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  • Quite how this second feature ended up with the cast it got is a puzzle. Mission to Korea is strictly bottom of the bill stuff, a standard war story directed unimaginatively by Fred F. Sears. Somehow, Fred ended up with Rex Reason, Audrey Totter, and Maureen O'Sullivan in his picture, and they all add a gloss of professionalism to this otherwise standard programmer. Perhaps producer Robert Cohn--nephew of Columbia strong man Harry Cohn--twisted his uncle's arm. At any rate, O'Sullivan still looks beautiful, Totter does her slinky ingenue thing in uniform, and Reason is solid and reliable. There's some decent aerial footage, but not much in the story department, which revolves around aviators in the Korean War.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Slocum's and Pete's L5 observation aircraft are on their way to their airfield. As Slocum, the lead aircraft, radio's for clearance, he's told to divert to another airfield farther away. So he and Pete have to nurse their thirsty planes to the very extreme of their range. As the planes come in to land, they spot burning aircraft and dead bodies all over the runway. I'll admit, setting this up must've cost the filmmakers a nice bit of their operating budget unless the military "volunteered" some personnel and spare parts. In any event, they land and disembark, and as Pete comes rushing up to Slocum, a hidden North Korean with a machine gun (a drum-fed .45 Tommy gun, no less) starts shooting at them. Slocum manages to kill the hidden sniper with his Browning .45 automatic pistol at long range (nice shot!) and goes charging into the airside building where the sniper had been hiding.

    There, he sees a young Korean boy (William Chun) tied up and shoeless. Just as the boy yells out, Slocum is attacked by a hidden soldier. As he is engaged hand-to-hand by the Communist, Pete gets jumped on by a Communist on the roof. Slocum manages to beat his attacker to death, grab a gun, and shoot the Communist attacking Pete (and miraculously the bullet doesn't go through the Communist and hit Pete). Slocum and Pete free William Chun and go to their airplanes to escape, just as some jeeps and a fuel truck drive up with armed US soldiers and the friend of Pete's dies in his arms on the runway. Cue sad violins.

    OK, so stay with me here. Are we to believe that three Communists managed to lay waste to an entire airfield, take a prisoner, and hold off the US Army until two bush pilots show up? Hmmm.

    One thing worth noting in this scene is some good stunt work on the part of the stunt pilot to taxi his plane within the camera shot, rotate on the starboard wheel, and hold without decapitating any of the "dead bodies" lying on the dirt runway around him. And kudos to the dead guys for having the discipline to lay perfectly still while getting blasted by prop wash, dirt, and stones while a metal blade spins within a few feet of their heads. Nice job guys. Some day the Oscars will actually give awards to stuntmen.

    So Slocum and Pete are ordered back to their unit. While in transit, Pete starts thinking about his dead friend's letter, about how he had written that when flying its just him and the sun. So Pete starts climbing up, up towards the sun, dreaming about his dead friend, while Slocum is yelling at him over the radio to stay below the mountains. Sure enough, a squadron of Communist P-51 Mustangs (I think they're supposed to be Yak-9's, but they're P-51's with green paint and red stars) spots the little L5's and one of them dives down to attack. The Mustang makes a couple of high-speed passes, scores a few hits but nothing fatal. A stressed-aluminum Mustang is capable of going a lot faster than a little wood-and-cloth L5. Think "eagle vs pigeon". And a skilled pilot should've made short work of Pete's little bird. But somehow the L5 manages to go as fast as the Mustang, and during the low-level chase scene utility poles and moving traffic can be seen in the background - obviously this was filmed at some airport, probably in California or Nevada judging by the terrain. At any rate, Pete pulls a hard G turn which the Mustang can't match and the P-51 crashes into the side of the mountain. Way to go Pete! Slocum watches the whole thing and when they land he chastises Pete for disobeying orders and needlessly risking their units' only two flyable airplanes.

    OK, now if I was an L5 pilot and I'd just gotten an enemy aircraft to crash, I'd call that a "kill" - verified by my wingman - and I'd have that big red star kill flag painted right underneath my windscreen. Does Pete? Nope. He just broods and walks away as Slocum goes to check in with the Command Post. But Pete's not done - he finds a bazooka lying around and has it mounted on his wing with a wire running from the trigger to his cockpit.

    So Slocum and Pete are sent out on a recon mission, and they spot a group of camoflaged tanks. Slocum wants to radio it in for the artillery, but Pete decides to test his new bazooka. He dives in as Communist Hawaiians and Californians fire Browning .50cal MG's from atop Pershings at him. In probably the only realistic scene in the whole film, he misses wide left, gets his plane shot to pieces, and he crashes on the far side of the mountain. He manages to crawl out as Slocum circles overhead before returning to base.

    Why didn't Slocum go down to rescue Pete? I guess the filmmakers wanted to create some tension between the characters, and abandoning your wingman would be a good way to do that. I know if I was Pete I'd be plenty steamed.

