I know that if I had seen "American Guerrilla in the Philippines", or "I Shall Return" as it is also known, as a kid I would have loved it. I would have loved that sense of wartime adventure, the small group of men stranded in a foreign country and fighting the enemy whilst staying hidden, resorting to a touch of the MacGyver when it came to weapons. But having watched "American Guerrilla in the Philippines" for the first time as an adult, some 60 plus years after it was made it just didn't really excite me.
Now for some that lack of excitement will be that this is directed by Fritz Lang but lacking any of his style whilst for others that lack of excitement will come from it being too routine and too jingoistic. I am in the second group because whilst "American Guerrilla in the Philippines" is not terrible it is just a typical war time adventure with the distinction of being based upon the true story of Iliff David Richardson with a few amendments such as a romantic sub plot and name changes.
What that means when it comes to the story is that we basically follow Ensign Chuck Palmer (Tyrone Power - The Black Swan) and Jim Mitchell (Tom Ewell) as they end up in the Philippines after their boat sinks. After a 200 mile trek across country and an attempt to sail to Australia they end up becoming part of a network of Guerrilla's who are forced to keep one step ahead of the Japanese soldiers whilst battling them in anyway possible. Tagged on to this is a romantic subplot as Chuck meets the pretty but married Jeanne Martinez (Micheline Presle) who is part of the Guerrilla movement and who obviously takes a liking to Chuck.
The thing about "American Guerrilla in the Philippines" is that whilst it may be based on Richardson's memoirs of his time in the Philippines what we get is all very familiar. We get familiar scenes as the men hide from the Japanese army, attack when they find a way to make weapons, sneak about in the undergrowth coming close to being caught or being shot at by fighter planes. It all works but it is all so very ordinary and when you have a director with the capability of Fritz Lang it is a bit of a disappointment. And just to add to the issues is that it is so chock full of jingoistic scenes and dialogue that it now feels incredibly corny.
The shame of all this is that "American Guerrilla in the Philippines" does have a good cast and Tyrone Power does a solid job of playing Chuck, the character itself maybe as routine as the movie but at least Power seems to be making him a character rather than just walking through the movie. It is the same with the beautiful Micheline Presle as Jeanne Martinez because whilst the character is a routine romantic one at least Presle makes her come to life. In fairness it is the same with all the cast as Tom Ewell makes Jim Mitchell entertaining with some sarcasm whilst Tommy Cook as Miguel makes his part seem so much bigger because of his enthusiasm.
What this all boils down to is that "American Guerrilla in the Philippines" is an entertaining war time drama but also a routine one with only the performances from the actors making it stand out and worth a watch. But it certainly is not something you will go wild over if you are a fan of Fritz Lang because there is no sign of his style in the movie at all.