We Bought a Zoo
A widowed father played by Matt Damon moves to the South Californian country and purchases a zoo with his family
On Film4: 31 Aug 6:25PM
A band of American GIs resist Japan's South Pacific incursion. Actionful war drama starring Tyrone Power and Jack Elam, and directed by the great Fritz Lang
With a title like American Guerilla In The Philippines, you'd hope Fritz Lang's Hollywood-made war movie would be exciting. And while it's a million miles away from his European classics Metropolis, The Testament Of Dr Mabuse and M, the German legend wrings all sorts of thrills from the Pacific War.
Released in the UK as I Will Return - a nod to General Douglas MacArthur's famous speech - Lang's film focuses upon a band of American soldiers who, unable to flee the Philippines ahead of the Japanese invasion, choose to fight their away across the country. As Ensign Chuck Palmer (matinee idol Tyrone Power) and crewman Jim Mitchell (Tom Ewell) make their way towards Del Monte airport, they encounter Jeanne Martinez (Michelle Prelle), a teacher at an American mission school. Learning that the air strip has also been captured by the invaders, the trio have no choice but to ride out the occupation and create as much chaos as possible.
Although the movie's moniker and the presence of Tyrone Power might suggest a degree of trashiness, American Guerilla is a cut above your average Hollywood war movie. Okay, so Lang made better movies during his time in the US - The Big Heat is by far the nastiest if not quite the best film noir - but you can tell from the pacing and the compositions that American Guerilla was created by someone with a sophisticated appreciation of the medium. As for the actors, Lang must got down alongside Edmund Goulding (The Razor's Edge) as one of the few directors able to coax a convincing performance out of the teak-like Tyrone Power. Meanwhile, fans of walleyed actor Jack Elam are sure to enjoy his typically colorful performance.
If American Guerilla leaves you hungry for more war movies set in and around the Philippines, you're probably better off skipping expensive propaganda pieces such as Bataan, Back To Bataan and They Were Expendable. Instead, try and track down cult favourites Back Door To Hell and Fight To Fury.
Two films shoot back-to-back in the islands by Monte Hellman, these superior Roger Corman productions are as exciting as they are efficient. Oh yes, and they were written by one of the members of the cast, a young chap with a thinning thatch called Jack Nicholson.
A fine film that almost lives up to its mouthwatering title.
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