Last night’s film research was 1943’s Guadacanal Diary. A war correspondent, who apparently leaned toward over-wrought and dramatic philosophic musings, describes to the viewer his experiences traveling with the soldiers of the first Guadalcanal campaign.
The best part of this film was clearly Anthony Quinn; even this early in his career he seems to suck in the atmosphere like a fine vintage, puffing up his chest and delivering most of the meager handful of comedic lines. Like many other characters, he goes down bloodlessly in a sea of invisible bullets, but one thing an older war picture has over recent trends in realism is the use of racist epitaphs. Soldiers probably did tell their commanders they shot a few “squinties,” but hearing that in a modern film is more taboo than seeing a few limbs shatter under a grenade. This is information to note, but uncomfortable to hear.
It’s the script that hurts this movie the most, with dialogue so stiff and awkward it’s a relief to get to the next battle scene. It labors under a heavy-handed narrator, and frequently lags, but it does offer scenes not usually included in war movies, like the lazy days of waiting in the hot sun for some action to start. As I did, for most of the film.