Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Cornel Wilde|
|Music by||Antonino Buenaventura|
|Cinematography||Cecil R. Cooney|
|Edited by||Frank P. Keller|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
Beach Red is a 1967 World War II film starring Cornel Wilde (who also directed) and Rip Torn. The film depicts a landing by the U.S. Marine Corps on an unnamed Japanese-held Pacific island (thought to be Red Beach, Palo, Leyte in the Philippines). However, there were no Marine landings anywhere in the Philippines. The film is based on Peter Bowman's 1945 novella of the same name, which was based on his experiences with the United States Army Corps of Engineers in the Pacific Islands campaigns.
The 30-minute opening sequence of the film depicts an opposed beach landing. Its graphic depiction of the violence and savagery of war was echoed thirty one years later in Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan. In one scene during the landing a Marine is shown with his arm blown off, similar to Thomas C. Lea III's 1944 painting The Price.
As Americans are shown consolidating their gains, flashbacks illustrate the lives of American and Japanese combatants. Shifting first-person voice-over in a stream of consciousness style is also used to portray thoughts of numerous characters. Like Wilde's previous production of The Naked Prey (1965), the film does not use subtitles for characters speaking Japanese.
The film contains large sections of voice-over narration, often juxtaposed with still photographs of wives, etc. (who are inexplicably dressed in 1967 attire rather than that appropriate for the 1940s). Many soldiers in the film shed tears, and the narrative displays an unusual amount of sympathy for the enemy.
In one scene Cliff who is injured is lying close to an injured Japanese soldier in a scene paralleling the one from All Quiet on the Western Front with Paul Bäumer and Gérard Duval. Just after the two soldiers bond, other Marines appear and kill the Japanese soldier, causing distress to the first Marine.
Director, producer, and co-writer Wilde plays a Marine Captain, the company commander. Rip Torn plays his company gunnery sergeant, who utters the film's tagline, "That's what we're here for. To kill. The rest is all crap!"
- Cornel Wilde - Captain MacDonald
- Rip Torn - Sergeant Honeywell
- Burr DeBenning - Egan
- Patrick Wolfe - Cliff
- Jean Wallace - Julie
- Jaime Sánchez - Colombo
- Dale Ishimoto - Captain Tanaka
Beach Red was filmed on location in the Philippines using troops of the Philippine Armed Forces. The sequence of the Japanese dressed in Marine uniforms was inspired by Bowman's book, which mentions Japanese wearing American helmets to infiltrate American lines. There were no incidents anywhere in the Pacific where large numbers of Japanese donned American uniforms and attempted to infiltrate a beachhead. The action though is similar in some ways to a large-scale Japanese counterattack and banzai charge conducted on July 7, 1944 on Saipan which was defeated by US Army troops with heavy losses.
When seeking assistance from the U.S. Marine Corps, Cornel Wilde was told that due to the commitments of the Vietnam War all the Corps could provide the film was color stock footage taken during the Pacific Island campaigns. The film provided had deteriorated, so Wilde had to spend a considerable part of the film's budget to restore the film to an acceptable quality in order to blend into the film. The Marine Corps was grateful that their historical film had been restored at no cost to them.
The film's title sequence incorporates various paintings that suddenly segue into the preparations for the landing.
The film's single musical theme is by Col. Antonino Buenaventura, a National Artist of the Philippines in Music. It appears in the title sequence, sung in a folk song manner by Jean Wallace — director Wilde's wife — and appears in various other orchestrations throughout the film. (Wallace also appears in flashback photos as soldier's wife Julie MacDonald.)
Howard Thompson of The New York Times praised the film as "an admirable war movie that says a bit and suggests even more, thanks to Cornel Wilde." Variety wrote that "in contrast to many professedly anti-war films, Beach Red is indisputably sincere in its war is hell message." In a capsule review published many years after the film debuted, Time Out London wrote, "Wilde's neglected WWII movie is an allegory about the futility and the carnage of Vietnam. . . . The movie is massively and harrowingly brutal, almost like a horror movie, with severed limbs washing up on the beach. Although Wilde deals exclusively in pacifist clichés, the film has a genuine primitive power; in fact, it's the equal of anything made by Fuller."
- A reference to the recent Bougainville Campaign early in the film presumably dates the action to November 1943 or later.
- Newell, Reg Pacific Star: 3NZ Division in the South Pacific in World War II Exisle Publishing, 1 Oct 2015
- Basinger, Jeanine. "Translating War: The Combat Film Genre and Saving Private Ryan," Perspectives on History: the Newsmagazine of the American Historical Association (October 1998).
- Bowman, Peter. Beach Red: A Novel (Random House, 1945).
- p.203 Suid, Lawrence H. Guts & Glory: The Making of the American Military Image in Film University Press of Kentucky, 2002.
- Thompson, Howard. "Movie Review: Beach Red (1967)," The New York Times (August 4, 1967).
- "Review: ‘Beach Red’," Variety (Dec. 31, 1966).
- ATU. "Beach Red," Time Out: London. Accessed June 19, 2015.