RETREAT, HELL!(aka: YOU CAN’T STOP THE MARINES)
(director: Joseph H. Lewis; screenwriters: Milton Sperling/Ted Sherdeman; cinematographer: Warren Lynch; editor: Folmar Blangsted; music: William Lava; cast: Frank Lovejoy (Lt. Col. Steve L. Corbett), Richard Carlson (Capt. Paul Hansen), Anita Louise (Ruth Hansen), Russ Tamblyn (Jimmy W. McDermid), Ned Young (Sgt. Novak), Lamont Johnson (Capt. ‘Tink’ O’Grady), Robert Ellis (Shorty Devine), Peter Ortiz (Maj. Knox), Paul Smith (Andy Smith), Joseph Keane (Lt. Ortiz); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Milton Sperling; Warner Bros. Picture; 1952)
“Korean War propaganda film that’s effectively directed by Joseph H. Lewis.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Korean War propaganda film that’s effectively directed by Joseph H. Lewis (“Gun Crazy”/”The Big Combo”/”7the Cavalry”), who takes a rare job working for a big studio with a big budgetand seems like a fish out water from his usual shoestring budget indie surroundings. Though the B/W shot pic is not a top-rung Lewis, nevertheless the standard old-fashioned war drama is well-told and covers some of his familiar themes of authorities interfering in the lives of the innocent, as it mixes together tense combat with personal elements among the marines engaged in the Korean War. WritersMilton Sperling and Ted Sherdeman keep things moving along at a fast-clip without humor, but with Hollywood-like familiar tales of heroism under fire.
The title for this grim war story is based on a defiant quote fromGeneral Oliver P. Smith. Here it’s uttered by gung-ho marine battalion commander Lt. Colonel Steve Corbett (Frank Lovejoy), who further says after forced to leave to the Red Chinese soldiers the mountainous area inthe Changjin (Chosin) Reservoir that “We’re just attacking in another direction.”
Out of the marines for five years, WW I I war vet and reserve Capt. Paul Hansen (Richard Carlson), a family man with kids, is recalled to active duty. In Camp Pendleton he’s given command of a company by his no-nonsense battalion boss Lt. Colonel Corbett.The ‘tough love’ commander fears the retread Hansen will play it safe because he’s older than most and is a family man, and therefore pushes him hard in training to be all that he can be. ToughveteranSgt. Novak (Ned Young, blacklisted under the McCarthy witchhunt), the most skilled soldier in the battalion, rounds the recruits into shape. One of the recruits is the 17-year-old Jimmy W. McDermid (Russ Tamblyn), an eager-beaver warrior who comes from a family of marines and wants to prove he can also be a good marine and act with courage.
After bootcamp the battalion lands in the beach at Inchon and takes heavy fire. The second half of the film has the men, in 1950, valiantly fight their way towardsthe Changjin Reservoir, only to find they are overwhelmed by Red Chinese soldiers. The battalion, suffering heavy loses and many cases of frostbite, then must fight their way back to safety to rejoin their own forces.
Lewis makes heroes of the bloodied marines in their rearguard fight, who have no quit in them (the real marines are proud of that battle). Throughout the marine theme music of “The Halls of Montezuma” plays, as you’re either macho in this pic and come to realize you must make sacrifices for your country or you just don’t get it.Things were much simpler then in both real life and in Hollywood.
REVIEWED ON 11/12/2010 GRADE: B