A Movie A Day: Quint on SANDS OF IWO JIMA (1949)
You know, my natural dislike for you is turning into a great hatred.
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Today we follow John Wayne from the walls of the Alamo to the shores of Iwo Jima. Oddly enough, both of these stories have been retold with big budget studio films in the last 4 years. The Alamo in 2004 and Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima.
And I’ve enjoyed the John Wayne films a lot more than the newer studio tentpole versions.
That’s not to say there aren’t thinks to like in Eastwood’s films or John Lee Hancock’s film. I think the cast assembled for the 2004 Alamo was a great one and some of the sequences were really well done and while I greatly disliked Flags of Our Fathers, I did like Letters From Iwo Jima, even if it never did fulfill the wonderful promise of being the counter-point film, the viewpoint of the other side during the same battle, with cross-overs and the exact same scenes told from different perspectives.
What I found most strange about SANDS OF IWO JIMA was that we don’t get to Iwo Jima until the last 25 minutes of the movie. In fact, the taking of another island, Tarawa, has more screen time, I think.
Iwo Jima might be the hook of the movie and the final stage for the character’s we’ve gotten to know, but the real focus is on camaraderie between these soldiers, with a particularly fine point made about John Wayne’s drunk, emotionally scarred squad leader, Col. Stryker.
The B story follows young John Agar as a private with a massive chip on his shoulder. He signed up out of obligation to his family name, but his dad was an overbearing dick to him and he has no desire to be in war at all. In fact, Stryker served with Agar’s father and Agar soon sees him as a replacement father figure, both for good and bad.
At first it’s all bad. Agar says everything to Wayne that he couldn’t say to his own father, challenging command at every opportunity.
We also follow Agar as he sweeps a Kiwi girl off her feet during the squad’s stay at a base outside of Wellington, New Zealand, played by the very cute blonde Adele Mara. It’s a simple love story. They meet, fall in love, get married all before he ships off. It’s supposed to show Agar’s human side and it does its job well (even if Mara’s accent was about 90% American, 5% British and 5% other), but it’s not a romance for the ages.
Another curiousity with the flick is the large amount of actual war footage used as B-roll and I’d wager the good majority of it is actually from the battles portrayed in the film. It’s easy to notice the 3rd or 4th Generation film dupe (less sharp and more scratched), but instead of pulling me out of the movie it pulled me further in. It’s quite fascinating.
Final thoughts: Sands of Iwo Jima is a very likable flick. It was a huge hit in its day (in fact, the whole film started with a request from the Marine Corps. to have this story told as the government at the time was thinking of disbanning it after WW2) and there’s good reason for it. Agar is fantastic, as are Forrest Tucker, James Brown (not that one), Wally Castle and Richard Webb as soldiers in arms.
You’ll see huge streams of liquid fire… flame-throwers that give to giant flame-throwing tanks. No shit. It’s awe-inspiring, macabrely beautiful. You’ll see very interesting original war footage, shot as the battles went down. You’ll see some real great character comedy peppered in at just the right moments… In fact, I’d go so far as to say you’ll see SAVING PRIVATE RYAN’s grandfather. I’m a big fan of Saving Private Ryan and I don’t know if I’d say I enjoy Sands of Iwo Jima as much or more than that film, but the parallels are impossible to ignore. Watch the two of them back to back and tell me I’m wrong.
One final bit of trivia before I give it up, but it was during this flick’s premiere at the Chinese Theater that The Duke left his bootprints and clenched fist imprint in the cement outside.
The schedule for the next 7 days is:
Tuesday, July 8th: WAKE OF THE RED WITCH (1949)
Wednesday, July 9th: D.O.A. (1950)
Thursday, July 10th: SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943)
Friday, July 11th: THE MATCHMAKER (1958)
Saturday, July 12th: THE BLACK HOLE (1979)
Sunday, July 13th: VENGEANCE IS MINE (1974)
Monday, July 14th: STRANGE INVADERS (1983)
Tomorrow’s the final Wayne flick for a little while, 1948’s WAKE OF THE RED WITCH, which I have a sinking feeling does not involve the death of a sun-burned sorceress. Although, I’d kill to see John Wayne starring in a movie about that…
June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
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July 7, 2008, 9:39 p.m. CST
Why does it look like Wayne is making a "I just got kicked in the dick" face on the original poster art?
