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Sunday, October 18, 2009

HELL TO ETERNITY (1960)


Fact-based story about Guy Gabaldon, an orphaned Mexican-American kid who’s taken in by a Japanese-American family. When WWII breaks out, his step-brothers are gung-ho to enlist, his surrogate parents are forced into internment camps and Gabaldon, now played by Jeffrey Hunter, becomes confused & conflicted about his place in all this. When he does join up and is sent to Saipan, he’s torn between killing & saving the enemy. For its time, the film is unusually ambitious in its progressive treatment of racial attitudes, unusually tough in depicting the horrors of war and unusually large-scaled for a modestly budgeted indie. But helmer Phil Karlson, a ‘King of the Bs,’ knew how to squeeze a buck. He’s best remembered for late reactionary films like WALKING TALL/’73, but earlier credits lean surprisingly liberal. Not everything comes off, to put it nicely (like some of the acting!), but Hunter is effective & moving in the lead. (The Mexican angle is expunged to focus on the ‘Jap’ angle.) As a plus, you get to see George (Sulu) Takei play Hunter’s brother. It’s quite a tale and here’s a link to the NYTimes obit of this heroic marine. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/04/us/04gabaldon.html?scp=1&sq=gabaldon+&st=nyt

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