This flag-waving, anti-Japanese Hollywood film was released almost a year to the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. By this time, all of the studios were making war movies and rushing them out to a waiting nation. Many of them had cookie-cutter plots, and STAND BY FOR ACTION is no
exception to that trend, although its special effects (which earned an Oscar nomination) and the stellar cast place it a cut considerably above most of its contemporary competitors. Taylor (in a role turned down by Robert Donat after his huge success in GOODBYE, MR. CHIPS) stars as a
Harvard-educated snob who has his cockiness knocked out of him when he faces real war. A Naval Reservist whose elitist attitudes and patrician background make him instantly unpopular with the other men, Taylor is the aide to admiral Laughton, a crusty type who commands the base at San Francisco.
Taylor can't stand his desk job, but he'd rather be safe and sound in San Francisco than facing the guns of the enemy. Laughton, by contrast, yearns to be at sea again. Meanwhile, Donlevy, who has come up in the ranks from swabbie to lieutenant commander, is given command of a rusty gutbucket from
the last war. It's a creaky destroyer, but until the defense plants begin delivering new ships, the Navy is forced to put old ones into commission. Taylor is assigned to be Donlevy's second-in-command and they take the vessel out for a shakedown cruise, discovering many things wrong with the
destroyer while they do so. Ordered to join a convoy, Donlevy, Taylor, and crew race across the roiling ocean to arrive in time. En route, they come upon a lifeboat filled with women and infants who have been drifting since their ship was torpedoed. They bring the kids and the women on the
destroyer, the men acting as nannies to the babies while the women, Linden and Maxwell, watch bemusedly. After the destroyer catches up to the convoy--led by Laughton, happily on the brine again--they are attacked by Japanese planes, while a huge battleship is spotted on the horizon. The small
convoy will be no match for the gargantuan Japanese ship, so Donlevy shoots his own vessel toward the trailing behemoth as a decoy, allowing the other ships to escape. Next, the small four-stack destroyer goes after the Japanese ship, using stealth and speed to nail the big boat and send it down
to meet Davey Jones. In the process Donlevy is wounded, leaving Taylor to take command. Naturally, he covers himself in glory, showing his true bravery. At the conclusion, Taylor, Donlevy, and crewman Brennan are given medals and go off to win the war for God and country. Terrific battle sequences
and excellent special effects distinguish this film from many features of the time, which often all-too-obviously used cheap miniatures in water tanks for "naval" scenes. Taylor is good in the lead, though Laughton is wasted in his role as a latter-day Captain Bligh.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: This flag-waving, anti-Japanese Hollywood film was released almost a year to the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. By this time, all of the studios were making war movies and rushing them out to a waiting nation. Many of them had cookie-cutter plots, a… (more)