I first heard they were doing the film I got a map of the battlefield and thought
"I must walk up there next trip and check it out". A mate of mine walked up there
in mid 1998 and reported plenty of relics... he could trace the advance up Hill
57 by the Garand clips and BAR magazines, he said. He even scored a Jap Nambu
LMG that he had found. So I was keen to get up there before seeing the film.
Solomons museum director told me that they had done some filming on Guadalcanal
with Sean Penn and some of the other actors. The
locals told them to do it on the real battlefield , but there is no road access
to move equipment, only the original US walking trail. They
did take a lot of local villagers across to Queensland to use as extras, but I
think most of them ended up on the cutting room floor. They
filmed most of the scenes in Queensland , up near Cairns about 2 hours drive from
one of the luxury resorts (could not have the stars roughing it) with Australian
Army guys as extras.
Hollywood vs. Reality
only Guadalcanal shots that made it into the film where a couple of shots of Savo
Island taken from Kukum Beach (native kids would not have been paddling canoes
there then!) and one scene that really made me smile . After they land there is
a shot where they are marching up a hill with a beautiful shot of Savo Island
and Iron Bottom Sound in the background.
was filmed near the Bonegi river 15 minutes west of Honiara...the road at the
bottom of the hill is just out of shot...I recognised it because I had climbed
a nearby hill looking for a US jungle junk yard.
they had landed at that point and gone up that hill in January 1943 they would
have been up to their necks in Japs!
know the Aussie who was the armourer for the film . Whenever he pointed out something
wrong they did not care.
They had 700 sets of US Army HBT uniforms made for
the film and the helmet liners were made in Hanoi! After seeing the real battlefield
I almost wanted to jump up and scream "its nothing like this".
mate owned the Jap Nambu LMG you see briefly firing...he got paid $3,000 to hire
it and it only fired one 30 round clip...easy money man!
I could go on and
on , but I wont.
got these helmets from a villager who had a hut on the north slope of Sims Ridge . When
we climbed up to the hut the first thing I saw lying on the ground was a US pack
strap clip and the Jap helmet -best I saw in 4 visits; no holes and with the star.
first I thought the hole might be a bullet hit , but it seems more likely to be
a rust out caused by water collecting in the bowl . Might have belonged to a soldier
who was hit on the way up the slope and the helmet ended up in the grass. Nice
1st pattern rigid chin strap holders too.
Japanese helmets seem to last longer , must be the primer paint they used . He
said he found the Jap one near the MG position and the US one at the bottom of
the Eastern slope of the hill. Suffice
it to say that I was less than impressed with the production and hope that director
doesnt make another film for 25 years. The real Jap MG post on Sims Ridge had
no "convenient" large boulders nearby to hide behind.
after I saw the film, I talked to coastwatcher Martin Clemens . Before I could
ask him about it he said
, have you seen that awful film? I was up there with General Collins during
the fighting and it was nothing like that!".
I thought it must really be crap...it just wasnt my imagination.
I read the actual book I appreciated how the author had really been there...little
things about the terrain and stuff that I could instantly recognise.
after walking the ground I went home and in February 1999, Thin Red
Line hit the
cinemas and I went to see it . Out of 3 hours 1 hour was worth watching . The
producer is supposed to be some sort of legend.
It was good from
the uniform and equipment angle (although I heard they took the 700 uniforms
to the States to sell off on the colectors market!) but the dialogue and continuity
I must say one thing in defense of the film - it was better
than the 1964 version that I have since seen on video: [US Army
GI's] that had them mowing down Japs with German Schmeisser
sub machine guns, a real Props Department triumph!