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During the Korean War, the lieutenant in charge of a Marine rifle platoon is killed in battle. Before he dies, he places the platoon's sergeant, who's black, in charge. The sergeant figures on having trouble with two men in his platoon: a private who has much more combat experience than he does, and a racist Southerner who doesn't like blacks in the first place and has no intention of taking orders from one. Written by
This is one of the few Korean War movies I have seen; I usually stick to my WW2 interests.
Sidney Poitier stars as a black Sergeant amongst a platoon of whites. When the unit is ambushed, Poitier is the only noncom that survives. He must lead the survivors to a strategic farmhouse and hold it against overwhelming enemy forces. To complicate matters, he faces off with a more experienced Private (Alan Ladd) and a bigot (Paul Richards) as he tries to keep the men from mutinying.
This movie does a fair job at commenting on racism. Although Sidney Poitier always answers challenges to his authority by threatening to kill whoever gets in his way, he plays the part quite passionately. This was an early film to take a serious look at racism; it's a bit clumsy but makes a good early effort.
The supporting cast is good as well; they are given plenty of slow scenes to make them seem like real people rather than just faceless soldiers. They include singer James Darren; political satirist Mort Sahl; Ingemar Johanssen as a Swedish immigrant; Glenn Corbett as the kindly medic; as well as a Navajo Indian (Mario Alcalde) and the typical scared, green kid.
The battle scenes are pretty well done but aren't too original. They usually involve hordes of Red Army troops rushing the farmhouse and the Americans dispatching them with grenades and small arms fire.
As for complaints: I didn't think the tune "The Saints Go Marching On" at all fit the bleak mood of the movie. The cinematography shows of some pretty awesome snowscapes, but looks nothing like Korea. The continuity tends to jump around during the middle portion of the movie as well -- characters will be out in a foxhole one moment and the next they'll be inside the farmhouse chattering away. The ending was somewhat unsatisfying as well.
All in all, a pretty decent Korean War flick, most notable for the young cast of stars-to-be and it's well-meaning efforts to deal with the huge problem racism in the early 1960s.
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