Having been compelled by meme to spill on twelve movies that I ought to have seen but haven't (a meme I was tagged on by bill, but which went back as far as here and here and here—apparently I'm not quite as familiar with all internet traditions as I thought), I am subsequently shamed into actively seeking out and viewing those movies. About which I will issue progress reports, as it were.
My not having ever seen the whole of Allan Dwan's 1949 Sands of Iwo Jima elicited the most shocked reactions, both in and out of the comments section. "You simply have no excuse, private," Cadavra's quip, summed up the consensus perspective. I should like to point out that sometimes things are just so in spite of the fact that one has no excuse for them. Part of what makes life interesting, I'd say.
One reason I didn't do too much about catching up with Sands over the years is that the picture's in the public domain, so if I were to put some effort into catching up with it I couldn't be sure as to how presentable a presentation I'd be eventually watching. The die having been cast, I bit the bullet (and, my friends, this is not so much a mixed metaphor as it is a linear double metaphor, and that's my story and I'm sticking to it), and got hold of what looked to be the best available disc, a Republic/Lionsgate issue. I would call it indifferent.
Yes, it's quite a film. Kent Jones points out that "Dwan's movies are inflected with little grace notes—sudden tiny shifts in speed and perspective or visual design that gives the film a humming beauty." During a crucial battle scene, one Pfc, played by Forrest Tucker, leaves a couple of his buddies to seek out ammo, which they're out of. On the way back he comes upon a couple of other soldiers who've managed to brew some coffee. Dwan lingers on his innocent and hard-earned enjoyment of the joe. This pause will have tragic consequences. But Dwan's no moralist. His mistake will tear this character apart...but we never blame him for making it.
In a sense, and despite all of the real tension it contains, this is one of the more relaxed war movies I've seen. The picture has real affection for its characters, and enjoys spending time with them. I'm always surprised, watching American WWII films, how unsentimental they are. Or rather, how unsentimental they are relative to how sentimental they're perceived to be, or painted as. Thus, I was rather surprised by a sequence in which John Wayne's tough-as-nails Sergeant Stryker is shown having liquored himself into near-unconsciousness. A convincing portrayal, too,
Okay, eleven to go...