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GUNG HO!(director: Ray Enright; screenwriters: Lucien Hubbard/Joseph Hoffman/from the story by W.S. LeFrancois; cinematographer: Milton Krasner; editor: Milton Carruth; music: Frank Skinner; cast: Randolph Scott (Colonel Thorwald), Alan Curtis (John Harbison), Noah Beery, Jr. (Cpl. Kurt Richter), J. Carrol Naish (Lieutenant C.J. Cristoforos), Sam Levene (Leo Andreof), David Bruce (Larry O’Ryan); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Walter Wanger; Universal; 1943)
“Outdated WWII flagwaver.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Outdated WWII flagwaver that was understandably popular at its release during the war, but today despite being the true adventure story of an heroic group of soldiers seems outrageous macho stuff and more than a little bit racist. It has one marine recruit say he joined because he doesn’t like Japs. It’s based on the true story by W.S. LeFrancois that tells of Colonel Carlson’s Raiders (officially the Second Marine Raider Battalion) at Makin Island on Aug. 17, 1942. It was the first response to the bombing of Pearl Harbor and called for a special battalion of volunteer marines to sign up for a jungle raiding mission that goes “above and beyond the line of duty.” Astonishingly enough, the South Sea Makin Island in real life was recaptured only a few weeks before the film’s release. It’s ably helmed by Ray Enright (“The Spoilers”/”Coroner Creek”/Return of the Bad Men”). Screenwriter Lucien Hubbard embellished the true story with a few fictional accounts of events, but the film nevertheless had the look of being authentic.

The battalion’s leader of the 200 men, Colonel Thorwald (Randolph Scott), is the crusty veteran soldier who returns to service after fighting with the Chinese army against the Japanese. Thorwald tells the volunteers, the usual cross-section of American stereotyped soldiers one finds in these standard issue war dramas (the troubled kid from Brooklyn, the simple-minded but good-hearted country boy, and a minister who yearns for action), the battalion’s motto is taken from the Chinese saying, “gung ho,” which means to work in harmony.

After an elaborate set up and much speechifying about fighting as a team and after six months of boot training, the film builds to its suspenseful conclusion battle scene–which was worth the wait. After the victory in the field, an earnest no-nonsense Scott looks into the camera and delivers his victory speech just as much for his men in the field as the wartime audience at home.

A young Robert Mitchum, at the onset of his career, has a small part as a feisty kid named “Pig-Iron” who learns discipline and leadership because of his tough marine training.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”