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One Minute To Zero is a cold war film about Korea, very typical of
time. President Truman called it a police action, like we were
there to arrest Kim Il Sung and his cronies. It sure looked like
war from the point of view of the World War II veterans and their younger
brothers who fought it.
Robert Mitchum plays one of those veterans, a career army man who rose from the ranks to become a Colonel. He's training the South Korean Army when the North attacks. His personal story is interwoven with the progress of the war from the initial attack until the landings at Inchon. Mitch is every inch the combat soldier in this film.
And Mitch falls big time for widow Ann Blyth, a United Nations worker. When the UN was founded post World War II a lot of people put hope and faith in it that it would prevent future wars and it would deter aggression with force if need be. The only reason it got into Korea was because the Russians were boycotting the Security Council at the time and couldn't veto anything. A gambit they never used again. Ann is a World War II widow who believes she's carrying out the ideals her husband fought for. Lots of folks felt that way back in 1950.
Director Tay Garnett did a good job editing in real combat footage with his actors. The film has a good sense of realism.
But it's a good romantic story as well, helped along by one of the most durable popular songs in history. When I Fall In Love came from this film, heard in the background but never sung. Curious because Ann Blyth is an excellent singer. Nat King Cole and Doris Day had hit records of it when the film was first out. Later on Etta James, The Lettermen, Donny Osmond, Natalie Cole all did well by this song. And right up to the present day Celine Dion and Clive Griffin did a duet record back in 1993. The good ones always survive and I wouldn't bet against a future hit single for some artist with this one.
There is one scene in this that would definitely jar today's audiences. At one point Mitchum directs his men to fire into a group of refugees who the North Koreans are using as a blind to smuggle men and arms into the South. And the movie makes sure you see that that was the case. I don't doubt such things happened. They're happening today. But the movie verdict acquits Mitchum and assuages Ann Blyth that she shouldn't doubt her man. What CNN would do with that today.
The supporting cast includes Charles McGraw, Wally Cassell, and William Talman. All do a good job.
It's a double treat. Lots of action for the men and plenty of romance for the women, or the other way around if that's what floats your boat.
In 1999 there was a big to-do about a supposed atrocity during the Korean War, the strafing of civilians fleeing fighting during the initial push by the North Koreans down the Korean peninsula at No Gun Ri. It turned out that the main eyewitness for the story was a liar who was not even in in-country in 1950. The fuss would have been no surprise to viewers of this movie. Here it was artillery fire rather than air attack that caused civilian casualties, but the situation was basically the same. The film depicts the sad necessity of firing on a column of refugees, driven at gunpoint by communist soldiers hidden among them in civilian clothes, who were trying to get past U.N. lines. The blame in the movie is clearly on the commies, but there is no attempt to gloss over the ugly necessities of war. This movie was the first time I ever heard the phrase "Fire for Effect", a phrase I was to utter myself frequently years later as an artillery officer in Vietnam and Cambodia.
Rather dreary Korean War drama where everybody appears to be performing
"by the numbers". There's none of the intensity expected of those
life-and-death situations that distinguish the era's better war films
(Bridges of Toko-Ri; Pork Chop Hill; Retreat, Hell!). The action never
really gels, which I suppose is the fault of director Garnett who
appears disengaged from what's on screen. It doesn't help that the
screenplay also appears stitched together from a host of war movie
clichés, few of which stick around long enough to establish
themselvesthe wives, the ethnic grunts, the lonely orphan. It's like a
runner in baseball thinking he has to touch all 100 bases before he can
Of course, the film does contain one dramatic highlight that caused considerable controversy at the time, but has since proved revealingthe intentional shelling of civilian refugees by American forces. The screenplay tries to soften the impact with North Korean infiltrators holding refugees at gunpoint, but the destruction occurs anyway. Now, that was really a pretty gutsy move on somebody's part since the war was still going on when the movie was released in 1952.
