Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Despite an ad campaign wherein RKO Radio congratulated itself for its "guts", this long-delayed film version of Norman Mailer's bestselling WW2 novel The Naked and the Dead still had to pull most of its punches (especially when it came to four-letter words). Aldo Ray heads the cast as sadistic sergeant Croft, who'd as soon kill one of his own men as he would the Japanese. Sensitive, moralistic Lieutenant Hearn (Cliff Robertson) tries to put a leash on Croft, but he's ordered to keep out of the situation by psychotic General Cummings (Raymond Massey), who is convinced that soldiers will fight harder the more they hate their superiors. The film wavers uncomfortably between excessive violence and excessive moralizing, with time out for a few ill-conceived slapstick setpieces (including an outsized barroom brawl) and romantic interludes with such zaftig beauties as stripteaser Lili (Lili St. Cyr) and good-time girl Mildred (Barbara Nichols). In one of his first film appearances, comedian Joey Bishop plays Pvt. Roth, whose reaction to Sgt. Croft's relentless anti-semitism culminates in a spectacular death scene. Distribution of The Naked and the Dead was taken over from the failing RKO Radio operation by Warner Bros., who also changed the name of the film's widescreen process from SuperScope to WarnerScope.
General, lieutenant, military, sergeant