Based on S.L.A. Marsall's account of his Korean War experience, the film stars Gregory Peck as Lt. Joe Clemons, the officer charged with taking the strategically meaningless Pork Chop Hill from the Chinese, while diplomats dither about the terms of peace in Panmunjon. Some of the men under his command, which include Fedderson (George Peppard), Marshall (Martin Landau), Forstman (Harry Guardino) and Velie (Robert Blake), are doubtful about the wisdom of this order, creating a tense atmosphere.
Based on the true account of S.L.A. Marshall, Lewis Milestone's film, starring Gregory Peck as Lt. Joe Clemons, is a harshly realistic depiction of the bloody capture of Pork Chop Hill, one of the most famous battles of the Korean War. While peace negotiations are being conducted in Panmunjon, not 70 miles from the Chinese-held ridge, the company of Lt. Clemons must take the hill to prove to the Chinese diplomats that the U.S. is "serious." The ambivalence of the soldiers, many of whom feel the futility of fighting for ground that is simply a diplomatic token, is contrasted with the gung-ho attitude of those who believe that they must do their patriotic duty. Among the troops are Forstman (Harry Guardino), Fedderson (George Peppard), Lt. Russell (Rip Torn), Marshall (Martin Landau), and Velie (Robert Blake). As the company of 135 men is whittled down to 25 survivors, the film depicts the grim brutality of the battle, featuring hand-to-hand combat similar to that of the WWI trench warfare Milestone captured in ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT. This gritty, ironic portrayal of the terrible complexities of combat is exceptionally well acted and directed.
Big Battles |
Theatrical Release |
True Story |
The film was released in May 1959.
Gregory Peck, as one of the producers, chose to cut the first 20-odd minutes of the film, because it didn't include him.