THE FIGHTING SEABEES was fun enough when I was a kid, even with my Dad sardonically offering the observation—as Wayne ran across some Pacific islands sand (located on a ranch in Chatsworth, California), through a hail of Japanese bullets—“He must be too big to hit.” Designed in 1944 to buck-up civilians and extol the newly created Naval Construction battalions (C.B.’s) while they did their herculean engineering jobs in harm’s way, this is 100 minutes of well-meant hooey. Directed by Edward Ludwig, with a prodigious budget by chintzy Republic studios standards, a good ten times their normal outlay.
Scads of big explosions, plenty of epithets (“bug-eyed monkeys“), furious but ridiculous action scenes that veterans would hoot at (or shoot at), a sassy dame to jitterbug with & fight over (Susan Hayward).
A hit, bringing $5,900,000 out of the cheering kids in the balcony, itching to sign up and go shove some Stars and Stripes down the throat of the Rising Sun. With Dennis O’Keefe, William Frawley, Leonid Kinsky, J.M. Kerrigan, Paul Fix and Grant Withers. “I thought the fall would kill him.”