The theatrical trailer included in this DVD release of Merrills Marauders
, touting its depiction of "World War IIs most fabulous jungle fighters
(as) they showed the world what the American soldier can do," makes director Samuel Fullers 1962 film sound like jingoistic propaganda, but its considerably more than that. The year is 1944; the U.S. Armys 5307th Composite Unit, a 3000-strong outfit under the command of Brigadier General Frank Merrill (Jeff Chandler), has already been fighting the occupying Japanese forces in the wilds of Burma for several months when theyre assigned to march hundreds of miles through jungles, swamps, and mountains to Myitkyina, a town of considerable strategic importance and the gateway to India, where the Allies fear the Japanese and Nazis will meet and consolidate their forces. Mission impossible? So it would seem, as the men are exhausted, disease-ridden, disheartened, and ill-equipped; his second in command, Lt. Stockton (Ty Hardin), argues that they'll never make it, but Merrill (who has a heart condition that could bring him down at any moment) refuses to let up. There are numerous combat sequences, most of them quite convincing (including a very cool scene in a concrete maze), but the films strength lies not only in its graphic chronicling of the obvious horrors of war but in its sympathetic (but never condescending) portrayal of the more quotidian aspects of these soldiers' miserable lives, from easy banter to quarrels over food and ammunition, from the interactions with locals to the sheer hell of simply walking another step when youve already passed the limits of human endurance. Grim, gritty, intense, and realistic (Fuller was an Army vet himself), this is an effective precursor to the directors best-known movie, The Big Red One
. --Sam Graham
Brigadier General Frank D. Merrill leads the 3,000 American volunteers of his 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional), aka "Merrill's Marauders", behind Japanese lines across Burma to Myitkyina, pushing beyond their limits and fighting pitched battles at every strong-point.