Marines Are Gone (Dora-oji anneun haebyeong) (1963)|
Director : Lee Man-Hee
Production Company : Dae Won Films Co., Ltd
Date of Rate : 1963-04-11
Running Time : 110 min.
Opening Theater : Kukdo Theater
Genre : War
Screenplay(Adaptation) : Jang Kuk-Jin(Han Wu-Jeong)
Producer : Won Sun
Executive Producer : Jeon Seok-Jin
Director of PhotoGraphy : Seo Jeong-Min
Gaffer : Jang Ki-Jong
Music : Jeon Jeong-Keun
Art Director : Hong Seong-Chil
Editor : Kim Hee-Su
Jang Dong-Hwi, Choi Mu-Ryong, Koo Bong-Seo, Lee Dae-Yeob
During the Korean War, a squad of marines led by Gang Dae-sik (Jang Dong-he) takes part in the Incheon Landing operation. Pushing northward after retaking Seoul, the Korean soldiers display their humane side even amid the horrors of war: they take care of an orphaned girl named Yeong-hui (Jeon Young-seon) by concealing her in a burlap bag and bringing her along on their march; they exchange words of encouragement with one another as they wait in fear for the next battle. By contrast, the North Korean troops commit mass killings of civilians, as they go, not even hesitating to kill young children and pregnant women. Gang's squad battles it out with the Chinese army, which relies on its massive numerical superiority, and eventually achieves victory. But only 2 members of the squad make it through; the rest of the marines "are gone," never to return.
A film that marks a new era for Korean War movies
Marines Are Gone is the most noteworthy film of Lee Man-hee's early career: it made his name as a director and set the new standard for Korean War movies. Marines Are Gone offered everything required of a recreational film of the day: the amazing spectacle of the battle scenes, from the initial landing to the fighting in the streets; the camaraderie and machismo of the seasoned marines; and the added spice of the charming little girl. To no one's surprise, the film drew an audience of 200,000 at first-run theatres and became the No. 1 movie at the box office that year by an overwhelming margin. The commercial success of Marines Are Gone also testified to the fact that Korean audiences had attained enough distance from the war of 1950 to enjoy a cinematic rendering of the event. Certainly, the reception of Five Marines (O in-ui haebyeong, 1961, Kim Kee-duk) had already suggested this change, but after Marines Are Gone, Korean war movies began increasingly to resemble their Hollywood counterparts. However, this is not the only impact of Lee Man-hee's film. Marines Are Gone directs a sharp-edged critical gaze on war itself. Moreover, it shows a relatively mitigated degree of antagonism toward North Korean soldiers, while placing the critical spotlight squarely on the Chinese military. Also expressed, albeit in an implicit manner, was hostility toward the American armed forces. The success of this film catapulted Lee Man-hee to the topmost tier as a director, with a paycheck to match.
Although Marines Are Gone deals with war and the division of the Korean Peninsula, it emphasizes elements of humanism by foregrounding the fear of death, human instincts, and soldierly camaraderie, rather than focusing on a courageous and heroic protagonist. Jang Dong-he's performance as a squad leader who reveals his skepticism and sense of futility toward war, the character and narration of child actor Jeon Yeong-seon, and the instant laughs generated by Koo Bong-seo help to infuse the film with richer, more three-dimensional emotions.
- The massive amount of film required for shooting almost put an end to production, but investors put up more money after seeing the landing operation sequence used in the early part of the movie.
- The location shoots enjoyed the large-scale support of the Korean military, including the participation of over 3,000 marines in a battle scene that pushed the envelope on cinematic realism.
Director Bio: Lee Man-hee (1931-1975)
Director Lee Man-hee was born in Hawangsimni-dong Seoul, in 1931, the youngest of 8 children. He participated in the Korean War deciphering enemy codes and duringthe years between 1956 and 1961, he worked as an assistant director under the directors Ahn Jong-hwa, Park Gu and Kim Myeong-je. He made his directorial debut in 1961 with Kaleidoscope (Jumadeung) with the support of Kim Seung-ho, one of the most famous actors of the era. Afterward, he proved that he could make movies that were commercially successful with Call 112(112reul Dollyeora) (1962). He opened a new age of Korean noir and horror with Black Hair (Geomeun Meori) (1964) and The Devil's Stairway (Mauigyedan) (1964). He also opened up new possibilities in Korean art films with Full Autumn (Manchu) (1966)and continued on this stylistic path with Homebound (Gwiro) (1967) and Holiday (Hyuil). With the decline of the Korean movie industry in the 1970s, he received fewer and fewer opportunities to make movies and this coincided with a deterioration of his health and financial situation. He died of liver cirrhosis as he was finishing his film, A Road to Sampo (Sampoganeun gil) (1975).