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Merrill’s Marauders – 1962 Fuller
- Like 1955’s House of Bamboo this feels like a bigger budget for Sam Fuller. It is shot in color, on location (or at least close- shot in the Philippines). This could almost pass for a John Sturges film in some ways in 1962 with the big bold credits.
- Set in Burma and parts of India, but the film suffers from a weaker cast. It seems like everyone in 1962 was busy shooting The Longest Day. That is too bad as the film probably needed a star or stronger group of actors. Jeff Chandler (this is his last film, tragically died at younger age—actually in 1961 before this even came out) is fine, striking with his tan, white hair and deep voice. But he does not have excessive screen presence. The difference between Chandler and like Lee Marvin or Gene Evans is quite a gulf.
- The story is about brave men set behind enemy lines in Burma. 3000 are whittled down to 100 with the autocratic Brig. General Frank Merrill character saying things like “I’m paid to make decisions”.
- Still, if Fuller opted for spending the money on the location shooting vs. star actors you cannot blame him. The sweat here on the tired soldiers looks real.
- Opens with a black and white box newsreel over the larger screen. Fuller grounds this in a documentary with maps, newsreel footage (like before a feature film back in the day) and with an omniscient voice-of-God-like narration.
- Merrill’s Marauders is minor-Fuller. It can’t hold a candle to some other war ensemble epics like The Dirty Dozen and even in Fuller’s oeuvre, it is behind Fixed Bayonets! (1951), The Steel Helmet (1951) and The Big Red One (1980)- which this feels like a rough draft for in many ways. Fuller is obsessed with these stories of the entire platoon where the situation is the real enemy—along with the baffling orders they’ve been given–as much as the Japanese. This is a Hell on earth.
- Some attempts at comic relief with a guy with a pet mule named Eleanor.
- Fuller also has some spotty issues in the storytelling and editing– there seems to be almost missing footage with a big attack on the railroad area. It is talked about often (and this not an elliptical film) and then all of a sudden Fuller sets us down in the middle of the action
- Recommend but not in the top 10 or terribly close for 1962