Raoul Walsh’s ‘Objective, Burma!’ with Errol Fylnn

Now that’s the Raoul Walsh I know. After sitting through Battle Cry a few weeks ago, I finally popped in Objective, Burma! (1945) today. Brimming with action, the film is one of the best movies made while World War II was still raging on.

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Captain Nelson (Errol Fylnn) leads a group of soldiers into Burma to destroy a Japanese radar station. While they achieve that goal, the Japanese are racing behind them, and the Japanese arrive at the airstrip where they would have been picked up first. So, they continue on into the jungle on a 200-mile journey to their base. However, they are reassigned to go north to another hill, not back home for a reason not even Nelson knows.

This is the kind of movie that Walsh is best known for. It’s filled with action and touches of humor from the anonymous group of actors playing Nelson’s men. Aside from Flynn, there’s no other marquee stars, but they all chip in with neat performances. Henry Hull is poignant as an old reporter tagging along and George Tobias provides much-needed comic relief. Sure, the film inflates the Americans’ importance in Burma during the war (the efforts to take back Burma were really lead by the British and Commonwealth military), but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying an old-style war movie.

James Wong Howe’s sterling cinematography also deserves credit for making the film look as good as it does. Objective, Burma! is filled with night scenes and How knew just how to use B&W to bring these scenes to life. Franz Waxman’s sweeping score also helps to underline the emotional moments, without getting overly patriotic.

Objective, Burma! was released on DVD by Warner Home Video and is in a TCM pack with four other Flynn war movies. However, I got it in a three-pack with John Sturges’ Never So Few and Go For Broke!. The disc includes two fascinating WWII shorts, including one called The Rear Gunner, starring Burgess Meredith and featuring a cameo from Ronald Reagan. The other is a color short with Tobias titled The Tanks Are Coming. It’s also currently streaming on Warner Archive Instant.

Objective, Burma! is a fun, classic war movie that doesn’t require much thought. Despite running 142 minutes, it certainly doesn’t feel that way. Once Flynn gets dirty, he’s much more believable as a leader in the middle of war and Walsh certainly gets a fine performance out of him.

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