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Huk was the shortened version of the Communist guerrilla movement in
the post war Phillipines who had finally gotten their delayed
independence from the USA in 1946. Many of them were the guerrilla
fighters who had fought the Japanese occupation. In that they were
similar to the Vietminh in French Indo-China,the Chinese Communists and
many other native insurgency. When this independent film came out in
1956 the war had already come to a halt a year earlier. It allowed for
George Montgomery, Mona Freeman, and the rest of the cast to film in
the locations of some the very savage fighting.
Unlike a lot of the revolutionary movements post World War II this one came up very short though it was bloody while it lasted. It also had no western combat troops involved, the Filipinos beat them back on their own. They had a most remarkable president at the time named Ramon Magsaysay who combined social reform with military action, the better to take away the appeal of the Huks. The full name was Hukbalahap for the group.
The Phillipines area an archipelago of over a thousand islands and this story concerns the action on one of those islands. George Montgomery who grew up in the Phillipines on his father's plantation has come home because the Huks have killed his father. He has no interest in the politics of the area, Montgomery just wants to get a good price for the old homestead and clear out.
He makes the acquaintance of Mona Freeman who is now married to his boyhood neighbor John Baer and living on that plantation with his father James Bell who taught school in the area. He likes what he sees and Baer has become incredibly aggressive. There's a reason for that which I won't go into further.
Filipino cinema stars Teddy Benevides who plays a Filipino army major and Mario Barri who is the local Huk leader lend some local authenticity to the story. I was in the Phillipines in 1999 and the country is lush, green, and beautiful as I remember it. The final action sequence is a battle with the Huks attacking a river steamer filled with fleeing refugees that Montgomery, Freeman, and Baer are taking to safety. It is well staged and will leave you on the edge of your seat.
As for President Magsaysay who does get a mention in the film, he was killed in a plane crash the following year. I was 10 years old at the time and I remember just as it was for Anwar Sadat of Egypt a great deal of mourning for him in this country, more than usual for a foreign head of state.
You won't get too much of the background of the Huk rebellion, but the film Huk is a fine action film for those who crave such things.
Just read the biography of Ed Ramsey, entitled "Lt. Ramsey's War." Digging into movies reflecting that era, I found "Amigo," which I do not recommend. So I decided to suffer through "Huk!," because Ramsey had some run-ins with the communist element as did all our allies in WWII. I knew that Montgomery would be really bad in a 50's melodrama and he did not let me down as he did the worst Clark Gable imitation ever seen. But even in a 50's melodrama you get to see the transition of the protagonist. Going to stay away from spoilers best I can but if you can get through the imperialism, sexism, racism and all the other isms that were accepted in the 50's, the character development of the author is upheld here. Still only a five for me but this is one movie for all who are interested in our history with the Philippines as depicted by Hollywood.
Like Evan Hunter, Stirling Silliphant ploughed his trade by writing novels, having them adapted for the screen, and writing episodes of 'Alfred Hitchcock Presents'. His first adaptation was at the age of 37, so he spent a few years living life before he achieved success.
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