    But Slocum isn't abandoning Pete completely. When he gets back to base he starts to tell the CO where Pete went down, but the CO stops him and tells him "Never mind about that now, I need you to deliver some medical supplies to a battalion cut off and surrounded over at these coordinates." OK, so what CO would abandon one of his only two skilled pilots? Hmmmm.

    Anyway, you get the idea. If you're looking for cheap war fare, this isn't bad. But "Bridges At Toko-Ri" made 2 years later is much better. And it won two Oscars.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    MISSION OVER Korea: 1953

    This Columbia Pictures low renter stars John Hodiak, John Derek, Audrey Totter, Harvey Lembeck, Richard Erdman, Maureen O'Sullivan and Todd Karns. The story revolves around several pilots who fly light L-5 spotter aircraft. These are used for artillery spotting, medical evacuation and staff transport.

    This one starts out in South Korea, where American pilots, John Hodiak and Todd Karns are training South Korean officers as artillery spotters. Hodiak gets sent to Japan on a bit of leave. His wife and child are living on a base in Japan. Karns asks Hodiak to meet his brother, John Derek and escort him back to Korea. Derek is also an L-5 pilot.

    The leave is cut short as the North Korean army launches a surprise attack. Hodiak and Derek are sent back to Korea. They are to ferry a couple of aircraft back. They are in for a rude welcome when they reach their Korean airfield. The North Koreans have over-run the place. Being out of fuel, they land. Derek finds his brother shot full of holes on the runway. There is a quick exchange of fire with the Red baddies. A few of the ground crew and some US ground pounders chase off the North Koreans.

    The aircraft and the ground crew are sent south to escape the advancing Reds. They are to transport several political bigwigs out of the danger zone. They have a run in with some North Korean Yak fighters and barely escape. Derek of course is not amused with the death of his brother. He jury rigs a bazooka up, under, one of the aircraft's wings. He then goes Red tank hunting. Needless to say this does not end well. Derek's aircraft is downed in a hail of machine gun fire.

    Next, the new base is attacked by North Korean infiltrators and Hodiak is badly wounded. Derek, with the help of ground crew members, Richard Erdman and Harvey Lembeck, load Hodiak in the last aircraft. Derek then flies Hodiak to a MASH unit further south. There he hands off Hodiak to nurse Audrey Totter.

    Hodiak however does not survive his wounds. Derek is now doubly upset, first his brother is killed, and now his new best friend. It is time for a little bit of payback. Derek rigs up some high powered radio gear in the cargo area of the L-5. He intends to use this to pinpoint Red positions for attack by US jet fighter-bombers. He loads Lemeck in the back seat and off they go. They soon spot a group of Red armoured vehicles heading south. They call up the Air Force boys and direct them right on target. The Reds are wiped out but not before putting several rounds into the L-5. Derek is shot to hell which forces Lemeck to take control. Lembeck manages to guide the aircraft back for a crash landing. Both men are pulled out of the wreckage and sent off for medical treatment.

    Directing this $49.99 special is the prolific programmer helmsman, Fred F.Sears. Sears cranked out 50 films between 1949 and his early death in 1958. He was popular with the studio because he was quick, and on budget. This one was filmed in-under 3 weeks. Though known as a quickie specialist, Sears did turn out several quite good low renters, such as, THE 49th MAN, CELL 2455 DEATH ROW, CHICAGO SYNDICATE, THE WORLD WAS HIS JURY and the sci-fi classic, EARTH VS THE FLYING SAUCERS.

    Third billed Audrey Totter has only 3-4 minutes of screen time, while Miss O'Sullivan has even less. Both are wasted here.

    Needless to say, the film is padded out with plenty of stock footage.
  • This may have been the last Korean War picture filmed while the conflict was still going on, because it premiered just days after the war ended. But it's actually set at the very beginning of the war, which is sort of unusual. All the action takes place in the summer of 1950, a particularly desperate time for South Korea and for American forces.

    History buffs and military enthusiasts should find this interesting, because it looks at what U.S. troops were up against at that critical moment. The "mission" in the title is survival, and the tone of the movie is often grim. The characters are not winning big battles but mostly just holding off the enemy, helping trapped units retreat and working to form a secure perimeter.

    To add a bit of realism, there's footage of South Korean soldiers in combat, and there are scenes of black soldiers fighting alongside whites. (The Korean War was the first modern U.S. conflict without racial segregation in the ranks.) Such things were often ignored in Korean War films of the '50s.

    John Hodiak and John Derek play U.S. pilots caught in the thick of things. Hodiak's character is a by-the-book captain, while Derek's is a brash young lieutenant, reckless and often insubordinate. The difficult relationship between them as they're tried in combat is the backbone of the story. It's not a great story, and to tell the truth, most of the characters are war movie stereotypes. Besides the two feuding officers, these walking clichés include a Korean orphan boy, a beautiful Army nurse (played by Audrey Totter) and two wisecracking but brave enlisted men.

