The Thin Red Line is a title that most associate with Terrence Malick’s lyrical adaptation of James Jones’ novel in 1999. However, there is certainly something to be said for Andrew Marton’s gritty version (1964), released from the archives after over fifty years.
Set amid the Allied invasion of Guadalcanal in the pacific theatre of WWII, it takes an unusually bleak view of the conflict for its time. When compared with other WWII movies of the era, such as The Longest Day – parts of which were also directed by Marton – The Thin Red Line is far more psychologically sophisticated. It goes beyond a simple veneration of valour to explore the issues of insanity behind it, and daringly implies an unnerving connection between lust and bloodlust within its hero.
In terms of realism, what this independent war movie cannot achieve in its crude and dated action sequences, it makes up for in its mental honesty. Flawed, but of value, its nihilism seems to reflect not only upon the past conflict it is ostensibly portraying but also the Vietnam War which was contemporary to the film.
Optimum Classic, DVD released January 31st 2011.