The Hunters (1958 film)
|Directed by||Dick Powell|
|Produced by||Dick Powell|
|Written by||Wendell Mayes
|Music by||Paul Sawtell|
|Cinematography||Charles G. Clarke|
|Editing by||Stuart Gilmore|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
|Release dates||August 26, 1958 (New York)|
|Running time||108 minutes|
|Box office||$2,100,000 (U.S. rentals)|
The Hunters is a 1958 feature film adapted from the novel The Hunters by James Salter. Produced by Dick Powell, it stars Robert Mitchum and Robert Wagner as two very different United States Air Force fighter pilots in the midst of the Korean War.
Major Cleve "Iceman" Saville (Mitchum) is a veteran World War II fighter ace eager to fly an F-86 Sabre fighter in the Korean War. His commanding officer, Colonel "Dutch" Imil (Richard Egan), assigns him command of a flight.
Among his pilots is a new replacement, talented, but brash Lieutenant Ed Pell (Wagner). After he abandons his element leader, Lieutenant Corona (John Gabriel), during combat to down an enemy fighter, Corona's aircraft is shot up; he is killed while trying to land. As a result, Saville wants Pell assigned to someone else, but Imil overrules him; Pell was top of his class in flight school and Imil sees him as a younger version of Saville. If anyone can get Pell to grow up, it is the major.
Another pilot under Saville's command, Lieutenant Carl Abbott (Lee Philips), poses a different kind of problem. He lacks confidence in his abilities; his worried wife Kristina (May Britt) asks Saville to watch over him. Saville falls in love with her, and vice versa. Aware of the situation, Abbott offers Saville a deal: his wife in return for the opportunity to go one-on-one with "Casey Jones" (an uncredited Leon Lontoc), the most feared enemy ace, whose MiG-15 is marked with "7-11", if they should run into him. A disgusted Saville turns him down.
Nevertheless, on a mission soon afterwards, Abbott tangles with Casey Jones and is quickly shot down far behind enemy lines. In an ensuing dogfight, Saville downs Casey Jones and, resisting the temptation to abandon the wounded Abbott, spots his parachute and ditches his aircraft nearby, disobeying standing orders. Pell strafes the North Korean infantrymen closing in and is shot down himself. The trio then make their way back to safety.
Along the way, they are assisted by a friendly Korean farmer (Victor Sen Yung) and his family. When a North Korean patrol happens by, the Americans hide, but in their haste, a jacket is left behind. As a result, the family members are executed, but Saville and Pell avenge them.
Afterward, Abbott is to be transferred back to the U.S. to recuperate. His brush with death has changed his priorities; he remorsefully asks Kristina for another chance. She decides to go with him.
As appearing in screen credits (main roles identified):
|Robert Mitchum||Major Cleve Saville|
|Robert Wagner||Lieutenant Ed Pell|
|Richard Egan||Colonel Dutch Imil|
|May Britt||Kristina "Kris" Abbott|
|Lee Philips||1st Lieutenant Carl Abbott|
|John Gabriel||1st Lieutenant Corona|
|Stacy Harris||Colonel Monk Moncavage|
|Victor Sen Yung||Korean farmer|
|Candace Lee||Korean child|
|Aki Aleong||MiG Pilot (uncredited)|
|John Doucette||Chief Master Sergeant|
|Nobu McCarthy||Japanese Clerk (uncredited)|
|Rachel Stephens||Nurse (uncredited)|
|Kam Tong||Red Chinese Officer (uncredited)|
The flying scenes were principally filmed over the southwest United States. Operational F-86 Sabre fighters, which were still front line aircraft at the time, were used in the aerial sequences. The crash footage of an F-100 Super Sabre was used in one scene to represent the attempted landing of an F-86. USAF F-84F Thunderstreak fighters were painted with Communist Bloc paint schemes and insignia to portray enemy MiG-15s. A C-130A Hercules was used as an aerial photography platform. Palm Beach AFB, Florida was used during the production as the main location where aircraft used in the film were parked and maintained.
With this film, director Dick Powell completed his obligations to 20th Century Fox in his producing-directing contract, having already delivered The Enemy Below.
Considered a lacklustre war drama, The Hunters did not fare well with critics, although most audiences saw it as a widescreen epic. Director Dick Powell strove to create an authentic "look" with carefully set up scenes focusing on military personnel and the jet fighter operations that underlined the main action scenes. Reviewer Mark Hassan noted, "The real star of the film is the extraordinary aerial cinematography".
- Dolan Edward F. Jr. Hollywood Goes to War. London: Bison Books, 1985. ISBN 0-86124-229-7.
- Hardwick, Jack and Ed Schnepf. "A Viewer's Guide to Aviation Movies." The Making of the Great Aviation Films. General Aviation Series, Volume 2, 1989.
- Orriss, Bruce. When Hollywood Ruled the Skies: The Aviation Film Classics of World War II. Hawthorn, California: Aero Associates Inc., 1984. ISBN 0-9613088-0-X.
- Salter, James. The Hunters.New York: Bantam Books, 1956.
- Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1.
- Tomkies, Mike. The Robert Mitchum Story: "It Sure Beats Working". New York: Ballantine Books, 1972. ISBN 978-0-49100-962-1.
- The Hunters at the Internet Movie Database
- The Hunters at the TCM Movie Database
- The Hunters at allmovie