Tuesday, June 15, 2010

1945 - BACK TO BATAAN, John Wayne a patriotic kind of guy

During the propaganda rich period of World War II,  Hollywood cranked out a lot of these fight the "Japs" or the "Krauts" pictures for the public.  Sometimes good directors and writers could kind of redeem this genre with a decent film or two.  John Ford filmed the excellent They Were Expendable and Howard Hawks had pretty good luck with Air Force. Then there are the series of propaganda war films John Wayne made, The Fighting Seabees, Flying Tigers and Back to Bataan.  These movies are tagged to appeal to audiences at their most sophomoric level.

Back to Bataan is pretty god awful with the exception of an exciting battle scene towards the end of the picture.  The constant speechifying and the portraits of Japanese soldiers as little killer monsters finally even managed to offend my small town middle class values.

From cute little kids being sadistically tortured by rotten Japanese soldiers, to a good god fearing Christian teacher joining the guerrillas after her school principal is hung by the Japanese for not taking down the American flag, this film has it all.  I know the general public had to be whipped up into a frenzy for the war effort but by 1945, it's hard not to believe that even the most patriotic movie goer must have been getting a little tired of these shows. 

Super patriotic actor John Wayne is good as usual.  Wayne was a guy who actually believed all of this stuff and he does bring an honest conviction to his role.  Wayne does not have any kind of manufactured love interest in the film, he wants to keep the message loud and pure, the American way is the best way and by the way kill lots of "Japs."

Clearly filmed on location at someones ranch in southern California, the movie does have a few good unintentional laughs.  A truck full of very stiff Japanese soldier dummies is sent over a mountain in one scene, and the school teacher walks around the guerrilla camp trying to get injured soldiers to eat her homemade chicken soup.

The beginning of the film features actual soldiers from the Bataan Death March.  Phony Hollywood makeup is used on them to make them look like they are suffering from the effects of Japanese internment.  One can only wonder what must have been going through their minds while they were filming this sequence.  Probably it was something like,  "I get to meet John Wayne."

95 hit me over the head with propaganda minutes.

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