Sandwiched between the sharper definitions of WWII & Vietnam, the Korean Conflict’s rep as the ‘Forgotten War’ is undebatable . . . in Hollywood. And even rarer to find a major film on the subject made during the fighting, as here. Robert Mitchum, bulked & powerful, is the tough, pragmatic colonel, trying to hold the line against the first waves of attack from a communist-sponsored North. Ann Blyth, brittle as ever, is an idealistic U.N. health rep (and WWII war widow) unwilling to see what’s coming: Love during Wartime; Opposites Attract; Battle scenes & Camaraderie; the works. Plus a budding pop classic, Victor Young’s ‘When I Fall In Love,’ in endless repeat mode on the soundtrack. Vet director Tay Garnett can’t get past a lot of WWII-era movie clichés, the comic & romantic interplay are as generic as they come, but some explosive battle scenes in the field have a new technological savagery to them. (With only one bad model shot.) And while it wraps up with extended hold-the-fort bravura, the film’s true climax comes earlier, with a morally-compromised stand-off that forces Mitchum to take aim at a North Korean supply ammunition convoy hidden among a mass of innocent refugees. It’s the sort of war atrocity conundrum the film isn’t able to process. That in itself, an inadequate, if welcome sign of progress.
DOUBLE-BILL: Hard working, gruff-voiced character actor Charles McGraw, who all but steals this film as Mitchum’s top-sergeant, was fresh off his best role, starring in Richard Fleischer’s dandy, low-budget film noir THE NARROW MARGIN/’52.