Pork Chop Hill (Blu-ray)

Produced by star Gregory Peck, and based on the book by U.S. military historian Brigadier General S. L. A. Marshall, Pork Chop Hill was the first Hollywood film to openly question those in charge of the American armed forces. April, 1953 in Korea. With the talks Panmunjom ongoing, and a ceasefire expected, Lt. Joe Clemons (Peck) and his men wait to be pulled back. Instead, they’re ordered to retake a high ground called Pork Chop Hill, which has changed hands several times during the conflict. Clemons knows he doesn’t have the men to accomplish the task, but his superiors are more concerned with the cat and mouse game going on with the North Koreans at the continuing peace talks.

Ironically, Pork Chop Hill has no military value. That the lives of the men have been put at risk for something that is simply a chip in the peace talks is troubling. Few films have made the case so clearly for the pointlessness of war. Pork Chop Hill even goes as far as to suggest that soldiers are perceived as pawns by those who hold political power. It because clear that the Chinese picked the fight over the hill simply because “its value is that it has no value” and they are willing to fight for it because to turn away means to lose face. America’s head negotiator at the peace talks believes the Chinese are testing them. Are the Americans really willing to fight for something with no value? As Joe Clemons points out, the hill has become valuable because of the many man who have died on it.

Directed by Lewis Milestone, he was an expert at staging the intense battle scenes have helmed such classics as All Quiet on the Western Front and Halls of Montezuma among others. He handles the very large cast well, getting a predictably solid performance out of Gregory Peck and memorable turns from a supporting cast that includes future notables from the world of film and television, including George Peppard, Robert Blake, Martin Landau, Harry Dean Stanton, Norman Fell, Rip Torn, and Gavin MacLeod.

While the political maneuverings that play out in the midst of the battle for Pork Chop Hill may be the thing that separates this from a myriad of other war films, it’s the battle scenes that make Pork Chop Hill a truly memorable experience. Lewis Milestone knew his way around a war film, and there is a real sense of realism that exists from the first shot to the last, whether it’s the soldier’s mud caked uniforms, or one man’s grief as he realizes his buddy has been shot and killed.

Presented in the 1.66:1 aspect ratio, Olive Films has provided a very nice 1080p transfer. The film shows only minor signs of age, wear and tear. The image itself is surprisingly crisp, aided by strong contrast and solid black levels. Detail is strong, throughout Milestone’s numerous close-ups. There’s no evidence of DNR.

Pork Chop Hill features a serviceable DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono mix that sounds a bit stifled at times, still manages to deliver clear dialogue and fairly explosive action. Leonard Rosenman’s brass infused score comes through very nicely.

There are no subtitles included.

There are no extras available.

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