Fact-inspired WWII hokum about a wisenheimer who wises up after losing his sight fighting ‘the Japs’ in Guadalcanal. Apparently, the war action with three marines killing scores of attacking enemy forces from a small dug-out is largely true, and pretty effective on screen. The problem is with the rest of the film as John Garfield’s tough-mug routine is corny & off-putting, offering Eleanor Parker little cause to pursue. Post injury, with recovery stymied by denial & self-pity, forward motion comes solely from his nurse, best pal & girl dissembling ‘for his own good.’ Uplift with a sour note is fine, but Albert Maltz’s Oscar® nom’d script makes it all feel contrived, and more than a bit dishonest.* As a writer, he’s more in his element working up impromptu political debates in the rehabilitation ward or letting Dane Clark’s Jewish pal give Garfield a combo pep talk/lecture on the ‘handicap’ of prejudice.* Delmer Daves, never the most fluid of directors, lets his cast press too hard, and the best visual moment, a spare nightmare sequence for Garfield with infra-red & camera-negative images, is likely the work of some specialty unit. Disappointing.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *One of the Hollywood Ten/ Unfriendly Witnesses, Maltz was the likely role-model for Louis C.K.’s character in TRUMBO/’15. He’s also one of writers Billy Wilder had in mind when he said of the Ten, ‘Only two of them have talent. The rest are just unfriendly.’
ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: *Dane Clark was one of those back-up players studios liked to have on hand to keep bigger stars in line; in his case, a certain John Garfield! It’s unusual to find them cast in the same film, and as BFF. Also funny to hear Clark give Garfield (né Jacob Julius Garfinkle) the lowdown on under-the-radar Anti-Semitism, a speech Garfield would lay on Gregory Peck in GENTLEMAN’S AGREEMENT/’47.)
DOUBLE-BILL: Delmer Daves was just as uneven calling the shots on his next directing effort, THE RED HOUSE/’47, from his own fascinating/frightening script. What a leap he’s made by the time of his best film 3:10 TO YUMA/’57.