Today’s movie is Men in War (1957). I watched this movie on a whim because of the title and found out it is excellent. It is one for the Mantheon with macho men playing macho roles. It is not your usual war flick as one of the leading characters only speaks a couple of words. Also, we have discussed all of the actors before. Wow.
This film has a 7.3 rating on iMDB.com and an 89% on the Tomatometer on Rotten Tomatoes. So pretty good. For the most part, critics received this Anthony Mann directed film well. Critic Derek Adams of “Time Out” said “One of the best of the lost patrol movies, set in Korea in 1950, bleakly anti-heroic and prefiguring Milestone’s Pork Chop Hill in the bitter irony of its climactic assault on a hill.” However, Bosley Crowther, of the New York Times said: “The screenplay by Philip Yordan and the direction of Anthony Mann are made up largely of previous war-film indications of human behavior that mean little when repeated so many times.”
Robert Ryan played Lt. Benson, a man trying to hold his squad together. Ryan was covered in Episode 51 – Battle of the Bulge (1965).
Aldo Ray played Sgt. Montana, a beaten soldier with only one goal left, get his Col. medical attention. Manly man Ray first showed up in Episode 11 – The Green Berets (1968).
Robert Keith played the injured Colonel and although he only spoke two or three words, drove the entire film. Keith was covered in Episode 98 – They Came to Cordura (1959).
The other sergeants were James Edwards as Sgt. Killian, who was covered in Episode 113 – The Set-Up (1949), L.Q. Jones as Sgt. Davis, who was included in Episode 31 – Warlock (1959), and Nehemiah Persoff as Sgt. Lewis, who was covered for one of his signature roles in Episode 134 – The Harder They Fall (1956).
Vic Morrow played Cpl. Zwickley, a man with a problem. Morrow as covered in Episode 35 – Blackboard Jungle (1955).
The Korean conflict began on June 25, 1950. American and allied troops were rushed into the war and weren’t ready for what was to come. The Americans and company were pushed down into a relatively small pocket at the southeast end of the peninsula known as the Pusan Perimeter. So, the setting of this movie is at a time when our Army was falling back in disarray, beaten and de-memorized. Unrelated to the defeat, President Truman’s Executive Order 9981of July 26, 1948, ended segregation in the military. There is a good movie, All the Young Men (1960) which covers this issue in a Marine Corps platoon during the Korean War. The film stars Sidney Poitier and Alan Ladd.
This movie begins on September 6, 1950. A US Army platoon is in a broad valley with their destroyed truck and equipment laying around. The men are wearing the taro leaf of the 24 Infantry Division, one of my old outfits. The radio operator is trying to raise “Sunset Six” with no luck. He crawls to where Lt. Benson (Robert Ryan) is waiting in a ditch. Benson says they are surrounded and need to make contact with battalion HQ.
The men are nervous as they watch for the enemy and try to eat breakfast. SFC Lewis (Nehemiah Persoff) comes in from guard and finds his buddy has been killed by a Commie that snuck past. Lewis freaks out. Benson takes the dead man’s dog tag, and he already has a large ring of the dead. Lewis starts randomly firing towards the enemy. Everyone joins in, but finally, Benson gets them stopped.
Sgt. Killian (James Edwards) is working on the truck but can’t get it fixed. Benson tells him that the division fell back and they must get to Hill 465. Sgt. Davis (L.Q. Jones) comes up to help divide the equipment from the vehicle. The Lt. is also told that Cpl. Zwickley (Vic Morrow), is sick and can’t help. Killian gives Zwickley at some APC pills which seem to be Aspirin, phenacetin, and caffeine. Can I get some? They set the truck on fire and head towards the hill.
Eventually, they make it to an open area and spread out for protection. Killian keeps checking on Zwickley. One of the men sees something coming towards them. It turns out to be an Army jeep with Sgt. Montana (Aldo Ray) and his Colonel (Robert Keith). Benson stops the jeep. These two are wearing the 1st Cavalry Division patch. My old division. The Colonel is staring straight ahead and not speaking. Since the Colonel is not responsive, Benson forces Montana to stay so, they can use the jeep to haul their equipment. Montana is still enough of a soldier to obey the orders at gunpoint although he thinks the war has already been lost. Finally, Montana tells Benson that a mine blew up next to the Col. Benson has to club Montana and take his gun. The men load the equipment and put Zwickley in the jeep. He makes Montana carry the Colonel. The radioman makes contact with the division, but a sniper shot the handset of the radio. Montana shoots the sniper out of a tree and comes walking in with the Colonel.
Benson draws the sniper out by standing up with the radio. He wants the sniper taken alive. Montana sneaks around and kills the sniper without mercy. Montana shows that the Commie hide pistols in their hats.
