a review by Gary A. Braunbeck
Pride of the Marines is a 1945 war drama starring John Garfield as the tormented marine Al Schmid. It’s based on a novel by Roger Butterfield. This was one of the first movies to step away from the unconditional rah-rah nationalism of earlier WWII films and to portray the brutal nature of the conflict and terrible cost paid by the men who fought. In many ways, the movie was ahead of its time.
This movie contains one of the most terrifying and nerve-wracking sequences I’ve ever seen. Garfield and three of his buddies are trapped in a foxhole in a swamp, and the jungle surrounding them is swarming with Japanese soldiers. You never see the enemy soldiers, though early on you hear them yelling, “Marines, tonight you die!”.
The marines can only see five feet in front of them because of the mist and fog, and one by one the guys are picked off by snipers (who take on the feeling of phantoms). Every once in a while you catch the glimpse of a shadow or hear the snapping of a twig…but that’s it. As each of them falls to a sniper, the others become even more frightened and paranoid, until, near the end of the sequence (it’s a good 10 – 12 minutes long, with no music, just sound effects and silence to build the unbearable tension), Garfield finally snaps and grabs the machine gun and begins firing blindily into the fog…
More would be a spoiler. It remains one of the most nerve-shatteringly suspenseful sequences I’ve seen.
Overall, the film is beautifully acted and it is one of Garfield’s best performances. It’s a pity it’s not available on DVD, though you can very rarely find it shown on cable TV.
Rating: PG (were it re-released on DVD)
Running Time: 119 minutes
Director: Delmer Daves
Writer: Marvin Borowsky, Roger Butterfield, Delmer Daves
Score: Franz Waxman
Cinematographer: J. Peverell Marley
John Garfield: Al Schmid
Eleanor Parker: Ruth Hartley
Dane Clark: Lee Diamond
John Ridgely: Jim Merchant
Rosemary DeCamp: Virginia Pfeiffer
Ann Doran: Ella Mae Merchant
Ann E. Todd: Loretta Merchant
Warren Douglas: Kebabian