Recruits head to the front lines towards the close of the Korean War. The interaction between two of the soldiers...an idealistic newcomer and a psychotic who goes on one-man patrols ... See full summary »
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Recruits head to the front lines towards the close of the Korean War. The interaction between two of the soldiers...an idealistic newcomer and a psychotic who goes on one-man patrols slitting enemy throats under cover of night...and the orphan boy who comes between them is examined. The Cease-Fire brings the three to a final resolution. Written by
Martin H. Booda <email@example.com>
Pvt. Roy Loomis:
Once you get out of training, you're funneled into what's called the pipeline, and you become a number while you're traveling in it, until you get spewed out somewhere at the other end. After you land, you look for signs of war. A bullet scar in a wall, a bombed out building. You don't have to look very hard. You see a lot of poverty, kids starving. When you get out of the trucks after the ship and the train, you know the pipeline is carrying you further toward the front. You're ...
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If memory serves, the Sanders brothers came out of the UCLA film program at a time when film schools were still forming and not yet the minor leagues of movie-making. The brothers made their mark with a prize-winning amateur production entitled Time Out of War, about quiet moments during the Civil War. I may be wrong about details, but I believe the thrust is accurate-- I wish IMDb's profile of Terry and Denis were more complete than the meagre data provided.
Anyway, my point is that this was a non-studio production of stark originality at a time when war was still being celebrated by a WWII-besotted studio industry. War Hunt is not exactly an anti-war film on the order of a Paths of Glory or Attack-- after all, Endore's scary psychopath can be shrugged off as a wild exception to the average GI. What the movie does suggest is that a deranged mind like Endore's can prove highly useful in wartime, even get a medal slapped on his chest for the tactical value his obsession with killing provides (on a more strategic scale, consider the intellectual value of the equally deranged Dr.Strangelove).
Because of his battlefield information, Endore is allowed to fight his own war, by his own rules, free from the restrictions placed on normal soldiers, while command looks the other way. In short, Endore's particular form of psychosis finds a home in combat where it not only thrives, but also proves of real instrumental value to the higher-ups. In peacetime, he would get a strait-jacket; in wartime, he gets a commendation. Whether his psychopathic actions also promote a greater good amounts to an unspoken ethical dilemma not taken up by the picture-- and is likely why the script fudges the dilemma by having his obsession threaten the very truce itself. (An unlikely consequence since truces are notoriously slow to take hold, anyway.)
The movie itself is no unmixed triumph. There's no motivation for Loomis' standing up to Endore over the Korean boy, unless we extrapolate some symbolism about youth representing the future and Loomis standing for American idealism. In fact, the film's very last line supports some such surmise. Moreover, John Saxon's Endore is truly frightening-- until he opens his mouth. I don't know whether it's the uninspired lines given him or Saxon's rather pedestrian delivery, but neither measures up to Saxon's coldly menacing presence nor the character's bold concept. Then too, the scene with battalion command fails because no one, including Saxon, has a good grasp of how a unique character like Endore should handle it. (And on a more minor note: How could he possibly get through Basic Training since he doesn't just resist authority, he can't even comprehend it!-- as the battalion command scene shows.)
On the plus side stands Redford's nicely understated Loomis, whose character wisely resists heroic proportions. Charles Aidman too, comes across intelligently as a weary and beleaguered company commander willing to bend the rules for tactical advantage. At the same time, as others point out, the photography is appropriately grainy and gritty, blending well with the occasional stock footage. But most of all, there remains that frighteningly eerie glimpse of Endore's demonic little dance around his latest slashed throat. What mysterious god of madness is he invoking somewhere inside that dark pool that is his psyche. And what strange secrets has he imparted to the boy to carry into the future. I've seen nothing like this peculiar ritual before or since, and it is truly more unsettling than the gallons of fake blood spilled by contemporary horror-fests.
Judging from the Sanders' profile, it looks like their careers petered out on television. What a disappointment after such a promising beginning. There must be some inside story here that I wish I knew. Be that as it may, War Hunt remains truly one-of-a-kind, a really scary glimpse of a mysteriously psychotic figure freed up by the dogs of war.
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