countdown boutiques-francophones vpcflyout Home Learn more All-New Kindle Music Deals Store sports Tools Registry

Customer Reviews

3.1 out of 5 stars
3.1 out of 5 stars
Format: VHS Tape|Change
Your rating(Clear)Rate this item

There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.

I love a good war movie, but there's something extra special about a war movie filmed while the fight is ongoing - especially when it recounts the story of a major victory that has been largely forgotten by history. America's initial offensive thrust into Japanese-occupied territory took place at Makin Island (Butaritari atoll), and Gung Ho! is the story of that mission as carried out by the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion (Carlson's Raiders). The strategic importance of the mission is now a matter of some debate, but at the time it was seen as an important diversion intended to disrupt Japanese communications and draw some of their forces away from more important targets (particularly Guadalcanal and Tulagi). There was no attempt to actually occupy the island - this was a quick, decisive raid designed to take out every Japanese installation (especially the radio tower) and kill every Japanese soldier on the island - get in quick, get out quick, and leave nothing but destruction behind you.

The Makin Island operation provided an important boost to morale back home, and this film obviously was made to further bolster domestic support for the war. As a propaganda film (and I must say I hate calling any film that passionately espouses the causes of liberty and freedom propaganda), it's a real winner: we lost some boys on that island, but the mission was a complete success, and the patriotic speech at the very end puts a great big morale-boosting bow on the whole package. As history, the film doesn't hold much water. Not to take away from the bravery of Carlson's Raiders (which included FDR's son), but the whole mission was basically a mess. Just about everything that could go wrong did go wrong - but you won't hear any of this in the film: more elaborate plans had to be altered due to choppy seas and heavy rains (one boat never got the new orders); the landing was chaotic to say the least; overestimating the size of the Japanese forces on the island, Carlson chose to withdraw that evening but could not get his men back to the subs due to the inclement weather, which in turn led him to actually surrender during the night - until, that is, he finally learned that his men had all but wiped out Japanese resistance already; and nine men were unknowingly left behind (and eventually beheaded by the Japanese). Some of his men later questioned his leadership abilities.

Obviously, the true story of Carlson's Raiders would not make for a good movie, especially during war-time. As a morale booster and as entertainment, however, Gung Ho! is highly successful. It follows the volunteer recruits who made the cut all the way from their rigorous, unorthodox training to their overseas journey tucked inside two submarines (this was the only landing via submarine during the entire war) - pausing to take in the remains of the attack on Pearl Harbor on the way - to their landing and fierce combat on Makin Island. The acting is quite good from top to bottom and includes such well-known actors as Randolph Scott, Noah Beery, Jr., and a young Robert Mitchum (who is one fellow I would certainly want in my army). I was a little disappointed in the actual combat scenes, though - after hearing about all of this unconventional training for the mission (Carlson taught his men how to fight dirty, knowing full well that the Japanese would fight dirty at every turn), the actual fighting turned out to be fairly conventional for the most part (but the hand-to-hand combat does portray the viciousness of the fighting pretty effectively).

