To anyone unfamiliar with the Richard Tregaskis book, the picture version may or may not be a faithful adaptation [by Jerry Cady] of the original. But it is without question a painstaking, dignified and, in general, eloquent expression of a heroic theme. It is at times a sobering film and at other times an exalting one. It is also an almost continuously entertaining one.
The diary form of the original book is utilized in the picture. Opening with a quiet scene aboard a transport on a Sunday afternoon, as the Marine Corps task force steams toward an as-yet undisclosed objective, the story is narrated by an off-screen voice, fading in and out of the action sequences.
All this is admirably free from bombast and chauvinistic boasting. Although the deeds of the men are heroic, the men themselves reveal no self-consciousness of heroism.
With minor exceptions, Guadalcanal Diary is skillfully produced. A few of the incidents seem synthetic and such scenes as the sinking of the Jap submarine are rather obviously faked, but in general both the action and the manner of its presentation are genuinely believable.
Of the cast, William Bendix stands out in a juicy comedy-straight part as a tough-soft taxi driver from Brooklyn, while Preston Foster and Lloyd Nolan give effective performances in the other principal leads.