Objective, Burma! begins with US general Joseph Stilwell planning the invasion of Burma. "Here's where we start paying back the Japs," he growls, chewing on a cigarette in a dainty holder. Objective, Burma! is a 1945 war film which was loosely based on the six-month raid by Merrill's Marauders in the Burma Campaign during the Second World War. It was directed by Raoul Walsh and starred Errol Flynn.
Errol Flynn and his American troops land in Burma, dropping from the sky with parachutes, on a mission to wipe out a Japanese radio station.
- The film, made by Warner Brothers immediately after the raid it depicts and before the end of the second world war. It's a piece of almost instant history.
- The raid shown in the film is fictional, though it does fit with the unit's mission – known in the military, which is never shy of a double entendre, as long-range jungle penetration. Aimed, in this instance, at a place called Jambu Bum.
- The movie was pulled from release in the UK after just one week. It was banned there after heated protest from British veterans groups, the military establishment and after it infuriated British Prime Minister Winston Churchil. The movie was also banned in Singapore although it was seen in Burma and India. As the Burma campaign was a predominantly British and Australian operation, the picture was taken as a national insult due to the movie's Americanization of the Burma operation. The resentment that many felt was seen as yet another example of Americans believing they had won the war singlehandedly. The ban was also coupled with an effort to demonize the film's star, after some newsprint illustrations of Errol Flynn holding a machine gun over the grave of a British officer were distributed throughout England. It was not shown in Britain again until 1952/1953 and then with an apology disclaimer (an extra documentary footage that included a fleeting hat-tip to Major General Wingate and a conciliatory prologue of newsreel footage of the British in combat at Burma, thus acknowledging American and Allied indebtedness to British bravery in Burma). Incidentally, writer Lester Cole, who co-wrote the somewhat overly patriotic flag-waving script, would be branded an "Un-American" Communist, becoming one of the Hollywood Ten just a few years later.
- It seems incongruous that after accompanying the platoon the entire way to record the mission, no one in the group seems concerned with preserving or saving the work of Mark Williams, the war correspondent.
- Members of Merrill's Marauders, who were on location as technical advisers, critiqued the fact that Nelson's men killed all the Japanese at the radar station so quickly with none wounded or escaped. That was likely by design because any of the defenders left alive would have to be executed by the special ops troops, something that 1945 audiences would have found objectionable for American troops to do.
- Errol Flynn was criticized for playing heroes in World War II movies. Tony Thomas in his book "Errol Flynn: The Spy Who Never Was" states that Flynn had tried to enlist in every branch of any armed services he could but was rejected as unfit for service on the grounds of his health--he had a heart condition, tuberculosis, malaria and a back problem. Flynn felt he could contribute to America's war effort by appearing in war films, and subsequently made such pictures as Al filo de la oscuridad (1943); Persecución en el Norte (1943); Bombarderos en picado (1941) and Gloria incierta(1944). Reportedly, Flynn was at his most professional and co-operative he ever was whilst working on Second World War movies. The studios apparently did not diffuse the criticism of Flynn's state-of-health as they wished to keep it quiet for fear of his box-office draw waning.
- Objective, Burma! is particularly interesting for its setting which, of course, was not filmed on actual locations, but in some swampy areas of Orange County, California. Most of the exteriors of Burma were shot at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden. Errol Flynn later commented: "We simulated the conditions of the Burma campaign. We had a technical adviser who had actually been all through the whole British retreat. He was a Britisher, a Major Watkins. We had been gravely wounded there, and Jerry Wald, with his flair for bringing people together, dug him up for counseling on this film. That picture so delineated the conditions in Burma that even people who had been in the Burma campaign came out of the theatre asking, 'What part of Burma was that?' They were dubious, disbelieving, when they were told that was Santa Anita Ranch in California, the ranch of Lucky Baldwin. We built sets there so lifelike that even the experts couldn't tell them from the originals.The film has an authentic feel to it, thanks to the use of actual military aircraft and materials. Also, the film includes a large amount of authentic footage taken by US Army Signal Corps cameramen in the China-Burma-India theater.
- Filming began on May 1, 1944 and was scheduled for 60 days. But shooting required more than 40 extra days due to bad weather and constant script changes.
