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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
Not a bad story idea, but you wonder if the film makers even cared if they were making a good film or not.
It must have been pretty awful filming this movie at Glacier National Park. There was a lot of snow and ice as the film makers were trying to re-create the cold winter in the Korean mountains. The movie is about a group of soldiers who are cut off from the rest of their troops during the Korean War. When their commanding officer is hit, he assigns the black sergeant (Sidney Poitier) to be in charge. The other sergeant (Alan Ladd) is mad he wasn't chosen and gives Poitier a lot of crap--as does a racist man in the group who loudly voices his contempt for a black leader. This all could have been interesting, as the Korean War was the first fully integrated war for the US. Plus, there was a lot going on in 1960 regarding racial equality--so the film actually was dealing with 1960s social issues--not just the Korean War.
Unfortunately, the film loses its way very quickly--mostly due to dumb casting that shows that the film makers really didn't care about racial issues. Instead, it looked almost as if the film was created by tossing darts at a cork board filled with ideas! First, perhaps "All The Young Men" started a small trend in Hollywood casting stand-up comedians in war films! Here, we have Mort Sahl (a big name during his day but all but forgotten today) and two years later, Bob Newhart was cast in "Hell is for Heroes" and a few years later Don Rickles was cast in "Kelly's Heroes". An odd mini-trend, I know. And, like Newhart's performance, Sahl inexplicably does a stand-up routine during a tiny break in the action! I am sure that happened all the time during the Korean War and WWII!!!! In addition to this dumb casting decision, the film makers also decided to insert James Darren. Now this alone is not bad--he was lovely in "The Guns of Navarone". However, like Sahl, the insane movie producers thought it would be great to have this 1950s/60s teen heart-throb sing a number as well! Think about it...it's in the middle of the snow during the Korean War and Darren's character breaks into song!!!! What were they thinking?! Did they think audiences wanted this is a war flick?! Who was their audience?! As a result, the film just came off as fake--as fake as the eyes in the obviously white extras who were cast as Koreans! The bottom line is that if the film makers didn't care enough to get the film right, why should the audience care enough to bother with the film? Plus, there are just a lot more films that deal with racism without all the superfluous crap tossed in as well!
By the way, Alan Ladd appearing in such a film isn't a huge surprise, as his career was in a downward spiral--partly due to changing tastes and partly due to his alcoholism.
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