Gung Ho! is a notable wartime film from 1943, but it turns out that the true story of Carlson's Raiders and Carlson himself is much more interesting than Hollywood's version of the August 1942 raid on Makin Island. Carlson is a fascinating man, having fought in several foreign armies (including a stint with the Chinese Communist Army) before America entered World War II. His Gung Ho! battle cry reflected his training philosophy of ethical indoctrination; to him, every soldier was equal and was to be treated as an equal, for only then could the necessary sense of community make his men the most effective fighting force possible. He was quite a maverick in the military, in both tactics (drawing heavily upon Mao-ist guerilla warfare) and political philosophy (insofar as he leaned noticeably toward Communism).
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on July 23, 2004
I agree with Hawthorne, FL ... he's right on the money. The 4-star rating is for the movie not for the DVD quality.
My problem with the reviews of this film is that Amazon has listed all the reviews underneath all the copies of this film. I have to assume it has fallen into public domain because there are many releases under various cheapo labels. I'd like to see the reviews appear against the specific versions/copies of the film so we can get a better idea of which ones have the better prints. We know from other public domain titles that some of these are going to be OK and others will be a chore to watch. The reviewer from Hingham, MA says his print is so dark as to be almost unusable. I wonder which one he was talking about? It's a shame that these fast buck artists are muddying the water by putting out DVDs that are in worse shape than most VHS tape versions.
How about it Amazon? Is there some way you can let us know which ones to go with if we want to see the best prints? I'm not buying this one because there's a chance it's money wasted. If you can point me towards a decent print I'll gladly give you my business.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on April 17, 2004
Some movies really don't age well.
GUNG HO! is a creaky old warhorse. It tells the story of the Second Marine Raider Battalion from its formation shortly after the Pearl Harbor to its first mission, a raid on Makin Island. The battalion is a volunteer outfit, so the first question the movie asks of its young stars is "Why do you want to kill Japs?" The Kentucky hick and the Brooklyn toughie and the ordained minister all pretty much say the same thing - because I don't like them.
The film follows the recruits through training and graduation to deployment and finally battle, with a short detour for a sloppy little romantic subplot. GUNG HO!, released in 1943, is based on actual events. The Marines' successful raid was big news back in those bleak days.
This is more a curiosity, a study of the value of propaganda on public morale, than a historically accurate document. Some of its inconsistencies are pretty jarring, though. For instance, Colonel Thorwald (Randolph Scott), the commander of the battalion, gives an inspirational speech at the beginning of training. He exhorts his men to "Cast out all prejudices, racial and religious," and learn to act as a, well, band of brothers. The men may have taken it to heart, but you can't help but notice there are NO people of color, save for a Filipino volunteer, in the unit. The only African-American in the whole movie is a cook on the transport submarine. It probably wasn't noticed when the movie was released, but it does seem a little ironic now.
Col. Thorwald delivers a few more "Some of us are going to die for democracy and freedom and equality" speeches, which are set in stark contrast with the behavior of the Japanese defenders. Fighter pilots laugh as they strafe ground troops. A badly wounded GI, begging for water, is brutally bayoneted by a Japanese soldier.
If you like standard issue war movies, I guess you'll like GUNG HO! Be warned, though. On the cover of the dvd case it looks like Robert Mitchum is pictured next to Randolph Scott, and it seems like they're co-starring. Mitchum has a relatively minor role in this one, much smaller than those played by the likes of Alan Curtis and Noah Beery, Jr.
And the dvd appears to have been transfers from a handy print. There are splotches and splashes and scratches throughout the whole thing. A bargain bin purchase at best.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on July 29, 2000
In 1943 the outcome of WWII was still uncertain. Movies showcasing victories were embraced by the public. This was one of the most unusual. "Gung Ho" (Chinese for 'work together') tells the story of the Marine Raiders who gained a reputation as a deadly, even bloodthirsty, fighting force. Randolph Scott portrays Evans F. Carlson (his, and the names of other real life Raiders are changed here) one of the most unorthodox commanders in American military history. Carlson fought with the Chinese Communist 8th Route Army against the Japanese before America entered the war. He gave his Marines a communist-style political indoctrination combined with unconventional warfare tactics training. This unusually frank film begins with a Marine announcing they are recruiting killers. They get Brooklyn street fighters, hillbillys who have settled family feuds the hard way, social outcasts, and even an ordanined minister. They also get American Communists who declare, "I fought in Spain, I fought in Greece, this fight is all the same, fascism!" In training, Randolph Scott sets the tone by saying "More than officers and men we're going to be comrades!" and instructs the Marines to cast all racial and religious prejudice out of their mind and that while they fight for equality they're going to live it. Further, "bars and insignia are left in the barracks." Their training includes asking a surgeon were best to stick a man with a knife and learning to spit in the eye of the enemy in hand to hand combat. The fact that the real Carlson died in 1946 shortly after the war with his hero reputation still fresh in minds is probably the only thing that saved this film from the Cold War trash bin. Highly Recommended.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on May 10, 2004
I'll agree with some of the reviews about the movie being a little cornball.
Col. Carlson was sent to China by our government as an observer. He was not a Communist as implied. The Chinese term "Gung Ho" is still used by people in our military today. Remember, China and Russia were allies of ours in World War II. My high school coach was an observer with the Russian Army and he was no Communist.
President Roosevelt's son James was executive officer of Carlson's Raiders and a good Marine. The Raiders were no more blood thirsty than any other Marine with a rifle in combat in WWII.
I would have liked to seen more of the training the Raiders went through.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on March 20, 2001
Gung-Ho!, a war film that takes place 7 weeks after the Pearl Harbor attack and details the volunteers that form the new 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, is a merely decent film with a merely decent DVD. While worth viewing, it is hardly even approaching the peak of it's genre (held, in my opinion, by films such as The Thin Red Line, Apocalypse Now, and The Bridge on the River Kwai: better movies with better DVDs) and isn't worth a purchase. However, those other films come as highly recommended.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on June 5, 2002
This is first and foremost a WWII Era War Prop movie. It was made when the war in the Pacific was going bad for America and the U.S. wanted to boost morale back home. Therefore expect the Americans to be Brave, Intellegent, etc. One of the interresting things to note is the positive focus on China. If you are interrested in History it is worth reviewing but this is not Pearl Harbor. Enjoyable film but not one of the must owns.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on August 22, 2001
This is an action adventure film made during the propaganda era of WWII. Loosely based on fact, the Americans are cheerful and brave, the Japanese stupid and cowardly. Look for a young Robert Mitchum as Piggie. My problem is that the copy I received was so dark as to be unusable. Good example of the genre but this edition leaves much to be desired.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse