The Rack (film)

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The Rack
The Rack FilmPoster.jpeg
Theatrical releast poster
Directed by Arnold Laven
Produced by Arthur M. Loew Jr.
Written by Stewart Stern (screenplay)
Rod Serling (teleplay)
Starring Paul Newman
Wendell Corey
Walter Pidgeon
Edmond O'Brien
Anne Francis
Lee Marvin
Cloris Leachman
Music by Adolph Deutsch
Cinematography Paul Vogel
Edited by Harold F. Kress
Marshall Neilan Jr.
Distributed by MGM
Release date
  • November 2, 1956 (1956-11-02)
Running time
100 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $779,000[1]
Box office $765,000[1]

The Rack is a 1956 American war drama film, based on a play written by Rod Serling for television.[2][3] It was directed by Arnold Laven and starred Paul Newman, Wendell Corey, Lee Marvin and Walter Pidgeon. After two years in a North Korean prison camp, an American officer returns home, only to be charged with collaboration by his own side. He is forced to defend his actions in court.


Having survived two years in Korea in a prisoner-of-war camp, Captain Edward W. Hall, Jr., returns home to San Francisco and reports to an Air Force base there. His father, a retired lieutenant colonel, is glad to have his son back, but still grieving over the death of his other son, Pete, in the war.

Pete's widow, Aggie Hall, confides to her friend Caroline that it is difficult to be around her brother-in-law without being painfully reminded of having lost her husband. A welcome-home party is held for Capt. Hall, which surprises Colonel Dudley Smith, a friend of Ed, Sr. He finds out that Capt. Hall's father is unaware that Ed Jr. is about to be tried in a court-martial for collaboration with the enemy.

Asking bluntly if the charges are true and being told that they are, Ed Sr. cruelly says to his son: "Why didn't you just die?"

Major Sam Moulton prosecutes the case. He calls eyewitnesses who testify that at the POW camp in the winter of 1951, Capt. Hall made speeches and signed documents on the enemy's behalf. A much-decorated officer, Capt. John Miller, reveals the scars he received while a prisoner, all the while never conceding to his captors anything but his name, rank and serial number.

Capt. Hall has his sister-in-law's support, but his father refuses even to attend the trial. Hall is disconsolate and wishes to plead guilty. But his lawyer, Lt. Col. Frank Wasnick, appeals to him to take the witness stand and explain his actions.

In stark detail, Capt. Hall discloses the torture he underwent. How he was ordered to bury other soldiers, dead or alive. How he carried a wounded man for four days so he wouldn't collapse and be placed in a grave. How he was placed in solitary confinement for months at a time, denied light and company and forced to live in his own filth. After repeated demands to read propaganda statements, Capt. Hall agreed to do so but wrote one himself, using language that attempted to mock the enemy's purpose.

The breaking point came soon after the enemy handed Capt. Hall a letter from his father that was intercepted, one revealing that his brother Pete was dead. Capt. Hall's father, who finally has come to the trial, is devastated by his son's testimony. He forgives him, but the official judgment is not so kind. Capt. Hall is found guilty of treason.



According to MGM records, the film earned $365,000 domestically and $400,000 overseas, making an overall loss of $422,000.[1]


  1. ^ a b c The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study .
  2. ^ Variety film review; April 18, 1956, page 6.
  3. ^ Harrison's Reports film review; April 21, 1956, page 62.

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