They continue to move, and Killian is on rear guard. He sits to look at a flower and puts flowers on his helmet. A clear anti-war icon. He then takes off a boot to rub his foot. A damn Commie sneaks up behind him and stabs him.
Zwickley is driving the jeep, and the Colonel is strapped in beside him. Montana is taking care of the Colonel. Benson sends him back to replace Killian, but they don’t know he is dead. When they find the dead man, Benson goes to look against Montana’s advice. When they ambush Benson, Montana covers him while he escapes. Zwickley breaks down because his friend is dead. Benson sends Montana to the rear and tells him not to stop or sit. Zwickley puts on the flowered helmet.
Sgt. Davis tells the Lt. that he likes to have Montana around because he knows what he is doing. Back on rear guard Montana spots the Commies and sits down so he can trap and kill the pair of ambushers. When they come up behind him, he shoots them. The rest of the squad comes running back. One of the Commies is still alive and gets a radio message out before Montana shots him again. The patrol comes under artillery fire and Montana runs to the Colonel.
Benson times the pattern on the artillery and begins sending the men through two at a time. Lewis and another man jump the gun but make it through. The Colonel tries to talk but can’t. The firing stops for a time, and two go without the pattern. The next two men are killed by the fire. Benson sends the jeep across, and he and Montana walk with it. They almost get killed when Zwickley floods the jeep. They start pushing the vehicle, and other men go back to help. Benson and Montana are starting to bond.
The group gets to a wooded area, and everyone is nervous. Lewis trips over a branch and finds that the woods have landmines. Lewis freaks out again. As the men find out, they begin looking at their feet. Lewis runs back and steps on a mine. The Colonel reacts but does not speak. Benson asks for Montana help. While the two are talking the Colonel tries to talk. Montana punches Zwickley. Montana tells the Colonel that he will help Benson and the Colonel smiles. Montana and Benson clear a path for the men and the jeep. Montana’s spider senses detect a Commie in the trees. The Commie jumps on Montana, and they capture the man. The Commie wants to surrender. They send the Commie prisoner out ahead to lead the Americans through the minefield. Finally, they make it to the foothills of Hill 465.
They send the prisoner up the hill, and he is terrified. When he stands up, he is gunned down. Three Americans stand up and call for the platoon to come forward. Montana shoots them down. They are in fact North Koreans in American uniforms. Benson looks at the dead man’s family picture. Benson is mad because Montana shot before he was sure, even though he was right. He sends Montana and the Colonel to unload the jeep and leave.
The patrol waits on the side of the hill not knowing who is on top. Sparks works on the radio. Benson breaks down and is full of self-doubt. He only has 12-men left. Benson sends two men up to scout. When the two men move up, they see two North Korean machine gun nests on the road.
The patrol moves into a cave. They prepare for the uphill attack, and Zwickley is assigned to the bazooka. Montana is in the jeep talking to the Colonel about what they have been through. Montana views the Colonel as his father because the man used to call him son.
Benson has himself bandaged up, and he orders Davis to fire ahead of him with the BAR. The men begin moving up. Benson gets close to one of the machine gun nests. The Colonel takes his hands out of the jeep restraints. The patrol opens up with everything they have. Benson moves up and takes the lower machine gun nest out with a grenade. He gets hit but he is okay. Davis and another man are killed trying to get to him. A few more men get killed.
When Montana cranks the jeep, the Colonel turns it off and says “we have…” He grabs the machine gun and charges towards the hill. An artillery round almost takes Montana out, but he is now back in the war. More men from the patrol are killed including Zwickley. The Colonel flanks one of the defensive positions and kills most of the enemy before he is gunned down. Montana gets to him, and the Colonel calls him “son” and gives him some medals that he has in his pocket. The Colonel then dies. Montana now only wants to kill, but artillery fire drives him back until he gets near the wounded Benson. Montana draws his knife and prepares to stab what he believes is an enemy. When they see each other, they realize they are the only two left. Benson says they will never see the morning, but Montana says no, the enemy can’t harm them. They decide to get the flamethrower and take the hill.
Montana wears the flamethrower and Benson loads up with grenades. They two men climb quietly up the hill. When they are close enough, they burn out the upper machine gun nest. They begin taking fire from a machine gun further down the ridge. They take cover, and Benson destroys the machine gun with grenades. They sit down in the bombed-out nest and wait for the counter-attack. Sparks comes in, and he is okay. Montana and Benson both go to sleep.
In the morning, Montana wakes Benson up for breakfast. They are now calling each other Sgt. and Lt. Sparks comes down with the word that the division is coming in. Benson reads the names of the men as Montana pitches the medals the Colonel gave him down the slope.
World-Famous Short Summary – A man struggles with father issues
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Beware the moors