Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: James Edwards, Lloyd Bridges, Jeff Corey, Douglas Dick, Frank Lovejoy, Steve Brodie, Cliff Clark
Written by: Carl Foreman, based on a play by Arthur Laurents
Directed by: Mark Robson
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 88
Date: 05/12/1949
IMDB

Home of the Brave (1949)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

A Soldier's Skin

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Mark Robson made his directorial debut while working under the command of genius producer Val Lewton at RKO, and while his career turned out to be rather unmemorable, there are certain moments here and that that show his training. Home of the Brave is an impressive, ahead-of-its-time drama that deserves to be better known. On the surface, it's a war movie, but it's really about a black soldier and his feelings.

James Edwards plays that soldier, Private Peter Moss. Edwards, too, deserves to be better known, playing some of the first African-American screen characters that had some complexity, or at least rose above stereotype. He was, frankly, as historically important as Sidney Poitier.

In any case, Moss volunteers for a dangerous mission, to map a Japanese-held island in the South Pacific. Four of his white cohorts, including Moss's old high school buddy Finch (Lloyd Bridges), also go on the mission. Moss and Finch are shown as genuine buddies, even in flashback, playing basketball. Finch is always encouraging and supporting, and Moss clearly shares his affecting, though he's always aware of the societal limitations of his color, and keeps himself held in check.

When the mission ends badly, Moss has an extreme psychological reaction; he can no longer walk. Back on base, a doctor (Jeff Corey) attempts to unlock the source of this trouble.

Robson's scenes in the jungle are the most effective, with the complex interplay of the men -- the sergeant recites poetry supposedly written by his wife -- subtly heightening the drama.

Adapted from a play by Arthur Laurents, Home of the Brave is sometimes crude as it muddles through the dark ages of both psychiatry and racism. But just the fact that the movie is game to try earns it a great big round of applause.

Olive Films has released this hidden treasure on Blu-ray and DVD in a strong black-and-white transfer, with no extras.

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