HUNTERS, THE (director: Dick Powell; screenwriters: from the novel by James Salter/Wendell Mayes; cinematographer: Charles G. Clarke; editor: Stuart Gilmore; music: Paul Sawtel; cast: Robert Mitchum (Major Cleve Saville), Robert Wagner (Lt. Ed Pell), Richard Egan (Colonel Dutch Imil, CO 54th Fighter Group), May Britt (Kristina ‘Kris’ Abbott), Lee Philips (1st Lt. Carl Abbott), John Gabriel (1st Lt. Corona), Stacy Harris (Col. Monk Moncavage), Victor Sen Yung (Korean farmer); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Dick Powell; Twentieth Century-Fox; 1958)
“Standard issue Korean War drama.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Actor posing as director Dick Powell (“The Conqueror”/”Split Second”/”The Enemy Below”) efficiently helms this standard issue Korean War drama that’s overloaded with war propaganda but watchable if you can get through hearing repeatedly how no one cares about the Korean police action because it’s so complicated and came too soon after WW II. But the aerial dogfight sequences are fine, even if on the ground the romantic melodramatics are tiresome.
Those are real Sabre F-86 jets involved in the breathtaking aerial displays. It’s based on the novel by James Salter and written by Wendell Mayes, who keeps the flyboys heroic in the air competing for kills but more vulnerable on the ground chasing after skirts.
Veteran ace WW II Air Force pilot Maj. Cleve Saville (Robert Mitchum), nicknamed “Ice Man” because of his lack of fear, is the career military man arriving at the Itami Air Force Base outside Kyoto, Japan, where he learns he’s assigned to the 54th Flying Unit in Korea. The old man Cleve volunteered for action in the Korean conflict because “it’s the only war I got.” His commander is his old comrade from WW II, Colonel Dutch Imil (Richard Egan). The good ol’ boys wage old-fashioned dogfight aerial fights with Chinese Commie MiGs over the Yalu River. Pilots under flight commander Cleve’s command are all youngsters and include good guy Lt. Corona (John Gabriel), the cocky, jive-talking, wise guy Lt. Pell (Robert Wagner) and the whimpering loser alcoholic Lt. Abbott (Lee Philips). Kris (May Britt) is Abbott’s hottie wife who stays with him in Japan, hoping to help straighten out his problems. Problems arise when there’s a strong attraction between Cleve and Kris, and things become cloudy in the workplace as Abbott crashes behind enemy lines.
Not many pics were made about the Korean War, the so-called “forgotten war,” as we’re told quite often it’s the war with nothing simple about it. Unfortunately the war drama never gets around to having much of a story. But, then again, those action sequences were really smoking and make up for many of its flaws.
REVIEWED ON 8/26/2010 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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