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They Were Expendable


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Product Details

  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, Closed-captioned, NTSC, Subtitled
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: Spanish, English, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: May 22, 2007
  • Run Time: 135 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (141 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000O599VC
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #32,306 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "They Were Expendable" on IMDb

Special Features

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Editorial Reviews

Supplies are dwindling. Troops are hopelessly outnumbered. But even in defeat there is victory. The defenders of the Philippines ? including PT-boat skippers John Brickley (Robert Montgomery) and Rusty Ryan (John Wayne) will give the U.S. war effort time to regroup after the devastation of Pearl Harbor. Director John Ford's World War II tale knows its battle-scarred topic firsthand. Montgomery was himself a Pacific PT-boat commander and a valorous Bronze Star recipient. Ford filmed the Academy Award?-winning* documentary Battle of Midway. And Wayne creates a portrait of patriotic resolve as only he can. They Were Expendable salutes all who expended themselves during some of the war's bleakest hours. Director John Ford's World War II tale knows its battle-scarred topic firsthand. Montgomery was himself a Pacific PT-boat commander and a valorous Bronze Star recipient. Ford filmed the Academy Award -winning* documentary Battle of Midway. And Wayne creates a portrait of patriotic resolve as only he can. They Were Expendable salutes all who expended themselves during some of the war's bleakest hours.

Customer Reviews

It is a great story, featuring Robert Montgomery and John Wayne (in one of his most human roles,) paired with the great Donna Reed.
Daryl R. Gibson
This film extols war and the value (but also the wrenching heartache) of sacrifice for the cause, and it was made by people who had experienced war firsthand.
Stephen Elderbrock
The footage of the PT Boats, fighting against Japanese ships and aircraft, under attack and on the attack against superior naval forces, was all outstanding!
Anthony J. Simeone

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 31, 2003
Format: VHS Tape
More than 60 years ago, Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor. During the months which followed, the United States struggled to recover as Japanese military victories continued throughout the Pacific. This film is based on William Lindsay White's interviews of four members of Motor Torpedo Boat Squadron Three, published as They Were Expendable in 1942. John Ford and Robert Montgomery co-directed and Montgomery also stars as Lieutenant John Brickley. Throughout much of this film, Brickley's squadron only provides courier service between Bataan and Corregidor. When given the opportunity, however, Squadron Three does manage to sink several of the enemy's ships as the Japanese complete their conquest of the Philippines, eventually forcing the American forces to surrender.
With regard to the film's title, not all of those involved with resisting the Japanese were expendable. General Douglas Mac Arthur is ordered by President Roosevelt to relocate with his family and staff to Australia. Brickley's squadron makes their escape possible. As the film ends, he and Lieutenant J.G. "Rusty" Ryan (John Wayne) return to the United States on the last plane out. Their men will now be fighting on foot...at least for a while. In the final scene, as they trudge proudly down the beach and the plane carrying Brickley and Ryan rises above them, the soundtrack offers a muted choral rendition of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." A distinctive Ford touch.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Great Movie Addict on September 20, 2003
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
If you're looking for mock Hollywood heroics or a bloated 'action movie', try The Flying Tigers or The Fighting Seabees. This beautifully made, understated film is about the courage and dedication of the forsaken Phillipine defenders in 1941-42. In particular, the scene in which a radio announces the American surrender tells what those early days were really like. John Ford, who served in the Navy, casts Robert Montgomery as a PT squadron leader (in fact, Commander Montgomery served in the same PT squadron with John Kennedy). The b&w photography is outstanding, often mesmerizing, quite unique for a war film, with locations that are dead ringers for the originals. Adapted from the 1942 Pulitzer prize book by a reporter who was on the scene, it follows the true story fairly closely. Every performance is right-on, as are the combat scenes. Not a pumped-up excercise in flag waving; rather, it's a well executed tale of courage in desperate times. Every scene fascinates with the ambiance of its time and place, and with chilling historical accuracy. If the ending doesn't get a grip on you, you're a lost cause. And, yes, Doug MacArthur is treated like a god -- which, in those days, he was. No ostentatious preaching here; it's understated brilliance from start to finish, and an education in an earlier generation's attitude toward duty, integrity, and sacrifice. Bruce Willis fans stay clear; this is a war movie for grown-ups.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Steven Hellerstedt on January 20, 2005
Format: DVD
John Ford's THEY WERE EXPENDABLE tells the story of the fledgling PT (patrol torpedo) boat branch of the US Navy and its valiant, and futile, defense of Manila immediately following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Few directors possess the passionate affection Ford has for his subjects. Ford idolizes and idealizes his soldiers and sailors. As a consequence, his movies usually aren't very plot driven. Rather, they are tone poems, love letters to the warriors he so deeply admires. Not that TWE doesn't hit a major note or two - the PT boat role as a fighting arm is established, battles are fought and boats are sunk. Yet Ford never seems all that interested in serving plot points. He wants to paint Heroes. In any other director this romantic treatment would seem trite and contrived, but Ford practically built the cliché, so I suppose if anyone has the right to use it, it's Ford.

