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Sgt. Thorne Ryan, who once fought bravely in Korea, now serves as a hard-nosed drill instructor to new Army recruits at Fort Bliss, Texas. But is he really the man he is often described as? His fellow instructor, and friend helps him to face the ghosts of his past experiences in Korea. One night in a bar across the border in Juarez, Mexico, Sgt. Ryan meets a lady who begins to turn his life around. Will this be enough to help him deal with the past? Or will he continue to be so hard on his troops? This movie was filmed mostly on location at Fort Bliss, Texas in El Paso.Written by
Vincent Merlaud <email@example.com>
The horizontal white bars on the rear of Sergeant Ryan and Sergeant Holt's helmet liners indicate they are NCOs (non-commissioned officers). Officers had vertical white bars on the backs of their helmets. The purpose of the markings was to quickly identify those in command from the rear. See more »
When Ryan and Holt have the troops on a training exercise in the field, Ryan tells Holt to "get back to base." The Army doesn't refer to its facilities as bases. An actual solider would have said "get back to the post." See more »
In reviewing this film I can only go by my experiences as a weekend warrior doing my basic training in July, August, and September of 1971 in that garden spot of the earth, Fort Polk, Louisiana. Take the High Ground was not anything like I remember basic training.
But one has to remember at the time this was post Korea which ended in a stalemate, but it was a conventional war as we knew them. It was not Vietnam, a jungle guerrilla war where we kept pouring draftees into an endless pit. The draft at that time was an unwelcome, but accepted as still necessary for the country's defense.
Richard Widmark is a veteran of Korea now assigned state side to train the troops to go overseas. The film is about one of his training cycles and the men of the platoon he has to train. They're the usual kind you would find in just about any war film from the previous decade.
One thing I will praise Take The High Ground for is the fact that MGM recognized our army was now an integrated one with the presence of William Hazard as a black recruit in the platoon. It was in keeping with the spirit of the times which were a changing.
But I will say that a recruit like Russ Tamblyn would have been cured of his smart mouth from day one. Richard Widmark would have not risked death or becoming a eunuch in order to give Jerome Courtland confidence with a weapon. And no way would have he worried so much about Robert Arthur deserting. He's have just let the MPs deal with him.
Of course being shot in and around Fort Bliss and El Paso, Texas did give Take the High Ground good authenticity. But view it as an army recruiting film and you can certainly understand why the government so eagerly gave cooperation back in the day.
I do remember the drill sergeants having their little conflicts which you could pick up on when you weren't worried about them getting on your case for something which was 95% of the time. But there ain't no way that Karl Malden would have slugged Widmark out in the open during training in front of several witnesses among the recruits. Both would have realized that would have undermined authority, something the military just doesn't let happen.
I wish I could have said something better about Take The High Ground because I certainly like its talented cast, it's talented director Richard Brooks, even the silly theme by Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington, fresh from their Oscar a year before for High Noon. The film actually got an Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay and story by Millard Kaufman. It must have been for Kaufman's vivid imagination.
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