- Theatrical Trailer
- Audio: English [CC]
- Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
- Rated: Not Rated
- Run Time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
- Video: Black & White
- Encoding: Region 1 (USA & Canada)
- Released: June 6, 2006
- Originally Released: 1945
- Label: Warner Home Video
- Packaging: Keep Case
- Aspect Ratio: Full Frame - 1.33
- Additional Release Material:
- Trailers: Theatrical Trailer
Performers, Cast and Crew:
USA Today - 06/16/1992
"...[Robert Montgomery] gives the best performance of his career..."
Uncut - 05/01/2006
5 stars out of 5 -- "Ford's experiences in combat documentary are clear, but what's surprising for modern viewers is its measured, even downbeat tone....This is a nuanced and at times fatalistic study of men at arms..."
Ultimate DVD - 07/01/2006
3 stars out of 5 -- "[A] very watchable monochrome WWII piece....[With] a strong supporting cast..."
Description by OLDIES.com:
Supplies are dwindling. Troops are hopelessly outnumbered. But even in defeat there is victory. The defenders of the Philippines - including PT-boat skippers John Brickley (Robert Montgomery) and Rusty Ryan (John Wayne) - will give the U.S. war effort time to regroup after the devastation of Pearl Harbor.
Director John Ford's World War II tale knows its battle-scarred topic firsthand. Montgomery was himself a Pacific PT-boat commander and a valorous Bronze Star recipient. Ford filmed the Academy Award-winning documentary Battle of Midway. And Wayne creates a portrait of patriotic resolve as only he can. They Were Expendable salutes all who expended themselves during some of the war's bleakest hours.
John Ford's poetic adaptation of William White's book about a PT boat squadron in the South Pacific during World War II may be the best feature film on the war in that theater and is considered by some scholars, including British director Lindsay Anderson, as Ford's greatest work. Just before the outbreak of the war, Lt. John Brickley (Robert Montgomery) is assigned to take his Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron to Manila Bay to defend against a possible Japanese attack in the Philippines. Once there, he finds that the top brass, amused by the idea that the small crafts can be of use in combat, relegates the PT boat to messenger duty. Angered by that reaction, Brickley and his crew must wait for the war to begin to show what they can do. When it does, they shoot down three Japanese planes during an attack on their base, but when the base is closed Brick's squadron is reassigned to Bataan, where they once again are ordered to run messages, and Brickley's fiery executive officer, Lt. Rusty Ryan (John Wayne), fed up with such meaningless duty, asks to be transferred to a destroyer. The embodiment of Milton's tag that "they also serve who stand and wait," Ford's elegiac film pays tribute to all who donned a uniform during the war, whatever their role. Montgomery, who shared in the film's direction, gives the best noncomic performance of his career as the evenhanded CO. But in a visually arresting film that could provide a formidable emotional impact even without the use of sound, it's the eloquent compositions of director of photography Joseph H. August that resonate most powerfully.
Following the devastation of Pearl Harbor, two navy skippers take their small PT boats into action against the immense Japanese cruisers.
Big Battles |
World War II
- Additional cast: Arthur Walsh (Seaman Jones); Harry Teabrook ("Squarehead" Larsen, SC 2c); Alex Havier ("Benny" Lecoco, ST 3c); Tim Murdock (Ensign Brant); Vernon Steele (Army Doctor).
- Additional credits: Douglas Biggs (editor).
- Many people involved in this film had recently served in the Navy, including star Robert Montgomery. Furthermore, the film received the full cooperation of the U.S. Navy.