Based on the actual exploits of Navy Lt. I.D. Richardson in the Philippines, Power and fellow seamen refuse to surrender to the Japanese after the fall of Bataan in 1942 and attempt to hack their way through the jungle to Leyte, expecting to find a small boat that will take them to
Australia to continue the fight. Along the way they pick up the attractive wife of a friendly planter, Presle, taking her with them. The group commandeers a small craft but a storm sinks it eight miles out at sea and the survivors must swim to shore where Filipino partisans pick them up, hiding
them in the jungle. In the months that follow, Power, Ewell, and others evade the Japanese patrol hunting them, then meet with resistance leaders, taking a message to MacArthur's representative in Mindanao on the promise that passage to Australia will be arranged for them. Instead Power and his
group are ordered back to Leyte, where he establishes a radio network, prints money and newspapers for the government of Free Leyte, and begins manufacturing arms for the guerrillas. Power and Presle fall in love but make no plans until she hears that her husband, Torena, has been killed by the
Japanese. But the lovers have little time to dally since MacArthur's promised invasion of Leyte is now in full swing. Power and his group make radio contact with American troops, directing them to key positions but the Japanese intercept these messages and pinpoint the location of the guerrillas.
They close in, trapping the group in an abandoned church, killing most of Power's men before American troops appear to destroy the enemy. Power personally greets MacArthur and is commended for his brave and extraordinary work. (Robert Barrett, playing the great American general, had earlier
appeared in the same role for John Ford's classic WW II drama, THEY WERE EXPENDABLE.) Power's performance is energetic, intense, and reliably heroic. Ewell as his griping, sardonic aide brings realism to a surrealistic situation. French actress Presle, whom Fox was attempting to build to star
status, is attractive but has little acting range. The great director Fritz Lang was uncowed by the impossible story, explaining to Peter Bogdanovich that he took on the film because "I have to eat." Though critics pummeled the film at the time, it appears now as a top-notch action production with
great pace and gusto, having the necessary elements of tension and drive, with an excellent score and lush photography.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Based on the actual exploits of Navy Lt. I.D. Richardson in the Philippines, Power and fellow seamen refuse to surrender to the Japanese after the fall of Bataan in 1942 and attempt to hack their way through the jungle to Leyte, expecting to find a small b… (more)
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