Who am I to criticize a diary? Still, Guadalcanal Diary works best when it forgets to be a diary. The narrator sounds less like a Marine than--well, I do--and I don't, not even a little. So when he shuts up, the movie shouts how it's nothing but explosions, by sea, land and air--except for the quieter moments of talk about home and baseball--with lots of good-natured ribbing--although I'm not sure actual Marines are so sedate in their discourse. And I get it: This is not a movie for the Marines--who may be a bit too busy these days to go to the Bijou--but for us. We need to see that turning point last year as more than a hope--that the war's end began last February, when the Japanese fled Guadalcanal.
I have my doubts--especially in the Pacific--yes, I know, the movie informs me of Japanese treachery, their tendency to stab in the back, their less-than-human status. But these "monkeys" seem to cling tenaciously--and I also know the actual soldiers running the war know this--and OK, so does Guadalcanal Diary. But by the end everything seems wrapped up, an orderly change of command, Marines to Army, and a smiling advance--William Bendix once more on hand to remind us of Flatbush Ave.'s incalculable contributions to the war effort. There's a little gag in the movie: The chaplain hands out copies of Time magazine, and advises them with mock seriousness to "study it carefully"--and one of the soldiers quips, "Now I'll find out how we're doin'." I get it--and how: neither Time nor Guadalcanal Diary can be trusted as much as we'd like, diary or no diary.