- The story was partially inspired by "Operation Loincloth," a 1943 long-range operation in Burma by the British Chindits. However, producer Jerry Wald also admitted that much of the screenplay was based on "Northwest Passage" (1940), a film about the adventures of a long-range ranger unit during the French & Indian War.
- According to Warners, six cameras were used to shoot the climactic hilltop battle sequence.
- "Wingate and Cochran" are Maj. Gen. Orde Wingate, commander of the Indian 77th Brigade, and Col. Phillip Cochran of the 1st Air Commando Group (US Army Air Force).
- Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell, aka "Vinegar Joe", was commander of the US forces in the China-Burma-India Theatre and is portrayed in the movie by Erville Alderson, who bears a striking resemblance to Stilwell.
- According to William Prince, the only direction given by Raoul Walsh was, "All right, boys, no 'Hamlets' in the jungle."
- It's not a surprise that Objective, Burma! doesn't give equal weight to the Japanese point of view. The film has been criticized in recent years for its negative portrayal of the Japanese people. One of the more notorious sequences has the Henry Hull character screaming, "They're [the Japanese] immoral, degenerate idiots! Wipe them out, I say! Wipe them off the face of the earth." Yet, when the film was first released in 1945, controversy surrounded the film because of what it did not portray. Mark Williams (Henry Hull) utters the oath, "The bastards!" in reference to the Japanese. It is somewhat and muffled, and as he was off-screen, the censors evidently missed it.
- The strangest sequence (at least to modern viewers) has the paratroopers expressing horror and disgust at a vicious sneak attack by the Japanese-which occurs only a few reels after the Americans have staged an equally merciless attack on a Japanese unit!
- There are no female roles in this movie.
- The movie was made with authentic World War II American military material, aircraft and gliders, due to their availability. All the weapons, uniforms, and gear used in this movie are original and accurate. This was possible due to the fact that these were still in use to the US military when this film was made. WW2 movies made in recent times use reproduction weapons and gear.
- One of the minor roles is a character named Negulesco, an in-joke. Director Jean Negulesco was a contract director at Warners who was scheduled to direct Errol Flynn's next picture, El burlador de Castilla (1948). Unforeseen delays caused it to be postponed and Negulesco was ultimately replaced.
- After the other platoon leader dies in the Burmese village, and Nelson (Flynn) takes his dog tags, there is a shot of the dog tag listing the address of the dead soldier. It gives the address as 781 Crane St, Schenectady, NY. This address appears to be the First World War memorial in Schenectady for those that died that were from there.
- This was one of the few movies Errol Flynn starred in that he liked, although he regretted the controversy it caused.
- This was remade as Distant Drums with Gary Cooper, Richard Webb and Arthur Hunnicutt circa 1950 and set in the Florida Everglades.
- Captain Nelson cheers up his cold, hungry and terrified men with a regular dose of amphetamines. "All right, boys, here's the pill that kills the chill," he says breezily. There was no point toning this stuff down, for the film was made with an audience of real soldiers in mind – and they would have spotted inaccuracies faster than any historian.
- Originally released at 142 minutes, Objective, Burma! is usually shown on TV in its 128-minute reissue form
- Objective, Burma! was nominated for three Academy Awards, though it didn't win in any category. The Oscar nods were for Best Film Editing (George Amy), Best Scoring for a Dramatic or Comedy Picture (Franz Waxman), and Best Original Story by Alvah Bessie.
- Reviews of Objective, Burma! were generally favorable, with Variety noting: "The film has considerable movement, particularly in the early reels and the tactics of the paratroopers are authentic in their painstaking detail. However, while the scripters have in the main achieved their purpose of heightening the action, there are scenes in the final reels that could have been edited more closely"; "This is one of the finest World War II films made during the war," The Movie Guide says; "One of the best war movies," Guide for the Film Fanatic's Danny Peary wrote; and It's "one of the few features of which I am proud," Flynn later said.
A group of men parachute into Japanese-occupied Burma with a dangerous and important mission: to locate and blow up a radar station. They accomplish this well enough, but when they try to rendezvous at an old air-strip to be taken back to their base, they find Japanese waiting for them, and they must make a long, difficult walk back through enemy-occupied jungle.