So you think you know everything there is to know about John Wayne movies? You’ve seen them all, from Stagecoach through to The Shootist, and even the numerous five-reelers he churned out ad infinitum back in the 1930s?
Well, be prepared to have your knowledge of all things JW challenged. Ever heard of “The Devil’s Guadalcanal”? “Prisoners of Heaven”? “Operation the Great Flame”? No? Thought not so welcome to the world of John Wayne foreign movie titles.
We’ll start off with an easy one first then work our way up to what is possibly our all-time
Seeing as we’re only fluent in three languages – English, Film and John Wayne – the translations in this article were accomplished by using various options available on the internet, and therefore may not be totally one-hundred-percent accurate.
El Hombre Tranquilo (Spanish)
Even I knew what this one was, mainly because I have a Belgian poster of “The Quiet Man” entitled “L’Homme Tranquille” on my living room wall. This poster adopts well-known imagery from the US poster design, although I’m not sure what the red fence behind the title is supposed to signify.
Les Sacrifies (French)
Apparently this title for “They Were Expendable” translates from French to English as “The Expendables”. I have to say that came as a bit of a surprise seeing as I was under the impression Sylvester Stallone had bragging rights to that title himself.
The poster is nicely designed with JW given more prominence than George Montgomery even though Duke was demoted to second lead on this one.
La Cité Disparu (French)
This translates as “The Missing City”. I took a look at “Legend of the Lost” not too long ago and have come to the conclusion it might be better titled “La Récit Disparu” or “The Missing Story” on account of it looks to me the scriptwriter wandered off into the desert without writing a third act.
Judging by the poster though, which is quite catching to be sure, JW seems to be having no problem locating Sophia Loren.
Gli Amanti Dei 5 Mari (Italian)
As you may expect from the passionate Italians “The Sea Chase“, a movie that could be about some world war naval event or a pirate adventure on the Main, has become “Lovers of the 5 Seas”. Why 5? I don’t know. 7 has always been the quoted ‘number of seas’ going back thousands of years – maybe it should be 5 oceans. But Lovers of the 5 Oceans sounds a little prosaic.
Anyway it’s Cap’n Wayne and Lana Turner and a damned good-looking poster so who can complain.
Callejon Sangriento (Spanish)
This foreign title for “Blood Alley” is one of the few titles that translates almost exactly back to the original, although “Bloody Boring” might be a better description of the film itself. The poster is a strange combination of images from the film and pictures of the stars from movies other than “Blood Alley”.
I’m not sure if that’s supposed to be Anita Ekberg on the right but either way she seems way too elegant to be stuck beneath decks on a bloody ferry.
L’Aigle Vole Au Soleil (French)
In the English-speaking world this is known as “The Wings of Eagles”. Just to be different, in France it appears to be known as “The Eagle Fly in the Sun” instead.
What a great poster though. I would take a guess, however, and suggest that the image of JW wearing a pilot’s cap towards the top might possibly be taken from “The High and the Mighty”.
Hombres del Mar (Spanish)
The translation for this is “Men of the Sea”, which is fairly straightforward. The thing is, Duke made quite a few movies that take place at sea so the Spanish name for “The Long Voyage Home” doesn’t really give any clues as to which film the poster represents.
Apart from the weird coloured faces of Wayne and co-star Thomas Mitchell it’s an almost exact copy of the original American half-sheet poster.
Prigionieri del Cielo (Italian)
If someone were to ask me which John Wayne movie title released in Italy translates to “Prisoners of Heaven” I would immediately answer “Island in the Sky”. Sky, Heaven, right? It’s a no-brainer.
So, you could knock me down with a feather when it turns out instead to be “The High and the Mighty”. Using the dubious translation facilities available on the internet I worked out that in Italian it should be “Il Alto e il Potente”, which re-translates back into the more meaningful “The High and the Powerful” which in turn means I’m in the wrong job. A molto bene poster though. Wouldn’t mind that framed on the wall if anyone wants to know what I want for my next birthday.
Operazione La Grande Fiamma (Italian)
Up to this point you can mostly find something in these foreign titles to hang your hat on and work your way back to the original title but let’s be frank here. “Operation the Great Flame” cannot under any circumstances ever be construed as “Reunion in France”.
The poster takes another step away from reality by making John Wayne the main star of the movie when in fact it’s a shoulder pads all the way Joan Crawford film with Duke not actually turning up until at least forty minutes in, and then he only features in six scenes in all. Not too sure either if the image captures a true likeness of Duke but a good poster nonetheless.
Les Diables De Guadalcanal (Catalan)
Life can be really strange at times. It took a Catalan poster of a John Wayne film to make me realise that “Flying Leathernecks” actually takes place during the battle of Guadalcanal, the title translating to “The Devils of Guadalcanal”.
I guess what with the film being rendered incoherent at times through the use of large amounts of stock wartime footage I kind of lost track of the story itself, so I’m glad that’s now cleared up.
As for the poster, it makes the film look much better than it actually is. Which means it does its job very well.
i3 Della Croce Del Sud (Italian)
Depending on what mood the internet is in, this title translates as either “i3 of the Croce Del Sudl” or “I3 of the Southern Cross”. Either way it doesn’t make any sense to the five percent Italian DNA that I possess, none of the above bearing any resemblance whatsoever to the original title of “Donovans Reef”.
There is a suggestion of something to do with making the sign of the cross but what that has to do with John Wayne and Lee Marvin constantly punching each other’s light’s out is totally lost on me.
I have to say that I much prefer the Italian poster to the original fairly lame American and British examples of the time.
Marijuana (La Droge Infernale) (Italian)
Can you imagine how John Wayne might have reacted if he’d ever got wind of the fact that “Big Jim McLain” would be marketed as “Marijuana (Drug Hell)” upon its’ release in Italy?
I’d bet a lot of money that swinging fists would be the chosen method of communication on a day such as that. I seem to remember there is a reference in the film to someone being drugged up but I don’t remember Mary Jane rearing its ugly head at any point.
I guess I must have been stoned when I watched it which is probably the best state of mind to be in if you ever decide to check it out yourself.
It’s a bad film to be sure but I would love to get my hands on an original copy of the Italian poster. Or a reprint. I don’t care. John Wayne starring in “Marijuana”. I mean, far out or what?
Make sure you join us for part two of our article on John Wayne foreign movie titles, as we’ll be specifically looking at John Waynes Westerns next time around.