Men in War
|Men in War|
Original film poster
|Directed by||Anthony Mann|
|Produced by||Sidney Harmon
Anthony Mann (uncredited)
|Written by||Van Van Praag (novel)
|Music by||Elmer Bernstein|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Box office||$1.5 million (US)|
Men in War (1957) is a war film about the Korean War directed by Anthony Mann. It stars Robert Ryan and Aldo Ray as the leaders of a small detachment of American soldiers cut off and desperately trying to rejoin their division. The events of the film take place on one day; 6 September 1950. It was based on a 1949 World War II novel of the Normandy campaign Day Without End by Van Van Praag that was retitled Combat in 1951.
Some sources claim that credited screenwriter Philip Yordan was actually fronting for the blacklisted Ben Maddow. The Pentagon refused any cooperation with the producer and condemned the film for its depicition of a US Army unit without discipline.
Most of the same cast and crew made God's Little Acre the following year.
On 6 September 1950, an exhausted platoon of the 24th Infantry Division is cut off. In addition to losing radio contact, the platoon is harassed by unseen North Korean infiltrators who silently kill the Americans and take their weapons. Platoon commander Lieutenant Benson (Ryan) has only vague instructions to reach a certain hill to link up with American forces.
The patrol stops a jeep driven by Sergeant "Montana" (Ray) and shell shocked passenger "the Colonel" (Robert Keith) from the First Cavalry Division. The Colonel is unable to speak and is tied to his seat. After the Battle of the Nakdong River, where "our men fell like rain", the tough experienced Montana decided he and his Colonel, whom he treats like his father, have had enough of the war. Benson commandeers their jeep for his platoon's equipment and the battle-fatigued Corporal Zwickley.
The platoon makes its way towards the hill. Montana disobeys Benson by instinctively shooting a surrendering North Korean sniper, who turns out to have a concealed weapon inside his hat. Sergeant Killian is killed while covering the rear after absentmindedly filling his helmet net with flowers. Montana takes his place and feigns fatigue, luring the infiltrators into the open, where he kills them.
The cynical Montana transforms the platoon back into a military formation while also curing Zwickley's neurosis by slapping him around. The platoon successfully carries on through sniper attack, artillery barrage, and land mines.
When they reach the hill, they find it held by the North Koreans. Montana shoots three enemy soldiers disguised as Americans after a North Korean prisoner is used as bait and killed by his own men. Benson and his men launch an attack, but Montana and the Colonel sit it out. The Colonel comes to his senses, joins the assault, and is killed. Shamed, Montana joins Benson. They use grenades and a flamethrower to destroy a pillbox and machine gun nest.
Only Benson, Montana, and Sergeant Riordan survive. When American reinforcements arrive, Montana produces a container of medals that the Colonel meant to award his men. Benson calls the roll as Montana throws the medals to the dead on the slope of the hill, while Elmer Bernstein's title song plays in the background.
Unable to get tanks and military extras from the Pentagon, both Mann and composer Bernstein concentrate on the landscape, in this case filmed at Bronson Canyon. Enemy soldiers are rarely seen, and the isolation of the platoon is strongly conveyed. Mann had previously made film noirs in the late 1940s and Westerns in the early to mid-1950s and combined elements of both in his first war film.
- Robert Ryan as Lieutenant Benson
- Aldo Ray as Sergeant Joseph R. "Montana" Willomet
- Robert Keith as The Colonel
- Phillip Pine as Sergeant Riordan (as Philip Pine)
- Nehemiah Persoff as Sergeant First Class Nate Lewis
- Vic Morrow as Corporal James Zwickley
- James Edwards as Sergeant Killian
- L. Q. Jones as Sergeant Davis
- Scott Marlowe as Private Meredith
- Adam Kennedy as Private Maslow
- Race Gentry as Private Haines
- Walter Kelley as Private Ackerman
- Anthony Ray as Private Penelli
- Robert Normand as Private Christensen
- Michael Miller as Private Lynch
- Victor Sen Yung as the North Korean prisoner / Sniper
- "Top Grosses of 1957", Variety, 8 January 1958: 30
- Variety film review; January 23, 1957, page 6.
- Harrison's Reports film review; January 26, 1957, page 15.
- pp.144-147 Huebner, Andrew. J. The Warrior Image-Soldiers in American Culture 2008 UNC Press
- Men in War soundtrack album notes
- Men in War at the Internet Movie Database
- Men in War at the TCM Movie Database
- Men in War at AllMovie