Robert Mitchum and Ann Blyth in One Minute to Zero (1952)


(director: Tay Garnett; screenwriters: Andrew Solt/William Wister Haines/Milton Krims; cinematographer: William E. Snyder; editor: Robert Belcher; music: Victor Young; cast: Robert Mitchum (Col./Brig.Gen Steve Janowski), Ann Blyth (Linda Day/Narrator), William Talman (Col. Joe Parker, USAF Joint Ops Center), Charles McGraw (Sfc. Baker), Margaret Sheridan (Mary Parker), Richard Egan (Capt./Maj. Ralston), Eduard Franz (Dr. Gustav Engstrand, United Nations), Robert Osterloh (Maj. Davis), Roy Roberts (Lt. Gen. George Thomas); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Edmund Grainger; RKO Pictures; 1952)
“Doesn’t strike my clock.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

One Minute To Zero doesn’t strike my clock. It’s a routine war yarn set during the early days of the Korean War. Robert Mitchum is Colonel Steve Janowski. He’s upset that he can’t go on the offensive against the Commie forces from North Korea. Ann Blyth plays the troublesome idealistic war widow UN official Linda Day, who’s Steve’s love interest. Things perk up when Steve’s in charge of evacuating all Americans from Korea, but Linda refuses to leave and stays with the Korean refugees. Their hot romance suddenly ends when she sees his men fire on a group of fleeing refugees. It then becomes a matter of interpretation of what actually happened. In the climactic scene, Steve’s men are asked to hold back the North Korean Army, who are advancing from south of the 38th parallel, until the American forces can land in Inchon. Steve, with the help of tough sergeant Baker (Charles McGraw) and jet pilot Col. Joe Parker (William Talman), who heroically gives up his life to resupply Steve with ammo, accomplishes the mission at a high cost in lives. After the battle a three star general tells Steve “the tide has turned, we’re on the offensive.” He also promotes Steve to general. On top of that, Linda agrees to marry Steve.

The black-and-white film features documentary war footage used in the background, that gives it an authentic look. But director Tay Garnett (“Bataan”) never gets it to amount to much, as it alternates between an action and romance story. Mitchum is laid-back and seems to be just going through the motions, as if strolling through the park. It was filmed in Camp Carson, Colorado, where Mitchum got into a barroom brawl with a soldier and knocked him out. That fight was probably better than any of the action scenes in the film. If I didn’t know it was the Korean War, I would have thought it was just another WWII film.