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Thursday, June 26, 2014

60's Revisit To War-Torn Philippines


Producer Schenck Gone Island Hopping with Ambush Bay (1966)

An Aubrey Schenck project for United Artists, his twenty-ninth association with that company. UA liked long term links with producers they could rely on, and had confidence enough in Schenck to finance Ambush Bay in toto. Shooting over three months was in the Philippines, the yarn a recap of Marines laying ground for the McArthur invasion. Schenck came back from the location with battle-scarred warn for others, as in never co-produce with the natives and always pay your own way. Seems the Philippine industry was more about picking Yank pockets than cooperating full on films shot there. They'll steal you blind, was Schenck's frank impression. Still, for simply hiring native help and paying them decently, the producer got a square deal. He had two other ventures on deck: To Kill A Dragon and Barquero --- Schenck liked to travel light re budgets and make pics exploitable.


He'd use an economy cast for Ambush Bay, Hugh O'Brian the McCoy at soldiering, having been a marine and currently supportive of USO outreach to Vietnam personnel. O'Brian made repeated tours there to entertain and encouraged other Hollywoodites to do the same. If there was an O'Brian career peak, the mid-sixties may have been it. He was rugged, versatile (straw hat tours as The Music Man plus Guys and Dolls), and played sleazy well, as evidenced by a gigolo turn in 1965's Love Has Many Faces. Interestingly, his character in Ambush Bay is a gigolo drafted into WWII service. Also aboard was Mickey Rooney, more fine character work from him, and Jim Mitchum, who looked like his father to almost chilling effect and had chance here to score a Story Of GI Joe for himself, but Jim lacked elder Mitchum's flair. Trade reviews for Ambush Bay were kind, but customers weren't forthcoming, Variety calling ticket sales "thin" or "lean." Domestic rentals flattened at $525K, but foreign did much better and saved the venture: $1.3 million. Ambush Bay broadcasts in HD (the MGM channel) that shows off island setting to rich effect. It's a satisfying, if unexceptional, war pic.

1 Comments:

Blogger MikeD said...

I could never figure out why Hugh O'Brian's career didn't take off like some of his other TV contempararies like Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Charles Bronson. He did okay but just not what I would have expected ( I was a kid when Wyatt Earp aired). I'd say the same about Clint Walker but I guess with Clint there weren't enough 'bad guys' his size to beat up. How often could he beat up on Leo Gordon? Any insight into Hugh O'Brian's lack of major Hollywood success?

8:22 AM  

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