Cast & Crew
During the World War II, Western Pacific campaign, the island of Bougainville is occupied by the Japanese. Thirty miles away, Sergeant Fletcher, a twenty-six-year Marine Corps veteran, is informed by Major Scott that a full-scale invasion of Bougainville is planned. Scott also states that a French plantation owner, Bouchard, has radioed information about the location of Japanese minefields on the beaches and assigns Fletcher to find Bouchard and verify this information in order to save many lives during the invasion. Fletcher, who is guilt-ridden about having lost most of his platoon at Guadalcanal, sets out with his remaining men, Burke, Reynolds and Biggerman, to locate Bouchard. Following a river, they come upon a dozen Japanese soldiers emerging from a swim. Although it is not part of their mission to engage the enemy, they shoot a number of the soldiers and lose Biggerman when he attempts to drop a grenade into a Japanese tank. Before nightfall the three men dig a trench, hoping to ambush the remaining Japanese soldiers who are following them. However, when a flare reveals their position and they come under fire, Burke crawls out of the foxhole with his knife drawn and struggles with a sniper in the undergrowth. Reynolds goes to his assistance but is killed. After Fletcher and Burke bury him they move on. Eventually, they reach Bouchard's plantation where they discover his daughter Nina, who takes them to where her father is observing enemy activities. After Bouchard shows them a map with the safe channel clearly marked, Fletcher and Burke decide to radio Scott with the confirmation and head for an enemy radio hut which Bouchard has used, as it is normally lightly guarded. They are followed by the Japanese soldiers and after discovering that the hut and surrounding compound are booby-trapped, they manage to lure their pursuers into the compound and blow it up. The four retreat into the jungle and decide to head for their rendezvous point so that they can deliver the information in person. Meanwhile, Burke is unhappy that Nina has become part of their problem and Fletcher sends him and Bouchard to scout a trail. Nina is aware of the animosity between Burke and Fletcher over the deaths of so many men, and when she is alone with Fletcher, he admits to her that he feels he has always made the wrong decisions. A short time later, Burke and Bouchard return with a Japanese deserter who appears very frightened when approached by a native carrying a machete. Bouchard talks with the native and he agrees to take them where they want to go in exchange for the deserter. After the native leads them to a river bank and a canoe, Fletcher leaves the deserter with him, and as they pull away, cries are heard. The river journey is successful until they hear a patrol boat and are forced to pull into shore and abandon the canoe. Nina falls, injuring her ankle, but they proceed through the jungle on foot, followed by Japanese from the patrol boat. Because Bouchard says that the rendezvous spot is still many hours away and due to Nina's swollen ankle, it is unlikely they will arrive in time, Fletcher suggests that Burke go on alone. Burke does not want to leave Nina, to whom he has become romantically attached, and slugs Fletcher. Suddenly, a shot rings out and Bouchard drops dead, the victim of a sniper. Fletcher then sends Burke and Nina on ahead, draws the sniper's fire and eventually kills him. Burke and Nina struggle on, but she asks him to leave her in order to get the map through and save many lives in the invasion. After they rest, Fletcher catches up with them and angrily forces them on until they come to a ridge from where they can see the pier and the waiting boat. As they advance along the beach, the pier is fired on by a Japanese battleship. An American patrol boat responds but is blown out of the water. Burke then swims out with a grenade and ignites the river of gasoline which extends from the wreckage to the battleship, causing it to explode. Burke swims back to the shore but their boat has left without them. They sit on the pier expecting the Japanese eventually to get them, but instead a squad of soldiers led by Major Scott arrives. After Fletcher and Burke hand over the map, another boat pulls in and Nina is evacuated, but not before Burke tells her that he will be seeing her. Burke and Fletcher, who now respect each other, rejoin their unit.
Robert L. Dawn
Wesley V. Jefferies
Howard W. Koch
John F. Schreyer
Richard Alan Simmons
Curtis plays a marine named Burke who's trapped with his platoon in a dense tropical jungle, thick with rotting foliage and poisonous creatures. Their mission is to rescue an enemy informant (Eduard Franz) and his daughter (Mary Murphy) on the island while avoiding the encroaching Japanese soldiers. Curtis conveys a palpable sense of claustrophobia and imminent doom in this minimalist yet grimly realistic drama. At one point, he snaps at an injured Mary Murphy, who has been urging Curtis to leave her behind to the enemy soldiers. Curtis gives just the right mixture of fear, hatred and determination as he hisses, "The Japs. Do you think I can leave you to them?" In another exchange, Murphy bravely says, "I'm not afraid" to which Curtis sarcastically responds, "That solves everything." In real life, Curtis was a World War II veteran who saw action in the Pacific. In his autobiography, he wrote that "making Beachhead was a very intense experience for me because it hit close to home and my own reality. It gave me my first long exposure to Hawaii, which I fell in love with and where I bought some real estate, but I was relieved when the film was over."
Beachhead's sense of urgency is largely due to director Stuart Heisler and cinematographer Gordon Avil who chose to shoot the film in a cinema verit¿ style. This realistic method of filming throws you into the middle of the action, giving moviegoers a "you are there" viewpoint. Cinema verit¿, which is distinguished by its hand-held camera shots, abrupt jump cuts and rough, home movie-like qualities, would become more commonplace in the sixties with the television news coverage of the Viet Nam War and documentaries like Showman (1963), by the Maysles Brothers, and Titicut Follies (1967), by Frederick Wiseman. But Beachhead was not a documentary; it was a fictional film that was shot on location in Kauai, Hawaii and filmed in Technicolor, a rare choice for early cinema verit¿ filmmaking. It was also one of the first genre pictures outside of film noir to incorporate a decidedly "un-Hollywood" filmmaking style into a standard Hollywood narrative.
Producer: Howard W. Koch
Director: Stuart Heisler
Screenplay: Richard Alan Simmons, based on the novel I've Got Mine by Richard G. Hubler
Special Effects: Russell Shearman
Cinematography: Gordon Avil
Film Editing: John F. Schreyer
Original Music: Art Lange, Emil Newman
Cast: Tony Curtis (Burke), Frank Lovejoy (Sgt. Fletcher), Mary Murphy (Nina), Eduard Franz (Bouchard), Skip Homeier (Reynolds), John Doucette (Major Scott), Alan Wells (Biggerman), Akira Fukunaga (Japanese sailor).
By Scott McGee
The final title card at the film's conclusion states: "Beachhead was was filmed in its entirety in the Territory of Hawaii on the 'Garden Isle' of the Pacific, Kauai. We wish to thank the Department of Defense, the Hawaii National Guard, and the United States Coast Guard for their cooperation in making this picture possible."
An internal memo in the film's PCA file in the PCA/MPAA Collection at the AMPAS Library indicated that the Marine Corps had reiterated its refusal to authorize Marines to appear in Beachhead, but would offer no objections to cooperation by the Navy and the Army. The memo state: "The Corps is going to look with a jaundiced eye on all pictures involving Marines in death, blood and violence." However, a Daily Variety news item of January 12, 1954 reported that the completed film had been screened for Marine officials and that a Major in public relations had described Beachhead as "a terrific picture" that "will help the Marines."
Released in United States Spring April 1954
Released in United States Spring April 1954