Merrill’s Marauders is everything I wanted in a Sam Fuller movie.
You’ve got World War II, men on a mission and the biting realization of existential angst. The film opens with an artful push from Black and White WWII archival footage. Then, we get hit with the scope technicolor majesty of a Warner Brothers production from the early 60s. But, it’s Fuller shooting a movie about the Pacific Theater.
Adapted from a popular 1950s novel, Fuller took over this picture that was meant to be a Gary Cooper vehicle. As such, the tone changed rapidly over the 3-4 year development period. The result was a film about the monotony of taking locales and targets that mean nothing to anyone outside of the Military High Command.
People drop off due to various attacks and maladies. All the while, the men bond together as they push for survival. This is a film about grunts and the utter disposable nature felt by men on the front lines. Even when we get the semi-studio ending, it’s handled in a way that you know changes nothing.
A new squad will pick up the slack from there and the survivors will be feed into new outfits. Fuller presents the Army as a never-ending purgatory where release comes with the annihilation of others. Super dark, but your Grandpa loved it.
The Blu-ray comes with no special features. But, damn if Warner Archive doesn’t know how to cut together a transfer. The only catch is that the 2.0 MONO mix seems to keep everything upfront. While that is true for the era, I felt like we could’ve got some better audio separation.