Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Red Badge Of Courage (1951)

A 'Red Badge Of Courage'
Is Not Necessarily A Badge Of Honor

- Sandwiched between two of John Huston's better known film efforts - The Asphalt Jungle (1950) and The African Queen (1951) - The Red Badge Of Courage (1951) is also one of Huston's better films. A mostly faithful but fast-forward version of Stephen Crane's famous novel of the same name, The Red Badge Of Courage is a quick (69 minutes long) but big and thoughtful American Civil War picture.

One of the most highly decorated American soldiers during World War II, Audie Murphy, stars as "The Youth" - a young man fighting in the American Civil War who is faced with fear and courage amidst the horrors of war. Murphy is very entertaining and fully believable in the role, whether he is scared out of his mind or roaring with passion as he takes on the entire Confederate army. Most of the other supporting actors do a fine job but Bill Mauldin is really the only other actor besides Murphy who gives a memorable performance.

Because of studio disputes and disagreements about The Red Badge Of Courage, John Huston lost control over it and left to work on The African Queen. As a result, the studio edited the film down to its current 69 minute form and added a bunch of needless and at times annoying narration. Although Huston might not have been able to make the film he originally had in mind to make, what he was able to do makes The Red Badge Of Courage a very good film. The entire film is very well shot but Huston especially puts his war footage experience to good use by creating some very grand and exciting battle scenes - The Red Badge Of Courage is definitely a contender for the most epic film with a short runtime. But the film is not all blood-and-guts, Huston takes the film down to a very human level and makes the story meaningful.

Huston may have had to walk away before finishing it, but The Red Badge Of Courage is still a very good film and is a nice piece of his filmography.

CBC Rating: 8/10

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