Though not publicized at the time, we now know from proved incidents such as No Gun-Ri (There was more than one eye-witness, and the only dispute is over the number killed) that such atrocities did occur on our side as well as the enemy's. And though not included in highschool history texts, there was considerable sympathy for the North from the peasantry of the South because of the landlord-dominated government of the South, many of which had collaborated with hated Japanese occupiers during WWII. As a result, considerable guerilla activity occurred in the South both before and during the war itself. Details such as these cast light on the basic accuracy of the movie's depiction. Ironically, the problem for GI's was the same here as in Vietnamhow to distinguish friendly civilians from the enemy, while too often the solution was to kill them all. But when your own life is on the line, what do you do? That's why Mitchum's Col. Janowski is so torn.
Apparently studio honcho Howard Hughes had high hopes for the production since his name appears above the title. And even though the seams from stock footage are pretty obvious, the film is well produced with locations at Fort Carson, Colorado, where the terrain was said to resemble that of Korea. But background and special effects can hardly compensate for the general listlessness of the results or the ill-conceived Ann Blyth role. Nonetheless, the movie does remain memorable for its one revealing episode.
Unlike a great many films dealing with the Korean war ONE MINUTE TO ZERO
does try to bring a sense of time and place to the proceedings . We see
planes from Australia strafing North Korean troops while another scene scene
shows British troops marching off to war behind a Scottish pipe band , and
the most memorable sequence features North Korean infiltrators using
refugees as human shields which did happen fairly often during that
exceptionally cruel conflict. Compare this to most other films about the
Korean war which could have been set in Asia or Europe during the second
world war .
It does have a few flaws , for example there`s some painfully obvious real life film footage used and some of the battle scenes , especially the sequence with a soldier being killed by a flame thrower , could have been more graphic but I suppose that`s down to what you could show on screen in 1952 so perhaps that`s not a valid criticism . What is however is the inclusion of a love story which drags the story down some what . Women won`t want to watch ONE MINUTE TO ZERO because of the large number of combat scenes while fans of war films ( Who I guess are exclusively male ) will find the love story intrusive . But it`s a lot better than PEARL HARBOR
Love and war are a favored show theme in a number of films... Love
often brings people of completely different backgrounds together, as in
Huston's "The African Queen," Hemingway's "A Farewell to Arms," Arthur
Hill's "The Americanization of Emily," Douglas Sirk's "A Time to Love
and a Time to Die." Also Anatole Litvak's "Act of Love" explores the
relationship between an embittered GI (Kirk Douglas), and a lonely,
helpless French girl (Dany Robin) fearful of becoming an outright
"One Minute to Zero" uses love to make the Korean War acceptable... Ann Blyth is a nurse who has already lost a lover to the war... She is deeply hurt and cannot bear the though of falling in love with a soldier... However, she does, with a fighter pilot played by Robert Mitchum... In the end she becomes convinced that he is doing the right thing...
One interesting point about the film is the scene where Mitchum (evacuating American civilians) strafes a column of refugees because it was feared that some guerrillas had infiltrated among them...
Once upon a time Hollywood could really pump out these classic war
films; here, in the midst of the Korean War, RKO Studios tells how the
North Koreans and their allies invaded the South, pushing them and
their American allies to the very southern end of the peninsula; the
story is told by focusing on a Colonel played by Robert Mitchum, whose
job it is to delay as much as the possible the push south by the
Commies, giving time to the UN and the free West to get its act
together and come to Korea's aid.
"One Minute To Zero" benefits greatly from some excellent war effects: fighter jets setting mountainsides on fire, mortar shells blowing up tanks, and the like. Particularly unusual and gruesome is a quick shot about 30 minutes into the film of a charred corpse lieing on a hull of a burned-out tank.
Robert Mitchum cruises through this movie quite handily; he basically plays himself. He is a very likable actor, and I admire him greatly, but he plays this role with what appears to be very little effort - and I mean that as a compliment - I think he was just born to play characters like this. A great actor with commanding screen presence.
Mitchum's blossoming romance with Ann Blythe is managed quite interestingly: both characters are "a little older", so there is no heavy panting; rather, their early love scenes are surprisingly gentle, slightly but pleasantly awkward, and quite tender; Mitchum's first kiss for Ann is on her cheek. A nice change of pace indeed (though I think she is kind of tiny for him).
