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Captain Edward Hall returns to the USA after two years in a prison camp in the Korean war. In the camp he was brainwashed and helped the Chinese convince the other prisoners that they were fighting an unjust war. When he comes back he is charged for collaboration with the enemy. Where does loyalty end in a prison camp, when the camp is a living hell? Written by
The Rack casts Paul Newman in his third film as a returning prisoner of war who is put on trial for collaborating with the enemy during the Korean War. After the disaster of The Silver Chalice and his subsequent success in Somebody Up There Like Me, Newman's performance in The Rack assured his future stardom.
Making things triply worse is the fact that Newman comes from a military family. His father Walter Pidgeon is in the service, his brother was killed in Korea, and the brother's wife Anne Francis has stayed with Pidgeon. It was after a welcome home party for Newman that Pidgeon receives the word about Newman's court martial. Walter Pidgeon gives the best performance in the film, his scenes with Newman after he gets the news are what great acting is all about.
Prosecuting Newman is Wendell Corey and his defense counsel is Edmond O'Brien a good pair of cinematic legal adversaries if there ever was one. Also in the film is Lee Marvin who was a fellow prisoner and who is the original accusatory witness against Newman. Marvin's scene in the witness stand is also classic.
The Pacific Theater of World War II and later the Korean War put us against enemies of an oriental culture and the second one flavored with Marxism. Their view of prisoners was one radically different from the western one. Someone who didn't die at his duty and allowed himself to be captured was one worthy of contempt. It's why the atrocities that happened and more important the fact that the prison keepers never viewed what they did as atrocities. These were all new issues for the American public to face. It would come even closer to home during the Vietnam War.
The Rack is the story of one man who reached a breaking point while in captivity. Those points are not the same with every individual. That fact is brought out quite clearly in this fine film.
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