AWAY ALL BOATS served yeoman duty for audiences in 1956, coming in 27th place for the year with grosses of $10,000,000 servicing the considerable $2,000,000 the generally stingy Universal brass put into it. I liked it quite a bit as a kid. Today it plays chiefly as nostalgia, a melange of standard service clichés with a few noteworthy aspects.
The Pacific Fleet in WW2, only this time around glory sprays not over glamorous battleships and aircraft carriers, or sexy PT-boats, but on a homely workhorse in the class designated Attack Transport. These carried landing craft and troops to the jumpoff point for amphibious assaults (there were 338 of them built during the war).
The Belinda is captained by well-meaning hardass Jeff Chandler, one of the good things about the flick, with the popular B-movie heart-throb putting his customary jaw-tightened intensity into the role, including bellowing a great f.u. line: “Get your filthy plane away from my ship!” This comes during the movie’s action highlight, an exciting kamikaze attack during the battle for Okinawa, done with a slick mix of live action and quite decent special effects. Generous Navy co-operation helped with the production values, nicely shot off Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands by cameraman William H. Daniels. Good work from the sound crew.
Lifted from a popular novel by Kenneth Dobson, Ted Sherdeman’s script has some thoughtful exchanges peppered in among dross, but the main interest will be for fanciers of old war films (so, generally we’re talking older men here) who will put up with the lame stuff to watch the maneuvering and that final flashy battle.
Leaks in this vessel come from Chandler being saddled with a couple of dead-weight second leads in George Nader and Lex Barker. Apart from inadvertent immortality as the guy pursued by Robot Monster and having the bad luck to be flushed by the studio after ‘Confidential’ magazine outed him as gay, Nader was as inexpressive a banana as the 50s peeled: met many George Nader fans lately? ever? * He gets stiff-cardboard competition from Barker, who never got past his five 1949-53 vineswings as Tarzan, where his inability to say things involving speech was not overly tested.
Go-to amazing-legs-displayer Julie Adams turns up briefly for unconvincing clinches with George. During the 114 minutes of drills & foul-ups, mine-scares & heroics, there is able assist from others in the large supporting cast; Richard Boone, Frank Faylen, Charles McGraw, James Westerfield all perform solidly.
With Keith Andes, William Reynolds, Jock Mahoney, John McIntire, Don Keefer (‘Ensign Twitchell’), Parley Baer and Hal Baylor. A 25-year-old Clint Eastwood has one line (and it’s dubbed); other uncredited mates include David Janssen, Dabbs Greer, William Phipps and Grant Williams, a year prior to becoming The Incredible Shrinking Man.
* Try to recall these Nader nod-outs: Congo Crossing, Man Afraid, Flood Tide, Nowhere To Go. Lex could give anybody a run for the hills, though, with Black Devils Of Kali, The Girl In The Kremlin, Jungle Heat and Female Fiends.