The director made sure to include a handful of clichéd Yankee soldiers: the innocent and comic chef turned warrior, the two buddies, one of whom kind of bullies the other, only to have the other save the life of the first, like a faithful dog, and so on. But they are not too overdone.
And I never tire of seeing American soldiers of different rank be able to joke with each other, recognizing each other's innate goodness and patriotism, while still respecting rank. And cheesy as it is, Mitchum's compliments and mentoring of the embattled captain played by Richard Egan are just plain heart-warming and pleasing.
A very interesting little film of the "forgotten war", Korea. Don't expect too much, just sit back and enjoy the kind of film they don't make anymore.
A real good Korea war film that captures the realism and tough decision making without it being a 'Combat TV' show look-a-like. Renting it and watching with my father, a Korean war veteran, on Veterans Day 2007 was great. Still, that one segment in the movie with the terrorist hiding among a line of hundreds of Korean refugees and seeing US sends Cannon shells among the crowd was gut wrenching. Nonetheless, the actual F-94 Starfire jet Scenes were the most footage ever shown in a Korean war film more so than "Men of the Fighting Lady" a distant second.Lastly, the casualty footage for a '51 /'52 was shocking. However, that the film contains a Romantic storyline & some comedy relief by young GI Gomer Pyle type soldier was amazing for the Director to squeeze these items in this film. This film, IMO, is one of better Korea war films along with "Retreat Hell" with Frank Lovejoy, along with a couple other films like "Pork Chop Hill" with Greg Peck.
Mitchum is the U.S. forces colonel, trying to train the Korean army in warfare, while Ann Blyth is the interpreter "Linda". Of course, they disagree on everything, but naturally they fall in love, in spite of themselves. Even back then, they make the comment that "Nato will just pass some more strongly worded resolutions." This is extra interesting, since the war was still going on when this film was released. Viewers will also spot William Talman, in an early role here, who would go on to be the DA on Perry Mason. He died young at 53. Great flick, overall. They toss in joking one-liners, although they sometimes feel out of place, since there's so much death and dying all around them. Directed by Tay Garnett. He had a great track record, making some of the great films of Hollywood. Showing on Turner Classics.
Robert Mitchum plays Colonel Steve Janowski--an infantry genius who is
stationed in South Korea just before the outbreak of the Korean War.
His job is to help train the South Korean Army to defend their country
in case of invasion...something that occurs in the first few minutes of
the film. The story consists of either the Colonel and his Staff
Sergeant (Charles McGraw) in combat or the Colonel chasing a pretty UN
worker (Ann Blyth).
Generally, the film is well made and the action sequences good, though the overuse of stock footage is a problem common to many war pictures. The viewer might also be surprised because it's a surprisingly bloodthirsty and brutal picture--with footage of charred corpses and the like. Not a war picture for the squeamish, that's for sure...but very well made and acted.
ONE MINUTE TO ZERO is a typical American war movie with the
then-contemporaneous Korean War serving as the theatre of battle in
this instance. The film stars the ubiquitous Robert Mitchum as a
hard-bitten combat veteran and colonel in the US army tasked with
helping evacuate the local population while at the same time protecting
them from advancing North Korean troops. There's not much in the way of
a big story here as the war itself IS the story; however, as a
realistic depiction of battle it works very well.
This is a visual film with some highly memorable combat scenes in it. Realism is enhanced through the use of real-life wartime footage and the scenes of jets firing rockets are quite incredible and never bettered by Hollywood special effects even in this day and age. I loved the tank battles as well although the film's tense highlight involves the Commies hiding inside refugee columns and ready to burst out and massacre at a moment's notice. A duck is involved in one of the film's tragic highlights. Character actors like Richard Egan, Charles McGraw, and William Talman flesh out realistic supporting roles although Ann Blyth's love interest suffers from the era's usual sexist depiction of women and feels like an unnecessary addition to the story.
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