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Friday, December 17, 2010

OPERATION PACIFIC (1951)

One of the striking elements in Otto Preminger’s big WWII naval drama, IN HARM’S WAY/’65, was the unlikely sexual chemistry generated between burly John Wayne & sultry Patricia Neal. (And it’s all done, a la Lubitsch, with shots of their shoes.) Here, more than a decade earlier, they had something of a test run. And while there’s barely half the wattage, they’re just about the only striking element in this formulaic WWII submarine pic. You know what to expect as soon as Wayne makes his heroic entrance hauling a gaggle of kids & a pair of nuns thru a ‘Jap’ infested jungle, cradling a newborn & a rifle in his big paws. Did someone forget to bring the puppies? Happily, we soon offload the noncombatants so that ‘Duke’ (he’s actually called Duke in this one) & Captain Ward Bond can try to work out what the heck is going on with those dud torpedoes. George Waggner megs unevenly, though the inconsistent trick effects are offset by some stunning shots from vet lenser Bert Glennon. But what really gets your attention is a bizarrely unsympathetic perf from Philip Carey who plays Wayne’s romantic rival. More creepy possessive than jealous, he raises issues no one wants to follow up on.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Take the suggestion above and try IN HARM'S WAY. Big, bloated, uneven, but wildly watchable in the usual Preminger manner.

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