1964 version of The Thin Red Line is a workmanlike war movie
Original film bludgeons home madness of war message of James Jones' novel
The central message of James Jones’ source novel – war is insane and it turns soldiers into mad men – was somewhat lost amid the seemingly endless scenes of marines wading through long grass in Terrence Malick’s quasi-mystical 1998 take on the story of the American invasion of the island of Guadalcanal in the Pacific theatre of WWII. This first version, made in 1964, does the opposite by bludgeoning home the madness of war through personal and professional disagreements between officers and the grunts sent on a series of suicide missions culminating in the securing of the island’s natural fortress, Elephant Hill. Keir Dullea maintains a single note of hysteria, as a cowardly private who finds strength through sadism as he learns from Jack Warden’s sergeant that being mean is the only way to survive. Jones’ vivid first-hand insights and overacting melodramatics aside, director Andrew Marton (who shot exteriors for The Longest Day) turns in a workmanlike war movie. No extras.