4 November 2003 | eaglejet98
Great in 1956 and great today
This is an excellent film. Most people know Mervyn Leroy as a great director, but they may not recognize Beirne Lay, Jr. Lay was a B-17 pilot in the 100th Bomb Group, 8th AAF in WW II, and the co-author of the book "12 O'Clock High", from which the academy award movie of the same name was made.
Many aspects of this film are great: its desert scenery, aerial photography and accuracy of detail in regard to flight test during the 1950s are all top notch. The cast ,as played by such great character actors as Lloyd Nolan and an up and coming James Garner (a Korean War infantryman), are sincere and believable.
What impressed me most then and more so now, is the way the film approached the issue of a Korean War POW who had "cracked". Remember, this picture came out more than 10 years before Americans saw the results of North Vietnamese treatment of our downed air crews. In the 1950s POWs were expected to give only name, rank and serial number if captured. Those that failed to stand fast, to what is now recognized as an unattainable standard, were shunned. Brainwashing and emotional torture weren't understood until years later.
But this film used a very strong leading man (Holden) to focus on the sensitive issue of a "broken" pilot who tried to make his way back into American society and regain his dignity in the hardest court of opinion, the ranks of the active Air Force. Everything gels in this movie. It makes a good point many years ahead of its time. Under the same circumstances who knows how he'd survive being a POW? And ultimately we all can fail and redeem ourselves.
I agree, they need to put this one out on DVD or VHS, so we can see it more than just on an occasional late night TV movie.