The famous news photograph of the men who raised the flag on Mount Suribachi after the bloody fight at Iwo Jima comes to life in this earnest but flawed attempt at telling the story of one of the battle survivors. It's almost like two films in one, as the first half is rapid, and the second
half bogs down in the muddled relationship between the two men who are at the core of the story. Curtis was miscast in the film, something that wasn't the case when Lee Marvin did it in a totally different script (by Merle Miller) for a TV show a year before. It's the height of WW II, and teenage
Curtis, a Pima Indian living his entire life on an Arizona reservation, decides to join the Marines. In boot camp (the best scenes of the film), he finds one person who doesn't treat him like a second-class citizen, Franciscus. The two boys go off to war together and are part of the quintet of
flag-raisers. When Franciscus is later killed by Japanese bullets, Curtis is destroyed. The war continues, and Curtis is acclaimed a national hero and goes on a bond drive across the US. He can't handle all the accolades and feels guilty that he has survived, so he turns to whiskey to give him
strength. His drinking is soon out of hand, and the press has a field day. He goes back to his Marine unit, then the war ends. He tries hard to be invisible back on the reservation, but the tribe needs a representative to go to Washington on an agricultural matter. Because of his fame, Curtis is
chosen. He travels to the capital, but booze gets the better of him and he spends some time in jail for drunk and disorderly conduct. Upon returning to the reservation, he is shunned by his fellow Indians, who do not elect him to a post on the tribal council, something he'd had his heart set upon.
With no one in the world to counsel him, Curtis climbs a mountain with several bottles of liquor and is eventually found dead of exposure. He was 32. This terrible tragedy was totally true.
One of the main problems with the script is the relationship between Curtis and Franciscus, which seems almost beyond friendship. Had the writers looked deeper into that story, it might have not been as palatable to the general public, who want their heroes to love only their women and horses.
Filming took place at the Iwo Jima Memorial at Arlington, Camp Pendleton, Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley, San Diego, Camp Matthews, Chicago's Soldier Field, and the Arizona reservation of the Pima-Maricpa Indian tribe. Good intercutting of newsreel footage with the film makes the battle scenes
come to life. In small roles, note TV's Ted Bessell and Lynda Day George.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: The famous news photograph of the men who raised the flag on Mount Suribachi after the bloody fight at Iwo Jima comes to life in this earnest but flawed attempt at telling the story of one of the battle survivors. It's almost like two films in one, as the… (more)