanne Martinez), Tom Ewell (Jim Mitchell), Bob Patten (Lovejoy), Tommy Cook (Miguel), Juan Torena (Juan Martinez), Jack Elam (The Speaker), Robert Barrat (Gen. Douglas MacArthur); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Lamar Trotti; 20th Century Fox; 1950)
“Not a bad film, just not a good one.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Shot in the actual locations involved, which helped give it an authentic feel. Fritz Lang’s (“Spies”/”The Blue Gardenia”/”Ministry of Fear”) account of the resistance to Japanese rule after the surrender of the Philippines in the spring of 1942 is hampered by too much jingoism, Lang’s listless direction (he seems uninvolved), a dull script and a tepid romantic subplot. It’s well-crafted but shows little of Lang’s personal touches; not a bad film, just not a good one. It’s based on the novel by Ira Wolfert and penned by Lamar Trotti.
The narrative focuses on Ensign Chuck Palmer (Tyrone Power) and sailor Jim Mitchell (Tom Ewell) stranded in the Philippine Islands waiting for Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s return. At first Palmer tries to go by boat to Australia but a monsoon wrecks his plans. Forced to remain in the Philippines and not willing to surrender, Palmer heroically attempts to rebuild a communications infrastructure for the guerrillas as he’s told that’s what MacArthur wants in his absence. We are constantly reminded of MacArthur’s promise, as on every cigarette pack in bold red letters is the slogan “I Shall Return.” The Filipinos shown are all supporters of the Americans, the one fifth columnist is shot.
Palmer finds time to fall in love with the wife of a wealthy planter, Jeanne Martinez (Micheline Prelle), who’s war hero hubby Juan (Juan Torena) aids the resistance. When the Japanese kill him for being a spy, Jeanne seeks Palmer out for comfort and they kiss for the first time. But his mood for romance is ruined when fiercely loyal guerrilla fighter Miguel (Tommy Cook) shows up in his hillside hideaway with his guts hanging out and he’s forced to operate on him.
The concluding scene turns out to be the most lively one in the film (too little and too late to save the film), as the Japanese and the outnumbered and less armed guerrillas led by Palmer shoot it out in a church. They are saved by the sudden arrival of MacArthur, who sits proudly atop a Jeep with his trademark corncob pipe as his soldiers march into town. While watching this show of force, Palmer and Mitchell are slurping down their Coca-Cola drinks.
REVIEWED ON 8/22/2005 GRADE: C