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Pork Chop Hill Reviews

A grim, harrowing film detailing a single brutal Korean War battle, PORK CHOP HILL was directed by veteran helmsman Lewis Milestone and is the third entry in his informal trilogy devoted to 20th-century military conflict (ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT was set during WWI, and A WALK IN THE SUN during WWII). Gregory Peck plays the commander of an Army company that is ordered to take Pork Chop Ridge, an inconsequential tactical objective. Compounding the seeming pointlessness of the assignment are the Panmunjom peace talks, which the troops believe may end the war at any minute, so that they are reluctant to participate in what may be its final battle. PORK CHOP HILL is an ode to the common American infantryman, soldiers who manage to retain their honor and dignity despite being ordered into an insane action by a top brass unwilling to lose face to the enemy, even though the conflict's end appears imminent. Peck is outstanding as the resolute but compassionate commander, and Rip Torn, Harry Guardino, Woody Strode, James Edwards (veteran of Sam Fuller's excellent Korean War film THE STEEL HELMET), and Robert Blake provide solid support. Moreover, Milestone employs his considerable technical skills to create an authentic and memorable cinematic experience, projecting a grim realistic air that captures the forlorn atmosphere of the meaningless mission. Sam Leavitt's photography is topnotch and depicts this heroic battle in such stark detail that the viewer can almost smell the acrid fumes of cordite and taste the dust blown from the dead ridge. This powerful movie and HAMBURGER HILL, which deals similarly with an assault during the Vietnam War, would make a very interesting double bill.