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Through a combination of bad diplomacy and an understandable war
weariness from World War II, the USA was caught completely off guard
when the Communist North Korean government attacked the Southern forces
that we were training. We had few enough forces and they were driven to
what became known as the Pusan perimeter in 1950 when General MacArthur
pulled off the two pronged counterattack out of the perimeter and from
the landings at Inchon.
Robert Ryan is a lieutenant leading a small group of survivors who are caught behind enemy lines to safety. These GIs are not battling for any glory, but simply for survival. Also retreating are Sergeant Aldo Ray in a jeep with a shell-shocked Colonel Robert Keith. Ryan commandeers both Ray and the jeep for his needs.
Ryan is a good officer, but by the book. Ray is a good fighting man, but very insolent. The remainder of the film is how these two guys who grate on each other's nerves, but manage to work together.
The film is directed by Anthony Mann, best known for his westerns in the Fifties that mostly starred James Stewart. Men in War is probably best compared to Bend in the River. Jimmy Stewart is taking supplies to settlers for their survival and his own and Ryan is essentially doing the same thing in this film.
Ryan was a multi-faceted actor who sometimes played leads, but mostly did good character parts as bad guys. He had worked with Mann and Stewart previously in The Naked Spur where he was as bad as they come. He's just as convincing as the gritty, but decent lieutenant here. Mann and Ryan would team again the following year in God's Little Acre, a subject far removed from the Korean War.
Men in War is a good film, photographed very realistically in the outdoors and has the look and feel of a newsreel with depth.
"Men in War" makes one wish Anthony Mann had directed more war films. This
is an excellent, character-driven story. It is a prime example of the
mature, unflinching kind of war film that began to appear after the Korean
conflict. Undeservedly neglected, this picture ranks with Lewis Milestone's
"Pork Chop Hill" and Robert Aldrich's "Attack". And it is the progenitor of
"Platoon" and "The Thin Red Line". with their complex characters and
Every actor seems to give his best, with exceptional moments from Robert Ryan, Aldo Ray and Robert Keith, as a shell-shocked Colonel. And it is always good to see the admirable Pine, Morrow, Persoff and Edwards. The film has a stark, yet pleasing black & white look which is appropriate for the bare bones conflicts the story sets forth. Moreover, "Men in War" features a very fine score by Elmer Bernstein, utilizing an authentic Korean folk song.
A war film should have a sense of time and place for it to be exceptional
and as I`ve said in previous reviews basically any movie featuring The
Korean War could have easily taken place in any campaign of WW 2 . MEN IN
WAR is a case in point that could have been set in the Ardennes in December
1944 as an American platoon are cut off by a German counter offensive . In
fact it could easily have been set during the Indian wars of the 1870s with
a bunch of calvarymen lost and surrounded by hostile natives
And yet director Anthony Mann and screenwriter Philip Yordan have made a very memorable and compelling Korean war movie that lifts it above B movie standards . The story is simple with a bunch of US soldiers stuck behind enemy lines but we`re shown what it`s like to be a soldier fighting a war , we`re shown the courage , the fear and the camaradeire of reluctant warriors. In many ways this could have been an Vietnam allegory like MASH or TOO LATE THE HERO . Only thing is MEN IN WAR was made several years before America got involved in Vietnam . It`s difficult to believe but it`s true as we see Lt Benson and Sgt Montana come close to " fragging " each other at one point or the quite remarkable scene where Sgt Killian picks some flowers and puts them in his helmet . If I have any problem with this movie it`s the final sequence that suggests that soldiers fight and die for medals when in fact soldiers fight and die for one another
A quick word about the cast: All are very good but the stand out performance is by Robert Keith as the nameless Colonel . As the movie progresses the audience care as much for the Colonel as much as Sgt Montana does . Perhaps when I mention that the Colonel has hardly one single line of dialogue you`ll understand just how superb Keith`s performance is
MEN IN WAR comes highly recommended
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Anthony Mann, one of my favorite Hollywood genre directors, excelled in
noirs and Westerns; however, in this film - and the subsequent THE
HEROES OF TELEMARK (1965) - he showed that he was almost as equally
adept at war movies, too.
Despite the fact that the film is little more than a standard actioner, one of the countless tough black-and-white combat films to emerge in the wake of A WALK IN THE SUN (1946), Mann handles the proceedings admirably; significantly enough, he nabbed a Directors Guild Award nod for this film rather than for his other more highly-regarded works like, say, WINCHESTER '73 (1950), THE NAKED SPUR (1953) and MAN OF THE WEST (1958).
The combat sequences certainly deliver the goods (particularly the killing of a black member of the outfit by the silent enemy and an intense mine-field crossing sequence) and the battle-of-wits between the rugged Robert Ryan and the tough Aldo Ray - who later teamed up again under Mann's direction for GOD'S LITTLE ACRE (1958) - as well as the unusual relationship between shell-shocked Colonel Robert Keith and Ray keep one watching. The film also features notable roles for Nehemiah Persoff (who goes crazy under the strain of combat and perishes for it) and Vic Morrow as a cowardly soldier who makes good in the end by agreeing to join on a suicidal mission; Elmer Bernstein's score, then, is suitably evocative, effectively complementing the on-screen action.
Men In War was directed by Anthony Mann,who was really more known for his big budget westerns. This, his first and last attempt at a war film, stands out with its realistic battle scenes involving stylish camera angles and innovative editing. Robert Ryan as Lt Benson and Aldo Ray as "Montana, are outstanding as their characters are at odds from the very beginning. Look for James Edwards, who was one of the first black actors to rise above the general sterotypes, even before Sidney Pottier came along. Men In War is worth seeing, especially the last half of the film as it builds to an intense conclusion.