July 7, 2008, 9:40 p.m. CST
love this film......FIRST....your whole scheme of using actors ,directors,etc has worked out good for you. you got some great flick to choose from. love this
July 7, 2008, 9:42 p.m. CST
i think he did get just kicked in the nuts . we all know wayne gots the biggest ones ever. a god among men. dudes an icon. searchers was fantastic film of his too.
July 7, 2008, 9:46 p.m. CST
Ask the Chinese what they think of Letters of Iwo Jima ans the Japanese portral as sympathitc noble souls that despise was as much as the rest of humanity does. The Japanese conduct during the invasion of Manchuria and throughout the war would make the most hard core Nazi jealous. Read up on the rape of Nanking where babies where tossed like baseballs onto bayonetes and Japanese soldiers threw mothers and their children into burning pyers. This new revisionist softtouch history from hollywood with everyone but the Germans is quite disgusting
July 7, 2008, 9:48 p.m. CST
Comparing it to Private Ryan :/ Nice.... It came out first. Pork Chop Island, Baby. You've haven't seen Strange Invaders. Good God Man, WTF!!!! Let me guess you haven't seen Spaced Invaders either!<P> Oh yeah, The Amulet... Show the fucking thing already will ya!
July 7, 2008, 9:52 p.m. CST
kinda been wonderin the same for a while now. how someone as busy as quint to still watch "a movie a day" it seems like a alot of work..fun..but time consuming. not sayin dont love the column just dont see how can be done.you got skills there man
July 7, 2008, 9:56 p.m. CST
by Gwai Lo
I wonder the same thing myself. I can only guess that he has built a surplus of reviews (he would still need to watch the movies in order, since he scheduled them) by reviewing more than one movie a day whenever he can. Because it would be really hard to watch and review one movie a day no matter what, that's like four hours of every day dedicated right there.
July 7, 2008, 9:59 p.m. CST
He has a Chick, but she doesn't have a fucking spine or sense of self importance and walks all over her ass. That and the fact that he doesnt work a 9-5 job like us on 9-5 hours were he better be up to something productive for every second in those hours (minus lunch break) or he's fired.<P> All of this equal lots of time for him to do shit like this!
July 7, 2008, 10 p.m. CST
dude thats uncalled for. what his chick got to do with anything. this topic got weird and angry quick. lets go back to the actual movie and not bashing on the man yeah ?
July 7, 2008, 10:03 p.m. CST
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July 7, 2008, 10:04 p.m. CST
My Sincerest Apologies Quint. I was Drinking to too many Legs tonight. Now give me the Amulet, you Bitch!!!! (Just a glimpse- does "Please" work????)
July 7, 2008, 10:25 p.m. CST
saw this on tv many times. pretty solid little war flick. when the duke was still a two-fisted action hero and not the older dude who beats the two-fisted guys.
July 7, 2008, 10:34 p.m. CST
If not, it would be a good addition to your list. First it has your best girl, Julie Andrews. It's a WWII film, but a comedy, also with James Garner & James Coburn. I was reminded of it during the extras on my dvd that mentioned (as you did) how the Marines wanted Sands of Iwo Jima made as a way of boosting the image of the Marines. In The Americanization of Emily the Navy is concerned their branch of the service will be absorbed by the army and want to distinguish themselves on D-Day. If you haven't seen it I suggest you give it a look - I think you'll like it.<p>As for Sands of Iwo Jima, I too was a bit put off that they didn't get to the island until 90 minutes into the film. But enjoyable nonetheless. The use of archival footage was well done. I think a lot of it was also used for War & Remembrance.<p>Was it just me or did anyone else chuckle every time someone said "Stryker"? I can't hear the name without being reminded of Airplane.
July 7, 2008, 10:44 p.m. CST
as always,.....love your views on most films... There are alot of flicks I've seen,but prob three times as many that I've only glanced at while on cable(this is one of them). I finally netflixed "On the beach" after seeing pieces on TCM,....quite easy to make a thumbs up or down if you've just seen parts,...but taken in as a whole,...alot of these films are better than the sum of the parts. Cheers!