Ford's heroes die talking. Rare is the mortally wound Ford warrior who is not borne from the noisy cauldron of battle to a quiet corner and allowed a passing speech. I don't mean to mock this, but I've never experienced the well of grief such scenes are meant to evoke. It happens a brief time or two in TWE, but the moments are over quickly enough.

If Ford's choice and treatment of material is romantic and sentimental, it's fortunate that his actors usually aren't. Robert Montgomery and John Wayne star and both give restrained performances as PT boat commanders. Ford surrounds them with his usual cast of highly competent character actors - Ward Bond, Jack Holt, et al - and seamlessly integrates shots of real combat in battle scenes. There's a scene where two PT boats attack a Japanese cruiser that is one of the best action sequences I've ever seen.

THEY WERE EXPENDABLE is a great war movie.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Paul Sayles on May 17, 2001
Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
They Were Expendable is the story of a small number of Sailors who found themselves in the Phillipines as World War II started. These men are operating small torpedo boats for the Navy which doesn't seem to have much of a use for them, if one listems to the admirals and captains viewing them in action.
The all star cast includes George Montgomery, Donna Reed, John Wayne and Ward Bond, amongst others. All are excellent and make this story much more real than it might otherwise have been. You get the feel for the Philippines and the climate. Plus the deterioriation of the situation as the Army is forced down the Bataan Peninsula to the island of Corregidor and the ultimate siege and defeat.
Many people "remember" Pearl Harbor but don't quite recall that the Philippines was a starker defeat for the United States. If you look at it objectively, Pearl Harbor was essentially avenged at the Battle of Midway. The Philippines took over2 1/2 years to see the return of US forces and it then evolved into a slogging match with the Japanese Army that went on until the surrender of Japan in 1945. Pearl Harbor sticks in the mind, the Philippines rapidly faded away.
This movie brings back the events that made up the US role in the Philippines in 1941 and early 42. You see at the end that there is not a happy ending. The romantic interest stays behind to become a POW. The remaining members of the PT crews become rifle carrying Sailors as they march off into the bush. Pay attention to Montgomerey's farewell talk to his men. It should rank up there with Washington's farewell to the Army.
This is a film that should be seen by all with an interst in Naval and Military history as well as the events of 1941-42. It is a movie about people that could be anyone of us.
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Topic From this Discussion
''they were expendable''
Frank's query of April 11 2009 is so old that he has probably long since found his answer elsewhere, but for the record, the Internet Movie Database (imdb.com) shows the following top billed cast list for 'They Were Expendable':
Robert Montgomery ... Lt. John Brickley (as Robert Montgomery Comdr.... Read More
Jun 8, 2011 by Grant A Thompson |  See all 2 posts
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