Battle at Bloody Beach (1961)
Breaking stride, real life WW2 hero, Audie Murphy, found himself in a war film as opposed to riding the trail taking on outlaws of all varieties in the western genre for this low budget effort released through 20th Century Fox from director Herbert Coleman. Aside from his self portrayal in the 1955 biography, To Hell and Back, this would be the only other film that Audie starred in that one can really count as a war film provided we eliminate John Huston’s civil war tale, The Red Badge of Courage from the conversation.
For this black and white outing Audie finds himself in the Philippines during the Japanese occupation. He is to make his way to an isolated coast line following a submarine drop. He’s to make contact with Gary Crosby who has been running a one man scouting station relaying vital coded messages to the Allies. Audie fans will get what they expect seconds after his rowing ashore. A hand to hand combat battle with two soldiers that he along with an assist from Crosby easily dispatch.
Audie’s mission is to set up a chain of weapons, ammunition and supplies for the resistance fighters who populate the hills bringing death and destruction to the Japanese forces wherever possible. Audie also has a personal reason for volunteering for this dangerous mission. He’s in search of his wife who was caught in Manila when the Japanese invaded leaving her trapped behind enemy lines. He has no idea if she is alive or dead. Thankfully when he meets the guerilla squadron leaders, Alejandro Rey and Ivan Dixon of Hogan’s Heroes, he’ll find his wife played by Dolores Michaels and a group of American civilians hiding out with them.
For his part in the film, Crosby is living the life of a beachcomber. It’s as if Frankie Avalon was still just a couple of years too young to take up the duties of living in a beach hut and being tended to by a couple of attractive locals played by Puerto Rico’s Miriam Colon and an actual native to the Philippines, Pilar Seurat. I guess that adds a bit of authenticity to a movie that had California subbing for the Philippines during production.
Audie may be have been happily reunited with Dolores but as we’ll soon find out, she thought he was dead and adding some thin melodrama to the proceedings, she’s taken up with freedom fighter Rey in both the bedroom and on the front lines. Audie’s intention is to set up the weapons exchange and take the American civilians including Lillian Bronson and Barry Atwater back to safety along with his wife and retire from his voluntary service in the war effort. Dolores is having none of it and intends to go on fighting the tyranny of the Japanese invaders.
As the title points out, there is to be a hellacious battle at bloody beach and don’t be surprised if Audie joins the freedom fighters taking on the Emperor’s fighting force.
I for one like the fact that Audie Murphy didn’t launch into a movie career laced with war time stories and heroics. I think the reasons are all too obvious. He was always a favorite of mine growing up on Sunday afternoon television facing off against western heavies and winning the love of the virginal gal living in a frontier town. My parents used to tell me he was a real life hero and not just one made up for the movies. Eventually I’d see him portray himself in To Hell and Back to have a better understanding of the true story of Audie even if it has been Hollywoodized. Bottom line is I always found him likable on camera whether in a western or one of his rare ventures into something a bit different like The Quiet American or The Gun Runners.
Gary Crosby was of course the son of Bing and flirted with movies and television for years, the majority of his roles being found on the small screen. Director Coleman was working overtime with Audie during the 1961 season. He also directed Audie in Posse From Hell the same year as well as doing double duty producing and directing Audie’s short lived 1961 TV series Whispering Smith that I have to say proved a disappointment overall compared to the many westerns found on the small screen at the time. If anyone is familiar with Coleman’s name I’d wager it has more to do with his connection to Alfred Hitchcock. He served as assistant director to Hitch on a number of 1950’s films including Rear Window and Vertigo. Along with assisting he also scored associate producer credits on The Trouble With Harry, The Man Who Knew Too Much, The Wrong Man, Vertigo and North By Northwest. Now that’s a pretty impressive resume.
Looking to score a copy of this Audie Murphy actioner? It’s available through the made on demand branch of Fox which is exactly how I scored my copy. Looking to land a copy of the original 1961 one sheet? No idea where you’ll find one but I do know one thing, mine isn’t for sale.