Saturday, July 20, 2019

CONSENSUS #65. Pork Chop Hill

SYNOPSIS: "Pork Chop Hill" is a movie about the most famous battle in the Korean War. It takes place at the end of the war as the peace talks are winding down and both sides are fighting over real estate. One of those prime lots is an otherwise worthless hill. An American company is sent to keep and hold it. Gregory Peck plays the commander.  In some ways it is an update of the Alamo.

BACK-STORY: Pork Chop Hill is arguably the most famous and best movie about the Korean War. It was directed by Lewis Milestone of All Quiet…” fame. He also directed another Forgotten War film entitled Steel Helmet. PCH was his last war movie. It was released in 1959.  Gregory Pecks character, Joe Clemons, acted as technical adviser on the film. Clemons was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for the battle. The movie is populated by many familiar actors from the 1960s and includes a small role by Barry McGuire of future Eve of Destruction one hit wonder fame.

TRIVIA:  Wikipedia, imdb, TCM, Guts and Glory
1.  It is based on a book by military historian S.L.A. Marshall.   Marshall later put forward the controversial theory that a large percentage of American soldiers never fired their weapons at an enemy.

2.  Director Lewis Milestone claimed that the movie was cut by 20 minutes because Gregory Peck’s wife was upset that he was not arriving on screen soon enough.

3.  Peck’s character Clemons does not fire a weapon in the movie because Peck was a committed pacifist and proponent of gun control.  Peck had also been against American involvement in the war.

4.  Producer Sy Bartlett intended for the movie to be very anti-war.  The Pentagon approved the script in spite of this because the movie shows men obeying orders and the movie refutes the image of American soldiers bugging out.

Belle and Blade  =  3.0
Brassey’s              =  4.0
Video Hound       =  3.8
War Movies         =  5.0
Military History  =  #39
Channel 4             =  no
Film Site                =  yes
101 War Movies  =  no
Rotten Tomatoes  =  no 

OPINION: Pork Chop Hill has been described as the best Korean War B-Movie. It is very good for what it is. The acting is solid. Not surprising considering the cast. Peck is Peck. Did he ever make a bad movie? Harry Guardino, Rip Torn, George Peppard, Robert Blake, the great Woody Strode. Nuf said. The cinematography is a crisp black and white. The dialogue is refreshingly cynical in its commentary on war.  It is gritty and authentic in its depiction of the randomness of death in combat. PCH is one of the best company level movies ever made. It is not a small unit dynamics movie ala Platoon. There is little dysfunctionality other than with Franklin (who is a fictional character). The biggest strength of the film is its historical accuracy. It is one of the best movies covering a battle. It reminds one of Hamburger Hill in its battles-can-be-futile theme. It also has a similar take on how command decisions based on political factors can result in unnecessary squandering of lives.

            Pork Chop Hill is underrated at #66.  It belongs in the top 50.   It is one of the most realistic battle films and one of the best small unit movies. Considering when it was made and the budget, it is clearly a classic. It also deserves credit for representing the Forgotten War well.

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