The Thin Red Line Reviews
April 28, 2007
I first saw this movie when I was a kid on an old Black and White RCA Victor Television Set. At the time it scared the daylights out of me. At the time I thought it was a very realistic war movie. Looking at it again 40 years later I noticed that its style was very similar to a Twilight Zone episode except that it was movie length and had no science fiction. Unlike the 1998 version this movie focuses on only two characters. Sgt. Welsh and Pvt. Doll. Pvt. Doll was a minor character in the 1998 movie but was the central character in the 1964 movie. The 1964 movie was a low budget movie shot in Black and White and probably intended for television after a brief theater run since Black and White was still the standard for TV in 1964. The story takes place in 1942 on Guadalcanal. In history the Battle of Guadalcanal was the first American offensive drive to push back the Japanese after the Battle of Midway. By the time the U.S. Army arrived on Guadalcanal the Marines had been fighting there for several months and the Navy had isolated the Island from Japanese supply lines. The Army troops were brought in to relieve the Marines and to mop up the Japanese holdouts. This movie only makes brief mention of this and implies that the Marines had only taken the beach. The first part of the movie does a good job of showing the cramped conditions on the troopship but then bypasses the landing and picks up the story inland. You never see an ocean in the entire movie yet Guadalcanal is an island. In this movie Guadalcanal looks a lot like southern California (found out it's actually Spain). The soldiers are all wearing army fatigues but seem to be lacking any gear except for their M-1 rifles. The low production values can be seen in the weapons used in the movie. When Sgt. Welsh attacks a Japanese machine gun nest the Japanese are using an American machine gun and Sgt. Welsh uses a German MP-40. How did an MP-40 get on Guadalcanal in 1942? The American Army was using Thompson Sub-machine guns in 1942 yet not one Thompson is shown in the entire movie. Not a single authentic Japanese weapon is seen in the movie. In this movie the Japanese are armed with German MP-40's, British Bren machine guns, American Browning machine guns and some bolt action rifles that may or may not have been real Japanese rifles. The final battle in the movie everyone has an MP-40. In history the Japanese were armed with bolt-action rifles and their "woodpecker" machine guns that you can see in the 1998 version of The Thin Red Line. Even with all these shortcomings the movie is still good. The two main actors Keir Dullea and Jack Warden are good but the supporting actors are just saying their lines with no emotion. It's like watching a conversation between two Vulcans on Star Trek. When the Captain is relieved of his command you don't feel anything. You're left wondering about the motives of his commanding officer and the Captain showed no stress in the entire movie.
January 31, 2008
The process of how war damages the emotional state of man is the theme here, based on the book by James Jones, this version is much closer to it than the useless later version which was in name only. Jack Warden epitomizes the brutally hard Sarge, and Dullea works as the enigmatic, Fruedian-named "Doll". Shockingly, for 1964, some subcurrent regarding homosexuality is touched upon. Despite some innacuracies regading firearms, the battle scenes are claustrophobic and straightforward. Read the short story "The Pistol" by James Jones, where he uses the same characters as TRL. This is "thinking mans" war exploitation genre'...