Published on May 12th, 2007 | by Chris1
The Naked and the Dead (1958)
Based on Norman Mailer's bookof the same name, 1958's The Naked and The Dead is a surprising look at not so much the war itself, but the sociology, psychology, and power structure from inside the war, and inside the military, and I suppose you could say in everyday life.
The movie starts out in typical 50's "cheesy" fashion, (along with a soundtrack that sounds more made for TV than the movies), and quite frankly I was wondering what I'd gotten myself into. Quickly though I began to realize that this wasn't a story about the war itself at all.
The first half is a somewhat quiet (as in not much action to speak of) look at the struggles between Sgt. Croft (Aldo Ray) and his men, and one Lt. Hearn (Cliff Robertson) and his overpowering superior, General Cummings (Raymond Massey.)
The dialogue and ideas behind the conflict between Hearn and Massey are spectacular, and it quickly becomes clear that we're to draw a parallel between this and the conflict between the equally-overpowering Sgt. Croft.
The real hero of this story is Lt. Hearn, who having been wounded after being sent on a recon mission (sent by the general to teach him a lesson), realizes just how wrong the General, and Croft are, and lets the good General know about it in one of the most poignant endings to a movie I've seen in a while.
This film is extremely serious, so much so its a little dark. The few attempts at comic relief just end up turning serious anyway (like the whisky-still scene) and quickly ruins the fun! Like I said, the first half is a rather un-eventful exploration of power and authority.
The second half however turns into a fairly suspenseful expedition through the jungle, and we see the theorization of the second half put into practice. Both from the side of Sgt. Croft, and the side of Lt. Hearn.
If you're looking for a fun action movie, leave this one alone. But if you're willing to put your mind into it and think about what's going on here, I'd recommend you do so....
I'll give this a big 7, only because the soundtrack stood out as so "period TV". Apparently it doesn't exist on DVD yet, either(!) At least I couldn't find it. So a big thanks to TCM for putting this up on screen!
Summary: Based on Norman Mailer's bookof the same name, 1958's The Naked and The Dead is a surprising look at not so much the war itself, but the sociology, psychology, and power structure from inside the war, and inside the military, and I suppose you could say in everyday life.