Pork Chop Hill (1959)"How can I do it with a lousy squad?"
"Just do it. Ask me how later."
Watched this Korean War film starring Gregory Peck for Memorial Day. Based on a book by an Army General, the story focuses on a single, costly battle that took place while peace talks were underway, which increased the feeling among the men that they may be risking their lives for no good reason. Milestone doesn't clutter up the film with backstory and character building. You'll recognize some faces - Rip Torn, Norman Fell, Robert Blake - but except for Peck nobody's star power influences the size of their role or whether they will make it out alive.
One of the more memorable performances among the cast comes from Woody Strode (The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance). Wanting no part of the killing, he constantly tries to hide, fake injury and help people walk to the medical tent. For this, his manhood is belittled and he's put down by other black soldiers who don't want his cowardice to taint their contribution. Strode has a stoic physical presence, perhaps even more than Peck, and his argument has sound logic backed up by the personal attacks of everyone else on the hill.
Most of the film is wartime action and there are a lot of cast that look similar. Even on the Blu-Ray, there are some shots at night or in smoke where I wasn't even sure which army I was looking at. Still, Milestone has a number of standout moments where he lets the actors show more than they tell. Typical of the director, this extends to the enemy where one soldier is tasked with spewing propaganda on the radio and you can see his occasional disdain for the ruthless trickery he's forced to spread by his superiors. A worthy companion to A Walk in the Sun and along with Edge of Darkness Milestone has a worthy War Trilogy. RATING: ★ ★ ★ - Good Edge of Darkness
(1943)★ ★ ★ - Good
The most interesting film in the bunch. Lewis Milestone's direction is all over the place and plays up the preachier aspects in Robert Rossen's script. It takes forever to get going, with numerous subplot from a weak handful of supporting players. However, this story of a Norwegian rebellion against the Nazis benefits from its unusual setting and increasingly interesting work by Errol Flynn, Ann Sheridan, Walter Huston, Judith Anderson and Ruth Gordon. The final half shakes off the lethargy and preachiness of the opening and the action, while done on a large scale takes on some real flesh and blood stakes.
[I know most people would put All Quiet On the Western Front in with these films, but I think my three selections make for a superior trilogy.]