Wednesday, September 2, 2015


World War II spawned hundreds of movies, and five of the best are available from the folks at The Film Detective, a group dedicated to restoring vintage films... 

GUNG HO! (1943)
U.S. Marine Raiders in Action...Blasting Their Way To Tokyo!
We're going back to World War II with an exciting feature called GUNG HO! This film is about how the newly formed 2nd Marine Raider Battalion faced a frightening first mission during the early days of the war. The assignment was  to smash the much larger Japanese garrison on Makin Island. The movie has a gritty, realistic feel, achieved by the use of actual combat footage, and a cast of reliable Hollywood tough guys, including Randolph Scott, and Noah Beery Jr. Also, keep an eye out for a young Robert Mitchum in one of his earliest roles as the swaggering 'Pig-Iron' Matthews! 

The film's title, "Gung Ho", is a Chinese expression that translates roughly as "to work together". Major Evans Carlson, who was the basis for the character played by Randolph Scott, picked up the phrase from a friend who had worked with some Chinese organizations. Carlson liked the expression, and introduced it to his troops. His men loved it, and the phrase became the motto of the 2nd Marine Battalion. The phrase became so popular that it worked its way into the English language. But chances are, the first time most Americans ever heard the expression was in this movie...

To know their secret is to court Death!
James Cagney fights his way through Tokyo in Blood on the Sun! As newsman  Nick Condon, Cagney battles Japanese spies in a story of double-dealing and intrigue during the second World War. The film also stars Sylvia Sidney and was directed by two-time Academy Award winner Frank Lloyd (perhaps best known for his 1935 version of Mutiny on the Bounty). Produced by Cagney’s own production company! (Look out for a bruising fight scene where Cagney and his Japanese rival engage in a martial arts slugfest, complete with torture holds rarely seen in movies of the time, suggested by combat buff Cagney!)

Blood on The Sun features a musical score by the great Miklós Rózsa (Spellbound, The Lost Weekend) and won an Academy Award for Art Direction…   

From the Ruins came Hope and Despair
Shot on location in Berlin, Germany, The Big Lift tells the story of "Operation Vittles", the 1948–1949 Berlin Airlift. We see it through the experiences of two U.S. Air Force sergeants, played by Montgomery Clift and Paul Douglas. Written and directed by George Seaton, the film provides a compelling look at a devastated city struggling in the aftermath of World War II. 

In many ways, The Big Lift is a kind of documentary. Along with being filmed in Berlin, all military roles in the movie, aside from those played by Clift and Douglas, were portrayed by actual military personnel stationed in Berlin. Also, the production crew for The Big Lift arrived in Berlin in May 1949 just as the blockade was lifted by the Russians. The crew shot actual airlift activity at both terminals. As for Clift, his scenes were shot early; he needed to return to America and begin filming “A Place in the Sun” with Elizabeth Taylor…


Three Came Home is the story of one woman's confinement in a World War  II Japanese prison camp. Adapted from Agnes Newton Keith's war-time prison memoir, the movie shows Keith courageously dealing with being separated from her husband, and then surviving with her young son in captivity until the end of the war. The film was directed by Oscar nominee Jean Negulesco,  and stars Claudette Colbert as Agnes Newton Keith. The New York Times’ Bosley Crowther wrote upon the film's release that it will “shock you, disturb you, and tear your heart out, but will fill you fully with a great respect for a heroic soul”.  

Colonel Suga was played by Japanese actor, Sessue Hayakawa.  You might know him best for  his Oscar nominated performance in Bridge on the River Kwai where he played another stern camp commandant.  Hayakawa had been a star in the silent film era, but his career suffered in relation to whatever anti-Asian sentiment was going on in America at the time.  He spent most of the 1930s and ‘40s acting in other parts of the world, but after World War II he gave Hollywood one last shot.  This turned out to be the best time of his career, for along with River Kwai and Three Came Back, he appeared in films like Sam Fuller’s House of Bamboo, and Tokyo Joe with Humphrey Bogart. In 1960, Hayakawa received a well-deserved star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame… 


GO FOR BROKE! (1951)
The amazing untold story - The heroes of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team!
Go For Broke! a 1951 MGM film starring Van Johnson, is the story of Japanese-American soldiers fighting in Europe during World War II. Johnson plays a platoon commander who shared the prejudices of the period, but put them aside when he saw the bravery of his Japanese-American troops. The screenplay by director Robert Pirosh was nominated for an Academy Award, and several of the main characters were played by actual members of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team depicted in the film. 

Several years before this movie, Van Johnson’s career was on shaky ground. He'd just signed a long-term contract with MGM when a car accident left him badly scarred and with a metal plate in his head. Unable to serve in the war due to his injuries, he remained stateside. Ironically, this worked to his benefit. Many of MGM's top actors were away for the war effort, so Johnson found himself with plenty of roles to choose from. He became one of MGM’s most bankable stars. When the war ended and MGM's stars came home, many wondered if Johnson would lose his status. But Johnson proved his success wasn't a fluke. He remained a busy and popular actor for many years…


 All of these movies are available through, where vintage movies are restored, remastered, and reborn. Follow us on Twitter @FilmDetective

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