Wednesday 22 July 2020

Movie Review: To The Shores Of Tripoli (1942)

An atrocious wartime propaganda film for the US Marines, To The Shores Of Tripoli mostly features men marching in formation.

Confident and cocky anti-authoritarian Chris Winters (John Payne) is the son of a storied Marine, and joins the training academy in San Diego. His drill sergeant Dixie Smith (Randolph Scott) is a friend and colleague of Winters' father. While undergoing training, Chris immediately sets his sights on Lieutenant Nurse Mary Scott (Maureen O'Hara), and does all he can to win her heart.

Chris also tries to help another hapless trainee get better, while his society girlfriend Helene (Nancy Kelly) regularly shows up to distract him from his pursuit of Mary. Chris proves himself a good soldier-in-the-making, but is still unsure if he wants to join active service, with the attack on Pearl Harbor looming.

Produced by Darryl F. Zanuck, To The Shores Of Tripoli (the title refers to a line from a Marines song) at least looks gorgeous in rich Technicolor. But no other redeeming elements are on display. Approximately half of the 86 minutes consist of platoons marching in formation this way then that, twirling their rifles in the training academy courtyard. With the war effort requiring an influx of volunteers, joining the Marines is made to look no more difficult than a high school marching band.

The movie's other half is a horrid attempt at a romance between Chris and Mary, both of them partaking in lying, deception and abuse. His behaviour fluctuates between manipulation and harassment, she gets her revenge by burning his skin, and this is all supposed to be the basis for a happy couple.

Director H. Bruce Humberstone is even tripped up by the most basic objectives of the film. Despite a most docile training regime and Chris proving his heroism, the muddled conclusion manages to question whether joining the military is ever worthwhile. A new ending was slapped together after the Pearl Harbor attack to change the lingering tone, but nothing can save this wretched effort from its misery march.

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