(director: John Sturges; screenwriters: Millard Kaufman/based on the novel by Tom T. Chamales; cinematographer: William H. Daniels; editor: Ferris Webster; music: Hugo Friedhofe; cast: Frank Sinatra (Tom Reynolds), Gina Lollobrigida (Carla Vesari), Peter Lawford (Captain Grey Travis), Steve McQueen (Bill Ringa), Richard Johnson (Captain Danny De Mortimer), Paul Henreid (Nikko Regas), Charles Bronson (Sgt. John Danforth), Philip Ahn (Nautaung); Runtime: 124; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Edmund Grainger; MGM; 1959)

Overlong and remiss World War II action/romance film that never moves without a cliché for the stellar cast to kick around.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

John Sturges (“Mystery Street”/”The Magnificent Seven“/”The Great Escape”)directs this overlong and remiss World War II action/romance film that never moves without a clich√© for the stellar cast to kick around. This one has Tom Reynolds (Frank Sinatra) as a US army captain of the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) in the Burmese jungle, in 1943, traveling around with a task force of a few American soldiers. Reynold’s is in joint command with British Captain Danny De Mortimer (Richard Johnson) and his small Brit force of guerrilla soldiers and with a bunch of Burmese natives (called Kachins), who are trying with hit-and-run tactics to repel the enemy Japanese. It also offers Cold War fodder to mull over, as treacherous Chinese rebels authorized by the Chung King government cross the border to align themselves with the Burmese warlords and kill Americans and loot the villages. This calls for Captain Reynolds to illegally cross the border into Nationalist Chinese territory for retaliation, where he slaughters the war criminals. It’s written by Millard Kaufman and based on the novel by Tom T. Chamales.

The pic goes into the sleep mode when it introduces the mysterious Carla (Gina Lollobrigida), the mistress of a local gunrunner Regas (Paul Henreid), an oily war profiteer. The sultry dish becomes the love interest of ‘old blue-eyes,’ who while given a tour of the beauty spots in the jungle by his street-smart Hell’s Kitchen military Jeep driver Ringa (Steve McQueen) gets invited to stay in Carla’s fancy Himalayan mountains country place, courtesy of Regas, as USmilitary doctor Captain Grey Travis (Peter Lawford) treats the malaria-stricken Captain Danny De Mortimer. The main event has the rugged idolized Captain Reynolds leading a foray against a Japanese position near the Chinese border.

Pic was meant as another “Rat Pack” film with Sinatra, Lawford and Sammy Davis Jr., but the pack leader had a falling out with Sammy and the young TV actor McQueen got a big break and took his place. There are a few good action sequences, but it’s mostly a drag. It’s hard to fathom the heroics if you still have a brain and hard to like Frank if you’re not a fan, who swoons with smarmy self-importance.