Sir Laurence Olivier as General Douglas MacArthur, proves old actors never die: They just fade their age spots by putting on more pancake and, in Olivier's case, too much eyeliner. It's hard to say which is more distracting: Olivier's penciled eyebrows -- reminiscent of Betty Boop's -- or his histrionics. Though Olivier is not the last laugh in this propagandistic war film, he still should be stripped of his title and spanked with the queen's ceremonial sword for this performance.
Oh, but this recounting of the U.N.'s first victory in the Korean War offers so much more in the way of viewer punishment: For starters, there's the suspect input of special adviser the Rev. Sun Myung Moon; Jacqueline Bisset's bathing-suit top and matching hat; and the performance of mum's-the- word acting-school graduate Ben Gazzara.
And that brings us to the dialogue -- trite to the max, the kind of puff that makes "Three's Company" seem insightful. Example No.1: The codger MacArthur dodders over to kiss the little woman (Dorothy James) before going off to plot the invasion of Inchon. "Don't say it," whispers the subservient, wimpy Jean MacArthur. "I know: 'I shall return.'"
Example No.2: Bisset, hard-nosed interior decorator and estranged wife of Gazzara, has been driving from the 38th Parallel in her bathing-suit top. She's forced to pick up five adorable orphans and is driving them to the ''Inn of the Sixth Happiness" when her woodie wagon breaks down. Luckily, an army buddy of her husband (Richard Roundtree) happens by and smacks the battery with a pair of pliers. "Am I glad to see you," she says, then remembers, "I've killed someone." Hey, no problem, Jackie, that makes one fewer sub-human, reassures Roundtree, who reunites Gazzara and Bisset later in the script -- a combo of "Sayonara" and anything with Robert Mitchum in a camouflage helmet.
Example No.3: At the reconciliation of Gazzara and Bisset, who has become a human being by driving with children, the former mumbles fiercely, "I'm a Marine, and that's a special kind of cat." Gazzara delivers his lines as though he's wearing false teeth -- there's a kind of clicking. If only Lloyd Nolan had been there with the Dentu-Grip.
Well, if the dialogue doesn't get you, there's still the plot. The U.N. troops inch toward Inchon harbor, while Gazzara and his former Korean lover (Karen Kahn) turn on a lighthouse to signal the ships. Meanwhile, her father (Toshiro Mifune) blows up some mines in the channel the night of the invasion. Then 261 ships sneak up on the North Koreans, chase them off and put President Rhee back into power. MacArthur hugs Rhee (Kwang Nam Yang); the crowd waves American and Korean flags, while Olivier screams the Lord's Prayer.
The Lord is a silent, but omnipresent player in this film, like the pooka in "Harvey." We're talking divine name-dropping. "Inchon," produced by Unification Church member Mitsuharu Ishii, seems to be a holy smokescreen anyway. The church contributed "significant" money to the making of the $46-million, anti-Communist, let's-be- buddies movie. And Moon advises. As a filmmaker, the reverend has a great future as a cult leader.
The battle scenes with coolies hopping up out of bamboo patches are cheap shots. The South Koreans all wear white, and the Communists mostly shoot them, not soldiers. The Communists couldn't stop the Marines, though, probably because the landing craft were speeding around Inchon Bay as though they were pulling water-skiers.
The actors, the advisers, the makeup men, all deserve a lambasting, but what can you say about director Terence Young, a man who made a dunce of Olivier and a cardboard cutout of Toshiro Mifune? It's sacrilege. They gave him "Inchon" and he took a mile on. War is hell and so is this movie. INCHON -- At 18 area theaters.