One of the greatest war movies of all time, combining action-packed, high-caliber battle sequences with quintessential foxhole-buddy camaraderie. Released in 1943, its authenticity and power remain undiminished. The stor... more »y follows one squad of Marines through the bloody assaults on the Solomon Islands during the opening stages of the war in the South Pacific. There's the tough sergeant (Lloyd Nolan), a cab driver from Brooklyn (William Bendix), a Mexican (Anthony Quinn) and a chaplain (Preston Foster). A battle-weary narrator reads from a diary, commenting on the typical grunt's everyday life, and death. Battles and dates of engagement are named, putting the explosive action into a solid historical context. Based on Richard Tregaski's best-selling book, the script is by renowned screenwriter Lamar Trotti, who also wrote the screenplay for the wartime classic "To the Shore of Tripoli."« less
Alejandra Vernon | Long Beach, California | 06/15/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Based on Richard Tregaskis' popular book of his account of the action at Guadalcanal, when the first detachment of U.S. Marines landed in the Solomon Islands in August of 1942, this is a tough and gritty war film with a sturdy ensemble cast, who do a wonderful job of recreating the diverse characters in the story, from Anthony Quinn who dreams of his señoritas, to the young Richard Jaeckel, who is always writing home to mom.
Preston Foster, William Bendix, Lloyd Nolan and Richard Conte are the other actors that contribute to make the film interesting, along with the narration by Reed Hadley which contrasts with the everyday speech of the dialogue and at times is quite poetic.Enduring the humid jungle, often plagued with torrential rain, and at one point running out of food and needing reinforcements, the narrator says of October 10th, "...for we are tired, after days of heat and rain, dust and disease, mud and malnutrition, weeks of constant fighting...", the film depicts a lot of heroism, the caring for one another, and much patriotism.
The battle cinematography by Charles Clarke is visually exciting, though all very sanitized, as none of the intense fighting is graphic, and one must remember that this is a 1943 film, and the language used is far from politically correct; those who can't put it into historical perspective should avoid seeing it.
Total running time is 93 minutes."
The Island of Death
Jeffrey T. Munson | Dixon, IL | 06/02/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Anthony Quinn (Pvt. Jesus "Soose" Alvarez), Preston Foster (Father Donnelly), William Bendix (Cpl. Aloysius "Taxi" Potts), Minor Watson (Col. Wallace Grayson), Lionel Stander (Sgt. Butch), Lloyd Nolan (Sgt. Hook Malone), and Richard Jaeckel (Pvt. Johnny "Chicken" Anderson) star in this fine movie about America's first amphibious assult of World war II. This movie was made just shortly after the actual capture of Guadalcanal in February of 1943.
The movie begins with the journey of the First Marine Divison across the Pacific Ocean aboard transport ships. The Marines' time was spent either lying on deck, playing cards, or shooting the bull. The journey was long and monotinous, but the Marines were finally informed of their destination and readied themselves for battle. Upon landing, the Marines set up a perimeter and set out to engage the enemy. Some of the fiercest fighting of the war occurred on Guadalcanal. Both sides were undersupplied and suffered from lack of food. However, while the Americans were hungry, the Japanese starved. Thus, the island became known to the Japanese as "the island of death".
After six months of brutal fighting, the Americans finally captured the island. The Japanese managed to remove their remaining troops under the cover of darkness using destroyers.
This movie does a very good job of describing the action which occurred during the battle from the initial landings in August until the Army relieved them in December. The performances by the cast are very good, and I especially thought that the narration added some valuable insight to the movie. Also, I was impressed by the historical accuracy of the movie. Each of the early encounters with the Japanese is described, including the battle of Teneru River to the horrible shelling of Henderson Field by the Japanese Navy. Based on the book by correspondent Richard Tregaskis, "Guadalcanal Diary" does a fine job of telling the story of the First Marine Divison and their struggles during the early days of the Guadalcanal campaign. This movie differs greatly from today's war movies such as "Saving Private Ryan". There is no blood and guts death scenes in this movie, as well as no political correctness. Routinely throughout this movie, the Americans refer to the Japanese as "monkeys" and "gooks". These terms may not be popular, but that's exactly what the Marines called them in 1942-43.
I give this movie my highest recommendation. The characters are realistic and believable, the action is very good, and the historical correctness is excellent. Watch this movie and see how two enemies fought over a strategically important island in the South Pacific for six long, brutal months in the early days of World War II."
A well-made "flag waver", which also entertains.
F. J. Harvey | 07/07/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Set apart by its realistic portrayal of the struggle for Guadalcanal from most other "flag-wavers" made during World War 2, this film is also most entertaining. Marines live and die in this film, and the Japanese also certainly die, as you would expect. The black and white photography and narration by Richard Tregaskis (an actor really) give the film a documentary realism. For civilian audiences, this film must have seemed absolutely real to them. However, while the Marines on the 'canal were literally starving to death for a while, the actors in this film stay remarkably healthy looking. Also, they shave every day. The cast is top notch. You'll recognize many past and future stars from it. Richard Jaeckal (the MP Sergeant in The Dirty Dozen ) started his film career in the movie. Guadalcanal Diary is a fine example of the World War 2 film, made to bolster civilian morale during the war years. It is well worth seeing and owning, as a piece of cinematic history."
An exciting, realistic movie made during the war
F. J. Harvey | 04/23/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Having seen both Guadalcanal Diary and A Thin Red Line, I must say that Guadalcanal Diary is a far better film. Having been made during the war (in 1943, barely a year after the start of the Solomons campaign) this movie goes far beyond being a propoganda film. It is a story about private lives of grunts, all coming from different places yet showing great teamwork and camaradarie. Also, there is no real "Jap bashing" even though this movie was made during the height of conflict with the Japanese. (What do the "propogandist" reviewers have to say about that?).Also, this movie is about the Marine Corps which began the campaign at Guadalcanal. The Army (which is what The Thin Red Line was about) moved in *after* most of the hard fighting was done by the Marines. Granted, the movie does not have the special effects and cinematographic appeal as The Thin Red Line. But the movie has the best realism and cinematography available at the time.Also, there are no "why are we here" and anti-war sentiments that were portrayed in The Thin Red Line. (In my view, The Thin Red Line might have found a better place had it been made about Vietnam). Grunts at WWII, knew very well why they were fighthing. The threat to the world by both Japan and Germany was very real. The future of world freedom (and possibly civilization) was at stake. There was a good depiction of the fear felt by the combat soldier and of the fact that death does not escape even the best. The heroism shown in this film is not just about individuals, but all the Marines collectively who accomplished their job (and duty) well.I highly recommend this film."
Well staged war movie
F. J. Harvey | Birmingham England | 10/28/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This account of the struggle to retake the South Pacific island of Guadalcanal from the occupying Japanese army in World War two is marked by superbly staged battle sequences .It -uniquely for the period -eschews the standard gung ho flag waving that marked most Hollywood war movies of the era (understandably ,in my book given the circumstances)and depicts a very matter of fact view of the average soldier's life in combat situations.
The acting honours are stolen by the under-rated Richard Jaeckel but there is sterling support from reliable performers like William Bendix,Richard Conte ,Lloyd Nolan and the great Anthony Quinn.
A war movie showing rare honesty and integrity ."