Men in War (1957): Anthony Mann’s Korean War Drama, Starring Robert Ryan

Anthony Mann, best known for his harsh Westerns with Jimmy Stewart and hard-boiled crime films, directed Men in War, a tense and intense Korean War drama, largely set over the course of one long, tough day.

One of the most compellingly unflinching look at the realities of war, set against the backdrop of the Korean conflict, “Men in War” is one of the best of its genre.

Lt. Mark Benson (Robert Ryan) is the leader of a platoon that has just been ordered to move to Hill 465, where they are to join awaiting troops and conquer the territory.

While Benson and his men are weary, they have no choice but to comply. Needing a transport for their weapons, Benson and his men commandeer a truck, which turns out to be populated.

Sgt. “Montana” Williamette (Aldo Ray) has been ordered to escort a colonel (Robert Keith) suffering from extreme battle fatigue to a field hospital for treatment.

While Benson’s loyalty is to his troops and his mission, Montana refuses to turn over the truck; the colonel is one of the only men he can rely on, and he is determined to stand by him to the bitter end.

Meanwhile, the men face risks and dangers, and their numbers are decimated when they’re ambushed by the enemy.

The supporting cast includes L.Q. Jones, Nehemiah Persoff, and Vic Morrow (father of actress Jennifer Jason Leigh), who would star in the TV series “Combat.”

Harsh, grim, and downbeat, the ultra-realistic film is stunningly shot by Ernest Haller in black-and-white. Production values are accomplished across the board, including evocative, discordant score by Elmer Bernstein.

I have revisited the Mann movie when it played as part of “To Save and Project: The Sixth MOMA International Festival of Film Preservation,” and it holds up extremely well.

Running time: 100 Minutes.

Directed by Anthony Mann.

 March 19, 1957.

 October 4, 2005

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