July 7, 2008, 10:51 p.m. CST
Screw that. Letters from Iwo Jima was better than Das Boot. That was how potently it fulfilled its "wonderful promise."
July 7, 2008, 11:05 p.m. CST
Reviews here...and I agree I love this movie. It shows 'Hollywood' and WW2 Propaganda movie making at its best... yet in a very entertaining way. Also for us Texans on this site...if anyone wants to see where the "Alamo" (John Wayne's) was filmed you should head down to Brackettville, Texas...I was awestruck of the scale ...not that large... of the original Alamo. The site has been used and redressed many times since 1960 for other pictures and commercials but it is still a working movie site. Look it up online...its a lot of fun for a different kind of trip.
July 7, 2008, 11:09 p.m. CST
Is a masterpiece, my friend. It's a war film that makes you root for the fucking nazis to escape the Americans. How crazy good does a movie have to be to make a good ol' USandA boy think that?<BR><BR>As far as how I do a movie a day, I did start out with a surplus, but that was because I did a lot of traveling when the column first launched, but I've been on the day or one movie ahead for the last 3 weeks. I won't lie, though... over the next couple of weeks I plan on getting a week ahead so when Comic-Con comes by, the week I spend away won't cause a stop in the column.<BR><BR>You guys are right, it is about a 4 hour commitment per day, but when you love what you do it doesn't feel like work. I'm still doing interviews (I have nine lined up just this week, 8 in person and 1 phoner) and have some set reports that are just waiting for an embargo to lift. And I still post to the day to day news, but thankfully between Beaks and Merrick, I have enough free time to do this column.<BR><BR>PS I just this weekend planned out the list for the next 6 months. I had about 3 weeks left on what I had scheduled out so far, but had already added about 130 titles to the stack, so I incorporated those and just played connect the dots for about 8 hours and planned out everything up through January '09. We'll see if I can keep up the regiment, but I'm not flagging yet.
July 7, 2008, 11:26 p.m. CST
All these movies you hold in such high esteem. Sigh, I may actually have to go back and re-evaluate J Wayne. I'll be the first to admit I never gave him a fair shake, his persona always just rubbed me wrong and the few movies I saw of his seemed so black/white in morals. I'll try to give him another shot and try to check my bias at the door.<br><br> After seeing his films, what beyond Rio Bravo do you feel have been his best (or his best re-entry point for a guy like me)
July 8, 2008, 12:26 a.m. CST
that racist fuck was kicking back in beverly hills and bangen em two at a time...enuf of john fuckin wayne movies
July 8, 2008, 12:54 a.m. CST
I haven't seen a whole bunch, but definitely Rio Bravo and The Cowboys are my favorites... of the series. My favorite Wayne film is still The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, but by the time I'm through all these DVDs maybe that will change. McQ and Brannigan are also fun if you want to watch Wayne out of the Old West or wartime flicks. <BR><BR>Bacci, we get it. You don't like the dude. He seems to have been a douche, I understand. I still like his screen persona and respect the level of fame and success he reached. He's what? 30+ years in the grave? Who cares what he was like? It's over and done with. You can still enjoy the good he left behind.
July 8, 2008, 1:08 a.m. CST
Thanks, i'll go back to this one then. I have Rio, which I like, but didn't feel it was Wayne's presence that I enjoyed. Haven't rewatched that in a year or so though, so i'll give that one a 2nd try first. Thanks for the recommendations!
July 8, 2008, 4:52 a.m. CST
The best movies ever done.
July 8, 2008, 6:42 a.m. CST
Hey bacci40... maybe you need to read up on Wayne and how he wanted and tried several times to get into the service....how he felt bad about not getting in and how the honchos at the studios helped to keep him out of the service by having him make movies to help the moral of the boys over there and families here. Racist? He was married a couple of times to Hispanic women....so...he could not be all that racist?
