Saturday, February 23, 2013

1966 - THE SAND PEBBLES is good but mighty long

This is a well made adventure film that is also a character study.  It's a top of the line production from Robert Wise.  The photography by Joe MacDonald is impeccable, the acting with the exception of non actor Candice Bergen is of a high caliber.  The screenplay from the playwright Robert Anderson, has been carefully worked out.  The Sand Pebbles is also a very long film.

If the film was a Robert Wise production that was usually a sign of quality.  Wise had started at RKO as and editor and worked his way up the studio.  He had an editing credit on Citizen Kane and had directed some good films like The Set-Up, The Body Snatchers, The Haunting and The Day The Earth Stood Still.  Wise was know for preparing and directing his films with careful attention to all aspects of the film's production.

Wise really hit the jackpot in 1965 with The Sound of Music which in someways was kind of his undoing since he never achieved that large commercial success during the remainder of his career. The Sand Pebbles was the film Wise actually wanted to make before The Sound of Music, but the preproduction of this film was so long and difficult that Wise used his downtime to film The Sound of Music instead.

I don't know exactly what to say about The Sand Pebbles.  The film is set on an American gunboat patroling the Yangtze river in the 1920's.  The purpose of these river patrols were to protect American interests in China.  Since the film was made during the Vietnam War and Robert Wise was a good Hollywood liberal, there are some minor criticisms of the United States involvement in Asia that are clearly a reference to Vietnam.

The Sand Pebbles is essentially a film from the well crafted "they don't make them like this" school of film making.

182 minutes (I think)  the roadshow version was 196 (whew).

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