1976's MIDWAY is one of those classic seventies Universal Studios pics with a ton of stars photos on the poster, Sensurround to rattle your seat with every explosion, a weak director and a low budget that manages to keep a compelling war story in strictly B movie mode.
The Battle at Midway was a turning point in World War II, leveling the playing field against the Japanese in a naval battle that found the enemy with a four-to-one advantage in every respect.
Charlton Heston chews all the scenery up with macho bravado as Captain Matt Garth, a fictional character stuck in the middle of all the real life war heroes. Heston's story line, including his battles with his son (Edward Albert, seemingly on the edge of tears for two hours) is the worst part of the film. Garth's son Tom has fallen in love with a Japanese girl in Hawaii, conveniently allowing the hack screenplay to shoehorn in a soap opera in the middle of a war movie. The actress playing his love is SO bad that her scenes are painful. Her interactions with Heston make him look like Laurence Olivier.
When the film focuses on the logistics of the battles, its pretty interesting and engaging, but Universal must have spent most of the money on actor's salaries, because the sets, models, special effects and look of the film are all very cheap.
The film opens with a title that says real battle footage was used wherever possible, but you can see this was strictly a budget versus an esoteric choice as the grainy "real" footage is repeated again and again and sharp viewers will even see entire action scenes from "Tora Tora Tora' lifted and inserted here.
The film's best asset is its cast and Henry Fonda, Hal Holbrook, Robert Mitchum, Robert Wagner, Glenn Ford are all solid.
Look quickly for Tom Selleck on Midway island in a small role.
Director Jack Smight was a TV Movie director and it shows with a TV look throughout.
I remember winning a contest in the Arizona Republic when I was 15 for guessing the most correct Oscar Winners (yes, I've been a huge film buff for that long!) and using the free passes I won to see Midway and The Hindenburg in a double bill with my family.
That memory was the best part of catching up with this film.
We may have beat the Japanese, but Midway's defeated by a low budget, a really bad screenplay and Heston and Albert's TV Movie histrionics.
Midway sinks with a C.