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Robert Siegel's Golden Hollywood

Robert Siegel - Main Page

NOTE: The scans below are the property of Robert Siegel and The Digital Bits, and may not be
reposted without permission. Copyright of the images belongs to the respective studios.

In addition, please note that all the information contained within the text
is taken from ORIGINAL studio press materials, which may contain some errors.


If It's Tuesday This Must Be Belgium

Film appreciation by Robert Siegel of The Digital Bits

MGM has released for the first time on DVD the 1969 comedy If It's Tuesday This Must Be Belgium. The story concerns a group of typical Americans doing an 18-day tour of Europe. There's Samantha Perkins (Suzanne Pleshette) who wants to get away from it all, particularly a boy friend who doesn't understand her. There's Jenny Grant (Mildred Natwick), a ripe old 72 but with all the enthusiasm and go of a teenager, Jack Harmon (Michael Constantine), an ex-infantryman who looks upon Europe as one big collection of World War II memorabilia, and some other zany characters. In charge of the tour is Charlie (Ian McShane).

When the movie was in planning stages, the first thing Producer David L. Wolper did was to assign David Shaw to write the script. Shaw took one of the two-week flyers, watched the tourists at those sites, and then went on to create his comedy script. For direction, Wolper appointed Mel Stuart, who had never done a full length script before, but had directed the well-known TV special The Making of a President. Production was put into the hands of Stan Margulies who did similar honors for the hit Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines. Then Wolper arranged with one of the largest tourist agencies on the continent to take the cast and crew exactly on the itinerary upon which many Americans would take in the summers.

[Continued below...]


If It's Tuesday This Must Be Belgium

Suzanne Pleshette was said to be very excited about her role. Previously, drama had been her forte. Her roles on the New York stage in Compulsion, Two for the Seesaw and The Miracle Worker were hailed by the critics as small masterpieces. When she got into pictures, she drew similar praise for her roles in The Birds and 40 Pounds of Trouble. Suzanne, who passed away in January of 2008, was a native of New York who attended that city's famed High School of the Performing Arts where she was early singled out as an exceptional talent. She went on to Finch College to master the thespian's craft and would have entered the Broadway stage upon graduation her elders not insisted upon her completing a classic education. As a result Broadway had to wait until she came home with a sheepskin from Syracuse University.

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If It's Tuesday This Must Be Belgium

The film was shot on locations including Belgium, Amsterdam, Germany, Italy and the U.K. Many of the reviews were not stellar, though very few critics gave the film a poor rating, and many felt that some of the scenes were hilarious.

Release Details:

Theatrical Release: April 24, 1969
Filming Locations: Amsterdam, Belgium, Italy, Germany, U.K.
Category: Comedy
Original Running Time: 99 minutes
Original Specs: 35mm Deluxe, Mono
Soundtrack on LP, CD: 45rpm Single, Title Song Performed by J.P. Rags, no LP
Awards: Nominated Golden Globe Best Screenplay, David Shaw, Nominated Laurel Awards Best Comedy Performance Suzanne Pleshette, Nominated WGA Award Best Comedy Written for the Screen, David Shaw

DVD Release: May 20, 2008 by MGM Home Video - UPC 883904106753
DVD Specs: English Dolby Digital Stereo (simulated) and Mono, Spanish and French Dolby Digital Mono, English and Spanish subtitles
Click here to order If It's Tuesday This Must Be Belgium on DVD from Amazon


Merrill's Marauders

The true-life exploits of Brigadier General Drank D. Merrill and his journey with his Marauders through the swamps of Burma in 1944... The 5307th Composite Unit, dubbed Merrill's Marauders is deep behind Japanese lines in the jungle. The unit has traveled more than a hundred miles towards its objective, and there are 3000 of them. The jungle has taken its toll with mental and physical fatigue. This is the story behind the Warner Brother's 1962 release Merrill's Marauders, which is seeing its first release on DVD from Warner Home Video.

This true story is brought to the screen with a cast that includes Jeff Chandler, Ty Hardin, Peter Brown, Andrew Duggan, Will Hutchins and Claude Akins. Producer Milton Sperling and Director Samuel Fuller spent a great amount of time doing research on this story. Sperling filmed his picture in the Phillipines because the terrain and elements of Luzon most nearly approximated the dank, danger-infested Burma jungle through which Merrill's men fought their way. He and Fuller selected actors who came closest to representing the kind of men Merrill commanded.

Adapted from a novel by Charlton Ogburn, Jr., detailing events which actually occurred in the China-Burma-India theater of war during the 1940's, the screenplay has all of the elements of a great war film. Members of the cast and crew really lived the story they filmed. In the dense Philippine jungles they slept in pup tents, ate from mess kits and waded through snake-infested jungle swamps to achieve the stark realism that audiences demanded.

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Merrill's Marauders

"The constant challenges encountered made for spontaneity that results in great entertainment. Audiences wanted something new and exciting," explained Sperling, "which must at the same time be valid and entertaining. That's why we shot the film under these conditions." Director Sam Fuller declared his actors developed the same "esprit de corps" that distinguished Merrill's intrepid troops. Determined to film his production realistically, Producer Milton Sperling forbid any of his cast to shave while shooting the film. Hundreds of Filipinos were hired as extras for the film's vast battle scenes. And the call for help brought out hundreds of ex-soldiers who were certain that crawling through the jungle, sliding down mountains and wading through swamps for a film company would be a snap, but they were wrong as many of the extras left and more needed to be obtained. More than 30% of the extras needed to be replaced by the 2nd day of shooting.

The stars were well worn after filming of the picture. Because of the inaccessibility of the terrain, only equipment and top production crew members and actors were ferried to the site by helicopter. To toughen his cast up, Fuller sent them on a 20 mile forced march to their first jungle location 24 hours after their arrival in Manila. Ty Hardin had an exceptionally difficult job. For 30 days of the first 30 days the film was in production, Hardin's role required that he be before the cameras constantly. Harden explained, "I remember the nights because it was then a few of us could get up to the crest of one of the Pampanga mountains where there were no mosquitoes and the moonlight was clear and cold. All around us down in the valleys there was jungle. But up there the air was sweet and cool and we needed relief from the humidity. The other problem I had was with the jungle animals, there were so many different cries in the night you never knew what was creeping around the next tree, but they hired a group of Negrito beaters to operate on their flanks out of camera range to ward off the wild animals, and to try and evade the snakes which were a persistent problem." Fuller said at the film's opening, "Let's face it. We set out to make a picture about fighting men in the most terrible terrain in the world. The only way to do this was to duplicate the original situations and conditions as close as possible. We were faced with a few problems that even the original Marauders didn't have."

Extra Facts: Gary Cooper was to originally play Merrill, but was struck with cancer and had to bow out during pre-production and died in 1961. Jeff Chandler, his replacement, also became sick during post-production and died the following year.

[Continued below...]


Release Details:

Theatrical Release: March 16, 1962 by Warner Brothers
Filming Locations: Phillipines, Hollywood, California
Category: War
Original Running Time: 98 minutes
Box office Gross: $20,000,000.00
Original Specs: 35mm Cinemascope 2:35:1, Mono
Soundtrack on LP, CD: None Known
Awards: None

DVD Release: April 22, 2008 by Warner Home Video - UPC 085391188421
DVD Specs: English Dolby Digital mono, English and French subtitles
Click here to order Merrill's Marauders on DVD from Amazon
 

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