Wednesday, May 27, 2015

LIVE: Mission Over Korea (1953)

                Dedicated to the 8th Army, 5th Air Force, and the South Korean Army  /  filmed at several sites in S Korea  /  the cast includes Maureen O’Hara and Harvey Lembeck!  /  story by Richard Tregaskis of “Guadalcanal Diary” fame  /  “This is an L-5… a small boy with a .22 could shoot it down” – this is its story (so this is the movie that started the subgenre of L-5 movies)  /  mascot kid named Clancy (not Short Round)  /  actors emoting in front of screens with the footage behind them (you don’t think the cast went to S Korea, did you?)  /  Lembeck plays a mechanic who says stuff like “He’s a bold pilot, but will he get to be an old pilot?”  /  the main characters are Capt. Slocum (John Hodiak) and a hot shot pilot and wolf named Pete (John Derek) –oozing that sex appeal that seduced Ursula Andress, Linda Evans and Bo  /  Slocum reunites with Nancy (O’Hara) in Japan – music swells and then harp music for the sleeping kids  /  when the war breaks out, no one is surprised!  /  Slocum kisses Nancy goodbye (on the cheek) and goes off to war and O’Hara goes back to making real movies  /  Slocum and Pete land at a base that has been attacked by the NK Air Force (actually P-51s); dead bodies lie around;  Slocum and Pete rescue the mascot, but Pete’s brother is killed -  revenge theme established  /  Slocum is tasked with flying the American Ambassador and the Korean President to safety;  a NK fighter attacks but Slocum goes down on the deck to cause it to crash into a hill – “Nasty, those one way streets”  /  first cigarette – 39 minutes  /  Slocum:  “The Air Force’s job is to be the fist, we’re the eyes.”  /  Pete attaches a bazooka under his wing and attacks a tank but surprisingly he misses and crashes  /  Pete makes it back to base with the help of ROKs  /  Pete makes an amazingly accurate drop of plasma to a besieged unit  /  montage of artillery spotting  /  black soldier sings a minor hit called “Forgive Me”  /  North Koreans sneak up on the base and Slocum is wounded so Pete flies him to a MASH unit which happens to have a nurse that he was hitting on earlier;  Slocum dies and the nurse gives a long speech ending with “The burden your friend was carrying can’t be allowed to drop.”  /  Pete picks up the burden and has Maxie add a powerful radio to the L-5 to improve artillery spotting  /  Pete and Maxie are ordered to take out some bridges;  they spot some camouflaged tanks and call in F-80s;  good sound effects;  Pete is wounded and Maxie has to land;  the plane crashes and burns;  the end – they must have run out of film

ANALYSIS:  The movie is surprisingly not terrible.  It would probably be more entertaining if it was.  The director, Fred Sears, was famous for his B movies and made 50 of them in less than a decade.  This one stands out a bit due to the name cast.  Hodiak, Derek, and Lembeck are only average and O’Hara’s role is almost a cameo.  There is little character development as Sears decides to let the stereotypes do the work for him.  This is especially true of Pete who is in the tradition of the ladies’ man / fighter jock.  The dialogue is sappy and there are unintentionally funny moments.  Not unexpected in a B movie.  The soundtrack is terrible.  For a film that intends to highlight the role of L-5s, the movie has little on artillery spotting.   I guess because that is boring.  It certainly does a good job recruiting daring young men for L-5s.  It does not sugarcoat the dangers and in fact it portrays some depressing deaths.  I wonder if it would have done that if the war was in full swing when it was made.  The movie is not overly patriotic or propagandistic.  Again probably because of the timing of the production.  In conclusion, it is worth watching for the kitsch value.

the war-winning  L-5 Sentinel

grade =  D+

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