    This was one of Hodiak's last movies and his next-to-last war film. Like Van Johnson, he was unable to serve in World War II due to medical issues but looked so natural in uniform that he got typecast in movies of that period as a military man. But Hodiak, unlike Johnson, succumbed to his health problems at a young age and was not around long enough to get beyond the typecasting. It's too bad we never got to see his full range.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    ***SPOILERS***It when Capt. George P.Slocum, John Hodiak, and his sidekick partner the young hot headed Let. Peter Baker, John Derek, arrived from Japan to the US air base of Kimpo is South Korea they found that it was practically wiped out by Communist North Korean artillery fire with Peter's brother Jerry one of those US servicemen killed. Assigned as non combat spotter pilots both Capt.Slocum & Let. Baker are in no condition to go into combat against the North Korean forces who at the time were in the process of overrunning South Korea. It's Let. Baker who on his own decides to engage the North Koreans instead of monitoring or watching them by attaching two bazooka to his wings an do battle with their both armor and air force units. This ends up with Baker being shot down by enemy fighters and lost behind enemy lines. Saved a a bunch of friendly South Korean peasants and ROC, Republic of Korea, troops Let. Baker is back in action but by now things have gone completely out of control. With the North Korean forces bearing down on Pusan the only port left in the country to supply the battered US and ROK troops.

    The usual war heroics with Let. Baker learning the hard way that doing things on his own is in many cases far worse for him and his men then those he's fighting against. The airborne Capt. Slocum who left his wife Nancy, Maureen O'Sullivan, behind in Japan with their two kids gets stuck on the ground,with his plane disabled, and engaged with a squad of North Korean regulars who end up blasting him and leaving him barley alive and on the brink of death;that's unless he gets immediate medical attention. With time running, and blood draining, out for Capt. Slocum Let. Baker risks his life to fly him on his disabled plane out to the nearest US medical base behind enemy lines which sadly proved futile for the by now holding on to life Captain Sloucm.

    Look for 14 year old William Chun as Clancy the mascot of the US air survey unit in the film. Chun was also in the Samuel Fuller Korean War classic "The Steel Helmet" as Short Round. It's there that he got killed by a stray North Korean bullet during the savage fighting at the Buddhist Temple that served as an observation post for the US troops in the movie. Here he just walked into the night minus his brand new and spotless US combat boots, the one's Captain Slocum gave him, when he heard the terrible news that his good friend Capt. Slocum was killed in action. There's also the Singing Soldier, Richard Bowers, who lightens things up in the movie for all of us us, the cast and those of us watching, with his sweet and somber gospel lullabies.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A low budget division of Columbia studios took advantage of the many mountainous regions around L.A. to take on the countryside of war torn Korea, made during that nearly forgotten American conflict which exists in even stronger conflict today. It focuses on two Americans (John Hodiak and John Derek) and gives a brief glimpse into their home life, showing Hodiak coming home for a brief visit after special training to see wife Maureen O'Sullivan and their children, and Derek's flirtation with nurse Audrey Totter. But the bulk of the film covers the conflict, a civil war that involved other countries like the U.S. and beginning a habit of countries becoming involved in keeping world peace by joining fights that weren't always theirs.

    This movie gets very philosophical in several points, especially when Hodiak tells Derek that a recently killed colleague left 10 minutes ago when Derek expresses concern over his body among a sea of corpses left behind on a runway. Millions of soldier's bodies were left over the centuries to dissolve into the earth just like the ones here, many of which were unidentified. Harvey Lembeck and Rex Reason are two of the other soldiers involved, but the conflict is squarely in the hands of Hodiak and Reed.

    The performance of William Chun as a Korean teen who hangs into Hodiak and Derek is adorable but stereotypical, the foreign kid picking up American slang and looking up to the soldiers as if they were G.I. Joe. While he's extremely likable (think a 50's version of Sabu), he's certainly not anything I would think a kid seeing their country at war would be like. It's not as if he was going to the movies to watch Errol Flynn or Clark Gable take on American enemies in the previous war. I would really have to research the history of the initial Korean war to confirm it's accuracy, but from what I've read, there's a bunch of things that didn't seem right for others who have seen this and gone into this in great detail. Therefore, I can only see this as "Korean War 101" and make an effort to learn more.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I would like to correct a few assumptions made by another reviewer. First, the NK "Tommygun" was a Soviet-designed PPSh 7.62mm submachine gun (THE most widely-used infantry weapon of the Red Army in WW2). Also, it was clear that the NK combatants were fifth-column troops in civilian garb, who were waiting for the moment (the crossing of the 38th parallel by their uniformed comrades)where their surprise attack could do the most damage (ala the 1968 Tet Offensive in South Vietnam). As for the bazooka under the wing: one pilot in Patton's Third Army in 1944 France had SIX bazookas (three under each wing)on his spotter plane, and was credited with one German tank. As for the "eagle-vs.-pigeon" argument, a First Army spotter pilot (also in 1944) was bounced by a Me-109, but led his pursuer into a wooded plot where the German pilot collided with a tree that his "easy meat" prey was able to avoid. Lastly, the Commie "Pershing" tanks were M18 Hellcat tank destroyers (recognizable by their open-topped turrets).