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Battle Cry

Warner Bros./Warner Home Video . R4 . COLOR . 142 mins . G . PAL


The last film of Raoul Walsh’s that I reviewed was The Big Trail (go here to read it) and I didn’t really think it a great film. 20 years later he put together this rather large epic, taken from a Leon Uris novel. Epic doesn’t necessarily mean good though, does it? Whilst watchable, it becomes more of a comedy than it intends to be due to hammy acting, corny dialogue and some genuinely pissy special effects. However, as with The Big Trail I found myself caught up in the story and couldn’t look away. Could walk away to the fridge for more biccies, but was still listening as I did so.

Within the weighty 142 minutes of this picture we follow the fortunes and misfortunes of a group of youthful recruits taken in during mid-World War II to bolster flagging US Army numbers. These gung-ho and green youths are continually frustrated by the ever-increasing training and ‘mop-up’ campaigns that send them all over the world and yearn for some real action. Along the way we experience their relationships, their heartbreak and their introductions to manhood. Finally action comes in the form of spearheading a major offensive that separates these men from their boyhoods forever.

"You can take that book and throw it in the ocean!"

It’s a bit American-wank with all their glory of battle and stuff and some of the relationship sequences have got to be seen to be believed. I can’t honestly believe romance was ever like it appears in this film - honestly! There are parts of this film that rate among the nearest examples of live-action mirroring a comic book that I have ever witnessed (just have a go at the cover art. Could it be more comic book?) There is one dude we get to know who looks and sounds just like Brains from The Thunderbirds! (Who is less wooden).

Entire sequences have been set in New Zealand, but I couldn’t detect a single New Zealand accent among the characters. In fact, if this film is to be believed, all New Zealanders sound like Americans and visiting Orstraylians sound like some sort of hybrid between English and the Sea Captain from The Simpsons. Arrrgh, matey.

Arrrgh indeed.


Surprisingly there are very few major artefacts, which is startling considering this film turns 50 in 2004. There are a couple of computer artefacts in static lines and such but these aren’t prevalent. The picture remains very clear throughout, including the occasional night shots. The blacks are all true and shadows hide no details from us, which does help with some of the night shots set on the docks or on the make-out balcony.

One fine note is the awesome 2.35:1 ratio of the original film, transferred with a super 16:9 enhancement. This makes the film look pretty great, regardless of performances or plots or subplots. Occasionally some jittering and shuddering turns up at the reel changes, but this is negligible and doesn’t impede us in the least from the laughs – I mean storyline. Flesh tones all come across cleanly and colour levels are just fine. Particular bar shots in which colour is seemingly everywhere have been handled quite brilliantly leaving nothing washed out at all which I found rather impressive. The video has been handled very well, considering the film’s age; it’s just a shame the plot lets it down.



For the most part the dialogue is spoken well, but as mentioned, the New Zealand scenes get a little much. Do sea captains actually wear that cartoon caricature coat and hat with a weathered face and corncob pipe? Maybe they did in the war, I wouldn’t know. I sure doubt they wear that now. At any rate, they sound like crap here.

The sound comes across rather low at times, but mostly it’s alright. Sound effects suffer some stockness in war scenes, but for the most part they appear original. Music doesn’t seem to play a huge role here, but when it does get ready to rock to the strains of all-American brass band gloryphonic sound. That John Philip Sousa guy has a lot to answer for, I can tell you!

One very annoying thing about this film is the voiceover by the sergeant. Every so often the script plays along just fine without him until 'Bam!', he’s back again. It goes on and on at times and sounds like one of those old caricature private eye movies with some Humphrey Bogart sounding dude calling women ‘dames’ or ‘broads.’ It’s horrible.



Thankfully there’s only the Trailer. I’m not sure I could have stomached an in depth 'Making of' documentary, particularly in that awful narrator’s voice.



Well, if you liked the book there could be little doubt that this is your sort of thing and you will probably love the film. However, for the rest of us this film is just a bizarre and hopelessly outdated film – even when placed alongside other films set in this period. Surely not everyone was so goody goody and unafraid of battle? They were shitting themselves in Saving Private Ryan and with bloody good cause. They leap out of the amphibious trucks like supermen here, charging up the beach and dying bloodlessly in the sand.

Still, the real horror here is the wooden acting and the awful dialogue. The seemingly all-rookie cast can’t work with this kind of dialogue and the film suffers heavy casualties due to it. This is one for the fans of Leon Uris or Raoul Walsh or even admirers of realistic and almost lifelike animation.

Oh yeah, arrrgh.

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      And I quote...
    "The nearest thing to live action mirroring a comic book I have ever seen, but not well like Spider-Man did."
    - Jules Faber
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          Standard Optical
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          Standard Component RCA
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