SOUTH PACIFIC isn't the screen classic it should have been, but despite the fact that it pales in comparison with the long-running Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway musical on which it is based, the film still stands up as terrific entertainment. Inspired by James Michener's book Tales of the South Pacific, both the stage musical and the movie were directed by Joshua Logan--not entirely a good thing, since he allows his actors to resort to stage techniques that aren't always suited to the close-up medium of film. Set on an island in (you guessed it) the South Pacific, the story

concerns Nellie Forbush (Mitzi Gaynor), a midwestern nurse who falls in love with Emile De Becque (Rossano Brazzi), a widowed planter who is much older, has children, and is set in his ways (shades of THE KING AND I). At the same time, Lt. Cable (John Kerr), a young Marine, falls for Liat (France

Nuyen), a local native girl.

Ray Walston steals every scene in which he appears as a SeaBee conniver not unlike Sergeant Bilko, and Juanita Hall is wonderful as she repeats her stage role as Bloody Mary, though her singing is dubbed by Muriel Smith. Brazzi's voice work was provided by Giorgio Tozzi, and Bill Lee sang for

Kerr, but Gaynor handled vocal chores herself. Made for $5 million, SOUTH PACIFIC was shot on location in Hawaii with a large cast that includes such names as Tom Laughlin (BILLY JACK), Ron Ely (TV's "Tarzan"), Doug McClure, and a non-speaking cameo by Joan Fontaine. Ultimately, though, it is the

glorious Rodgers and Hammerstein songs that really distinguish the film.