Gregory Peck, Pork Chop Hill [VHS] (1959)
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This gritty, grim Korean war drama presents the grueling ordeal of a platoon charged with taking a hill of no military value during the final days of the war. While diplomats and generals argue over peace negotiations (in an appropriately wordless montage under the opening credits), tough but compassionate Lt. Joe Clemons (Gregory Peck) leads a unit of 135 men up a well-guarded hill while miscommunication--and at times no communication--cuts them off from reinforcements and regimental command. Shot against a bleak, battle-scarred mountain of white dust honeycombed with black trenches, director Lewis Milestone presents the devastating battle as a meaningless sacrifice of hundreds of lives spent in a political game of chicken. Peck leads a terrific cast of young talents and character actors, many of them just starting their respective careers: Rip Torn, Harry Guardino, Martin Landau, Norman Fell, George Peppard, Gavin MacLeod, Bert Remsen, Harry Dean Stanton, plus veteran stalwarts Woody Strode, James Edwards, Robert Blake, and Bob Steele. Milestone had previously directed the pacifist WWI classic All Quiet on the Western Front and the compassionate WWII platoon drama A Walk in the Sun. Pork Chop Hill adds one more antiwar classic to his résumé, the angry power of his drama overcoming the hollow patriotic voice-over (reportedly added by Peck) that concludes the drama. --Sean Axmaker
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