An American army officer, troubled by reports of brutality, volunteers to investigate conditions inside North Korean POW camps. He parachutes behind enemy lines and infiltrates a group of ... See full summary »
An American army officer, troubled by reports of brutality, volunteers to investigate conditions inside North Korean POW camps. He parachutes behind enemy lines and infiltrates a group of G.I.s being marched to one of these camps. There, he witnesses scenes of G.I.s being brainwashed, beaten, subjected to mock executions, deprived of food and water, and tortured in a variety of ways under the supervision of a Russian colonel. While reaction to this treatment varies, the officer is heartened to learn that American soldiers are still a courageous and enduring force. Written by
MGM released two "stills" of the scene in which USAF Captain Collingswood (played by Gene Reynolds) is tortured for information inside a North Korean POW camp. One still shows the scene as it appears in the movie: Collingswood leans back against a horizontal, shoulder-high pole. His arms have been hooked back over this pole and a heavy rock has been tied to his hands. A North Korean guards dumps a bucket of cold water on him. Icicles formed by many such buckets of water cling to Collingswood's hair, face, and flight uniform. The second still, however, shows a somewhat different scene. Collingswood still leans back against that pole with his arms hooked back around it, but there is no rock tied to his hands and there are virtually no signs of icicles on him. Apparently two versions of this scene were filmed and MGM kept the more "dramatic" one for use in the movie. See more »
I would suspect that some of the negative reviews of this movie stem from the fact that 1.) Ronald Reagan is the star and 2.) it would tend to fall in the very small category of anti-communist films produced by Hollywood. But for people who like good movies, this is a pretty good little film.
More importantly, the film has a basis in fact. The screenwriter, Allen Rivkin, drew on true stories from those who suffered in those camps. When the Army transport "General Walker" docked in San Francisco carrying the first group of returning American POWs from North Korea, Rivkin was there and personally interviewed sixty of them. These ex-POWs told him of the harsh treatment, lack of food, freezing weather, poor medical treatment, and brainwashing sessions that were just some of the horrors they had lived through. In addition, Capt. Robert H. Wise served as the technical adviser on the film. Wise, who had spent a year as a prisoner of the Germans during World War II, spent three years in a North Korean prison camp. He nearly starved to death, dropping 90 pounds during his ordeal. His input lent invaluable veracity to the details of the film.
So when you watch the scenes of torture, deprivation and mind control in "Prisoner of War," they are authentic. As for the statement that these scenes become homo-erotic "beefcake in bondage," the unfocused mind can conjure many things, but more often than not a cigar is just a cigar.
A small film shot on a low budget, there is much to recommend "Prisoner of War" including its treatment of the subject post-war American defectors. A handful of Westerners opted to stay with the communists after the war (as opposed to thousands and thousands of captured Chinese and North Koreans who preferred not to go back to the Reds)and this film has an interesting twist on the subject.
Might make a good B feature with "The Manchurian Candidate."
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