A HILL IN KOREA was Britain’s 1956 contribution to the roll call of movies about the Korean War. As one of the U.N. nations involved, Britain sent over 100,000 soldiers, the overwhelming majority no doubt as unhappy to be there as the outfit portrayed in this little film, directed by Julian Amyes, from a novel by Max Catto. *
A 15-man patrol, composed of a few Regular Army vets with a majority of inexperienced ‘National Service’ men hold a hill against assaults by outnumbering Chinese troops. Between gripes and “wish I was back in the pub with a bird and some right chips” malarkey, the lads show that they “have what it takes”, even when getting clobbered by their own jets, U.S. planes making a ‘friendly fire’ goof.
Standard upper-lip-stiffening, given a more cynical bent by the “what’s this one for?” nature of the Korean conflict. Though one is a near-psycho (Stanley Baker), and another (Ronald Lewis) so useless he’s practically a traitor, the calm, fair-minded officer (George Baker) and rough-gruff sergeant (Harry Andrews) hold firm.
Low-budget entry (the Chinese ‘human waves’ are represented by a couple dozen extras) was filmed in Portugal, around Montejunto. Action scenes are not staged well, though the sound effects department deserves credit for giving them an effective noise quotient. Malcolm Arnold’s score foreshadows what he’d do a year later for The Bridge On The River Kwai.
The acting is solid, at any rate. Chiefly, the movie is of mild interest for early appearances from Stephen Boyd and Robert Shaw, and the debut of Michael Caine, last-billed, with just a handful of lines. Titled Hell In Korea when it came to the States, it was put on a double-bill with another Far East firestorm, in the flapping form of Rodan.
Familiar Brit hardies in the ranks include Robert Brown, Michael Medwin, Percy Herbert and Victor Maddern. Peter Hunt edited, warming up for the 007 adventures he’d finesse in the following decade. It also bears the first cinematography credit for Freddie Francis, who would go on to man camera for many high profile pictures. 80 minutes.
* Though the screenplay was written by Anthony Squire, Ian Dalryple and Ronald Spencer, they took it from a novel done three years earlier by Max Catto, writing under the pseudonym Simon Kent. As Catto or Kent, he wrote 31 novels, mostly adventures. Besides A Hill In Korea, adaptations of his books to film were Trapeze, The Devil At Four O’Clock, Mister Moses, Murphy’s War, Seven Thieves, Fire Down Below, Ferry To Hong Kong, A Prize Of Gold, and Flanagan’s Boy.