Back to Bataan (1945)

Back to Bataanback-to-bataan-movie-poster-1945-1020196640
Directed by Edward Dmytryk
Written by Ben Barzman and Richard H. Landau; Original Story by Aeneas MacKenzie and William Gordon
RKO Radio Pictures
First viewing/Netflix rental

Maximo Cuenca: [a poor student dying in his teacher’s arms after heroic action] Miss Barnes, I’m sorry I never learned how to spell “liberty”. [dies]

Bertha Barnes: [tearfully] No one ever learned it so well.

For propaganda-combat, this takes the cake.

Col. Joseph Madden (John Wayne) is an old-time Philippine hand.  At the moment, he has his hands full staving off hordes of Japanese invaders on Bataan.  One of his officers, Captain Andrés Bonifácio (Anthony Quinn), is the grandson of a great Filipino freedom fighter.  Bonifácio is in turmoil because his girlfriend Dalisay Delgado has become something like the Tokyo Rose of the Philippines, broadcasting daily to get the Filipinos to give up.  Col. Madden is called back to Corregidor to get new orders.


General MacArthur has just received orders to leave for Australia and it looks like Bataan will fall any day.  Madden is told to organize the Filipino guerrilla resistance.  He returns to the island in time for the fall of the village that is the cradle of Filipino independence.  There we see Japanese atrocities against the principal of the local school, etc.  The schoolteacher (Beulah Bondi) joins the rebels in the mountains.  She wants Madden to go back to the village and avenge the life of the principal on the Japanese.  Madden has orders to blow up a Japanese gas dump and refuses.  The ragtag band of untrained guerillas is surprisingly effective in its mission and also manages to rescue Captain Bonifácio from the Bataan Death March.

I could go on but it is unnecessary.  Suffice it to say that MacArthur makes good on his promise to return.

duke_325Take a look at the quote up top and you will get a good idea of what is wrong with this movie.  In fact, the whole reason for Beulah Bondi’s character seems to be to spout off platitudes such as this.  The entire movie is first a tribute to Filipino resistance and only secondarily a story, much of which does not make much sense.  We keep getting big potential payoffs, such as the real identity of Quinn’s girlfriend, that are then more or less thrown away.  Speaking of Quinn, he looks just ludicrous as a Filipino.  Especially so when seen with dozens of actual Filipinos in this film.





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