July 8, 2008, 7:21 a.m. CST
as the Drive By Truckers sang : When I was just a kid I spent every weekend On the farm that he grew up on so I guess so did I And we'd stay up watching movies on the black and white TV We watched "The Sands of Iwo Jima" starring John Wayne Every year in June George A. goes to a reunion Of the men that he served with and their wives and kids and grandkids My Great Uncle used to take me and I'd watch them recollect about some things I couldn't comprehend And I thought about that movie, asked if it was that way He just shook his head and smiled at me in such a loving way As he thought about some friends he will never see again He said "I never saw John Wayne on the sands of Iwo Jima"
July 8, 2008, 7:37 a.m. CST
July 8, 2008, 7:39 a.m. CST
I've beena huge fan for years, You can't get any better than: The Searchers and True Grit. Amazing Wayne performances and great stories.
July 8, 2008, 8:29 a.m. CST
If you're looking for a great Wayne movie, I also recomment checking out Red River. If you think his films are all "black and white", this will cure of that notion.. It plays with his ushual persona, but turns it on it's head. So character traits that one would admire about Wayne in some of his films become character flaws.. It's also seems to be a precurser to Lonesome Dove, centered around two friends running a cattle drive.. Check it out..
July 8, 2008, 9:19 a.m. CST
Quint - Rene Gagnon, Ira Hayes (the american indian), and John Bradley all make a cameo appearance in the film. They play 3 of the flag raisers. (The other 3 in the famous photograph did not survive the war). Wayne gives them the flag and the camera lingers on them for a moment. Cool stuff.
July 8, 2008, 9:48 a.m. CST
I liked it for the most part but felt a bit ripped-off by the ending. Kind of like Hitchcock's Suspicion - a lot of buildup that doesn't payoff. But I still enjoyed it. Watching The Cowboys I saw it as a good follow up to Red River. Similar character who has mellowed (a bit) with age.
July 8, 2008, 10:39 a.m. CST
Thanks for reminding me about the horrible ending to Suspicion. Although I believe that was due to the morals rules in Hollywood at the time than any decision by Hitch. According to TCM, the original ending (of the book, I believe) was a bit darker.
July 8, 2008, 10:44 a.m. CST
Quint, if you burn out and die doing this, it will still be worth it. Actually, no. Take a break if you have to.
July 8, 2008, 11:15 a.m. CST
by Beard of Zeus
I was in L.A. a few years ago and being curious about such things, I went over to see the hand and foot prints. I had to find Douglas Fairbanks' prints and they were indeed small. That being said, I found John Wayne's prints as well, and was surprised how small the Duke's feet were. I believe he was around 6'4", yet my feet were bigger. Perhaps shinkage was involved.
July 8, 2008, 11:33 a.m. CST
by wilbur gray
Quint,I know you've already got a lot of movies to see,but here's another suggestion.The Long Voyage Home is another Wayne film and was directed by John Ford.A lot of the actors from other Ford films show up in supporting roles,with the standout being Thomas Mitchell.Great acting by all involved,including Wayne with a Swedish accent.
July 8, 2008, 12:15 p.m. CST
People underrate him as an actor but he's one of the few ones I know who can convincingly play older without a lot of makeup. I also love HATARI! directed by Howard Hawks.
July 8, 2008, 2:02 p.m. CST
Terrific underrated Wayne oater. El Dorado is another good one...
July 8, 2008, 2:05 p.m. CST
Not simply one of the best John Wayne movies, but one of the best movies - period.<p> Its got a fight scene that has never been topped, being equal parts awesome and comedy at the same time.
July 8, 2008, 3:49 p.m. CST
not that flags horseshit
July 9, 2008, 4:31 a.m. CST
Print the legend, man. Wayne was an asshole...so what? He was in the best movies ever done by the human race. He did a great job, and, as movie fans, that´s the important thing.
July 9, 2008, 7:05 a.m. CST
bacci is still pissed off at a guy who's been dead since 1979. That makes me lol!
Aug. 14, 2008, 10:19 a.m. CST
Was exhibited on both sides during the Pacific theater in WW2. It makes folks a bit squeamish when attempting to portray that time. A good account of this is the excellent book by E.B. Sledge called "With the Old Breed At Pelilieu and Okinawa". It is an education in the brutality exhibited by both the US and Japanese forces there...something that is lacking from our experiences in Europe, at least to the same degree. It may help clarify the murkiness WW2 Pacific movies sometimes exhibit in reference to the Japanese.
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