The only problem I have of this film is that the prints I've seen are
of very low quality, or perhaps the original cinematography was poor.
Otherwise it is a very interesting action piece about the first days of
the Korean War.
They got lucky with the cast. Who can beat Robert Ryan in a war flick role? No matter what movie he was appearing in, he always looked like he'd spent the night sleeping in a foxhole. LQ Jones is in this too, I love his face. Even Vic Morrow, he of the outstanding acting ability, makes an appearance, years before he was cast in that television masterpiece, 'Combat!' The trek of the squad through North Korean held territory plays like a thriller. The sound editing is excellent, you can make out the little noises that would play havoc with your imagination on a battlefield, where you're sweating and half crazed with nervous tension.
This was supposed to be based on a novel called "Day Without End" but I found it in a bookstore, and the screenplay has absolutely nothing to do with the original story. I always wonder why it gets a screen credit. The novel was a conventional dull novel of world war two combat, and the film is a striking and unusual,an almost psychological thriller set on the battlefield. You can do well to check this one out.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'Men in War (1957)' had been sitting on my video shelf for quite a few
months, but I was very interested in watching it. Anthony Mann,
generally known for directing Westerns, here avoids the conventions of
his favoured genre, and a brief glimpse of the opening scene had
promised a stark, realistic war-time drama, unconcerned with patriotic
gallantry and instead focused on the psychological torment of being
exposed to continuous conflict. My expectations were, for the most
part, excellently met. In a wonderful year that included stunning war
pictures from Stanley Kubrick, David Lean and Mikhail Kalatozov, 'Men
in War' manages to hold its own, despite what was likely a
comparatively low production budget. Part of the film's merit lies in
its focus on characters. There are, in fact, two "wars" at play in the
film: between the American platoon and their faceless Asian enemies,
and between feuding soldiers Lt. Benson (Robert Ryan) and Sgt. Montana
(Aldo Ray), who must construct a tentative alliance if they are to
emerge intact from enemy territory.
In 1957, Stanley Kubrick released 'Paths of Glory (1957)' which featured perhaps the most spectacularly realistic scenes of warfare until 'Saving Private Ryan (1997).' Mann's film, produced in the same year, strives for a more modest brand of realism, one less concerned with fireworks than with isolation punctuated by the unexpected threat of danger. In most WWI and WWII pictures, the major battles are played out amid gunshots and canon-fire, exploding earth and dying soldiers. The Korean War (1950-1953) presented American soldiers with a new kind of conflict: guerrilla warfare. Lt. Benson leads his platoon through enemy territory in an improvised retreat, and, at times, it even seems as though the men are engaged in a peaceful forest hike the unbroken silence is not unnerving, as it probably should be, but deceptively reassuring. One soldier (James Edwards, the pioneering African-American actor from 'The Set-Up (1949)') even appears to forget his circumstances entirely, lulling himself into a false sense of security that is sharply and inevitably encroached by a silent enemy ambush.
Robert Ryan is ideally cast in the leading role, bringing to the character his characteristic intensity, world-weariness and self-doubt. Though undoubtedly a dedicated leader, Lt. Benson finds even his own resolve cracking under the pressure of seclusion and imminent, unseen peril. Even more interesting, however, is Aldo Ray as Sgt. Montana, who would be a selfish, dishonourable scumbag if it weren't for his unwavering devotion to a shell-shocked colonel (Robert Keith), and his meticulous knowledge of enemy tactics. The remaining soldiers, including Vic Morrow and L.Q. Jones, are unfortunately relatively anonymous characters, and their eventual dispatching is mostly without emotion or perhaps by then we've simply become so hardened to the prospect of death that we can't feel anything. Though the obligatory heroic ending strays onto the beaten track, I was mostly impressed with how 'Men in War' generally avoided clear-cut heroics. The soldiers killed by enemy attacks are betrayed by unlucky circumstances or momentary lapses of judgement; even the final assault on an enemy stronghold seems almost pathetically inadequate.
No director I know made the scenery as much a dramatic player as Mann did. Whether it was the West in the great Westerns he directed or the imaginary Korea of this movie, it seemed as though you were in the scene yourself watching from a tree. The movie is calm, almost contemplative, and even though you could argue the soldiers were stereotypes, they were so believable and so well acted, they seemed part of the scenery as well. The danger in the movie is everywhere and nowhere at the same time, and the men die as most men do in war, carelessly, and almost wastefully. The actors are superb, totally believable, and in the case of Robert Keith heart-breaking. I recommend this film to anyone, it's simply the best largely unknown war film ever.
A squad of G.I.'s, separated from their division, begin a trek of many miles trying to re-group with their comrades on a distant hill. They are harassed by snipers, sappers, and artillery barrages, but manage to reach their objective. After reaching the hill, a vicious firefight breaks out with the enemy. Excellent portrayal of the fear and horror of war.
It had the gritty in the trenches documentary look. Robert Ryan was said to look like he crawled all through the movie. It was about a chaotic retreat gone bad during the initial assault of the North Korean Army into South Korea. It was a little melodramatic, with the confused teenage act from Vic Morrow. Aldo Ray as Sgt. Montana was too gritty, like a Mad Max or Clint Eastwood type freewheeler as he tries to shepherd his mentally broken Colonel to safety. He is dragooned into Ryan's little column against his will. Very rough ending for the brave little band. Lot's of action but no Hollywood heroics!
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