|Directed by||Tay Garnett|
|Written by||Robert Hardy Andrews|
|Produced by||Irving Starr|
|Edited by||George White|
|Music by||Bronislau Kaper|
|Distributed by||Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer; United States Office of War Information|
Bataan is a 1943 American black-and-white World War II film drama from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, produced by Irving Starr (with Dore Schary as executive producer), directed by Tay Garnett, that stars Robert Taylor, George Murphy, Lloyd Nolan, Thomas Mitchell, Desi Arnaz and Robert Walker. It follows the fates of a group of men charged with destroying a bridge during the doomed defense of the Bataan Peninsula by American forces in the Philippines against the invading Japanese.
The United States Army is conducting a fighting retreat. A high bridge—a wooden trestle on massive stone pillars—“spans a ravine on the Bataan Peninsula. After the Army and some civilians cross, an ad hoc group of thirteen hastily assembled soldiers from different units is assigned to blow it up and delay Japanese rebuilding efforts as long as possible. They dig in on a hillside. They succeed in blowing up the bridge, but their commander, Captain Henry Lassiter, is killed by a sniper, leaving Sergeant Dane in charge.
One by one, the defenders are killed, with the exception of Ramirez, who succumbs to malaria. Despite this, the outnumbered soldiers doggedly hold their position. Malloy shoots down an enemy aircraft with his Tommy gun before being killed. Dane and Todd creep up, undetected, on the bridge the Japanese have partially rebuilt and throw hand grenades, blowing it up.
Dane suspects that Todd is a soldier from his past named Danny Burns who was arrested for killing a man in a dispute, but escaped while Dane was guarding him.
Army Air Corps pilot Lieutenant Steve Bentley and his Filipino mechanic, Corporal Juan Katigbak, work frantically to repair a Beechcraft C-43 Traveler aircraft. They succeed, but Katigbak is killed and Bentley is mortally wounded. Bentley has explosives loaded aboard and flies into the bridge's foundation, destroying it for a third time.
The remaining soldiers repel a massive frontal assault, inflicting heavy losses and ultimately fighting hand-to-hand. Epps and Feingold are killed, leaving only Dane, Todd, and a wounded Purckett alive. Purckett is shot, while Todd stabbed through the back by a Japanese soldier who had only feigned being dead. Before he dies, Todd admits to Dane he is Burns.
Now alone, Dane stoically digs his own marked grave beside those of his fallen comrades. The Japanese crawl through the ground fog near his position before opening fire and charging. Dane fires back; when his Tommy gun runs out of ammo, he switches to a M1917 Browning machine gun. He continually fires it directly into the camera lens as the end card reads: “So fought the heroes of Bataan, Their sacrifice made possible our victories in the Coral and Bismarck Seas, at Midway, on New Guinea and Guadalcanal. Their spirit will lead us back to Bataan!”
When the film was released, on June 3, 1943, the Allied offensive in the Pacific was a few months old. It would be a year and a half before the Battle to Retake Bataan (January 31 to February 25, 1945).
The presence of a racially integrated fighting force prevented the film's showing in the American South.
Scenes from the 1934 RKO film The Lost Patrol, directed by John Ford, were reused in this production.
The film premièred in New York City on June 3, 1943.
Bosley Crowther, critic for The New York Times, described it as "a surprisingly credible conception of what that terrible experience must have been for some of the men who endured it", albeit with "melodramatic flaws and ... some admitted technical mistakes." In the end, "it doesn't insult the honor of dead soldiers".
The film was a hit when first released to theaters; according to MGM records it earned $2,049,000 in the US and Canada and $1,068,000 overseas, resulting in a profit of $1,140,000.
Bataan was released by Warner Home Video on Jan. 31, 2005 as a Region 1, double-sided DVD set that also contained the RKO Radio Pictures World War II feature film Back to Bataan (1945).
So controversial was this film at the time that Bataan actually had trouble being shown in parts of the Deep South in the 1940s.