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Corregidor – A doctor and his staff in a hospital on the Philippine island of Corregidor shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor try to treat the sick, injured and wounded…


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Movie rating: 3.5 Star Rating: Recommended

On 6 Dec 1941, surgeon Royce Lee and her maid, Hyacinth, arrive at a thatched hut on Manoi Island in the Philippines, which is the home of Royce’s fiancé, Dr. Jan Stockman. The next day Royce and Jan are married by a local priest, but a Japanese squadron flies overhead as the ceremony ends and bombs the island. Hyacinth is killed, but Jan and Royce are unharmed, and they join up with a small unit of American soldiers. While continually avoiding Japanese ground forces, the troop heads toward Manila, which is 600 miles away. After Jan is shot in a scuffle with Japanese soldiers, Royce is able to treat the wound, but when their lieutenant falls ill with malaria, he commits suicide so that he will not detain the unit and thereby place them in danger of capture. Several days later, the group reaches the rocky island of Corregidor, where American forces have stationed themselves in an underground cavern. One of the soldiers, Pinky, reunites with his girl friend, whom he affectionately calls “Hey Dutch.” Royce and Dan are immediately put to work in the army hospital, and Royce finds that her former lover, Michael, who had previously left her without explanation, is also there. Although Jan believes that Royce still loves Michael, Michael insists that he left her because she tried to buy his affection when he was a struggling intern. Japanese planes mercilessly bomb the island, and the men and women stationed there have little respite from the barrage. The news of the Japanese invasion of Burma soon reaches Corregidor, and after taking stock of their diminishing supplies, the commanding officers nevertheless choose to continue to defend the outpost. Dutch is injured while working as a stretcher bearer during an attack, and she and Pinky are married as she lies in her hospital bed. Dutch dies soon after, and Royce once again reassures Jan of her love, but he is resigned to the fact that she still loves Michael. When ammunition runs out, Pinky and the soldiers engage in hand-to-hand combat with the Japanese. Jan continues to work outdoors in triage even after he is shot during an attack, but he is soon killed when a bomb drops on the makeshift hospital. Below ground, Royce delivers a Filipino baby and then receives news from Michael of her husband’s death. Royce and the nurses are ordered to evacuate immediately, and she reluctantly boards the plane, vowing to reunite with Michael after the war. Pinky is the tailgunner in the plane, and dies valiantly defending the lives of the nurses. At Corregidor, the lack of supplies forces Michael to operate on the wounded without painkillers or gloves, and the radio operator files his last report, fifty-five minutes before the outpost surrenders. At home in the United States, Royce sheds tears for her lost friends.

Director: William Nigh Writers: Doris Malloy (original story and screenplay), Edgar G. Ulmer (original story and screenplay)

Otto Kruger, Elissa Landi, Donald Woods

Reason of the public domain status: Registered in the year it was made, but not renewed with the Library of Congress.

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User reviews:
The Japanese December 1941 invasion of the Philippines, culminating in the surrender by General Wainwright of all forces under his command in early 1942, is still America’s greatest military catastrophe. The defense and ultimate loss of the obsolete island fortress of Corregidor, here immortalized (less rather than more) in the film of the same name was, with the fall of the archipelago, a far more serious geo-strategic blow to America than Pearl Harbor. In 1943 veteran director William Nigh, a man who successfully transitioned from the silents to the talkies and who directed dozens of mostly forgettable films, made “Corregidor.” His three stars were successful screen actors. Playing a doctor, Dr. Royce Lee Stockman, Elissa Landi, once a beauty, brought some depth to the story of a woman who traveled to the Philippines to marry one doctor while carrying a bright torch for another, an army medico named Michael who just happened to be stationed in the territory. She weds Dr. Jan Stockman (Otto Kruger, playing a nice guy for a change) the night before the Japanese air attack that presaged the invasion. Together with ragtag army troops, the couple reaches Corregidor where Michael is encountered. The trek through the backlot jungle provides a preview of some of the most unrealistic war scenes filmed anytime between 1939 and 1945. Idealistic Jan recognizes his bride’s undiminished love for Michael and almost like a quintessential (but probably rare) English gentleman he urges her to go to him. This being 1943, no intimacy is shown or suggested. In any event, history takes its course and Corregidor falls but not before some of the women, including Royce are flown out (in reality, American army nurses were captured by the Japanese and while they were spared the horrors of the Bataan Death March, they didn’t exactly have a nice time for the next three years either). The film is stolidly preachy about the virtues of democracy with declamations by the actors having the “Now for a message from our government” tone. The use of stock military footage reaches the asinine with no attempt to make planes uniform. A monoplane begins a bombing run that is concluded by a biplane. No excuse for that. Also, apparently to save time and money, the same shots of Japanese soldiers falling dead to the ground are recycled at several points. One historical curiosity: Royce’s maid, killed at the beginning of the movie, is Ruby Dandridge, mother of Dorothy. Much more could have been done with this story and its experienced lead cast.

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