Men in War (1957)

Drama, War
Robert Ryan, Aldo Ray, Robert Keith, Phillip Pine
During the Korean War, a battle worn Lt. and his platoon behind enemy lines, have orders to march to hill 465 for possible relief.
  • N/A Company:
  • Approved Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 19 Mar 1957 Released:
  • 15 Apr 2014 DVD Release:
  • N/A Box office:
  • Van Van Praag (novel), Philip Yordan (screenplay), Writer:
  • Anthony Mann Director:
  • N/A Website:
Retreating In Korea8/10
Through a combination of bad diplomacy and an understandable war weariness from World War II, the USA was caught completely off guard when the Communist North Korean government attacked the Southern forces that we were training. We had few enough forces and they were driven to what became known as the Pusan perimeter in 1950 when General MacArthur pulled off the two pronged counterattack out of the perimeter and from the landings at Inchon.

Robert Ryan is a lieutenant leading a small group of survivors who are caught behind enemy lines to safety. These GIs are not battling for any glory, but simply for survival. Also retreating are Sergeant Aldo Ray in a jeep with a shell-shocked Colonel Robert Keith. Ryan commandeers both Ray and the jeep for his needs.

Ryan is a good officer, but by the book. Ray is a good fighting man, but very insolent. The remainder of the film is how these two guys who grate on each other's nerves, but manage to work together.

The film is directed by Anthony Mann, best known for his westerns in the Fifties that mostly starred James Stewart. Men in War is probably best compared to Bend in the River. Jimmy Stewart is taking supplies to settlers for their survival and his own and Ryan is essentially doing the same thing in this film.

Ryan was a multi-faceted actor who sometimes played leads, but mostly did good character parts as bad guys. He had worked with Mann and Stewart previously in The Naked Spur where he was as bad as they come. He's just as convincing as the gritty, but decent lieutenant here. Mann and Ryan would team again the following year in God's Little Acre, a subject far removed from the Korean War.

Men in War is a good film, photographed very realistically in the outdoors and has the look and feel of a newsreel with depth.
An Unflinching, Stark Drama9/10

"Men in War" makes one wish Anthony Mann had directed more war films. This is an excellent, character-driven story. It is a prime example of the mature, unflinching kind of war film that began to appear after the Korean conflict. Undeservedly neglected, this picture ranks with Lewis Milestone's "Pork Chop Hill" and Robert Aldrich's "Attack". And it is the progenitor of "Platoon" and "The Thin Red Line". with their complex characters and situations.

Every actor seems to give his best, with exceptional moments from Robert Ryan, Aldo Ray and Robert Keith, as a shell-shocked Colonel. And it is always good to see the admirable Pine, Morrow, Persoff and Edwards. The film has a stark, yet pleasing black & white look which is appropriate for the bare bones conflicts the story sets forth. Moreover, "Men in War" features a
very fine score by Elmer Bernstein, utilizing an authentic Korean folk song.

MEN IN WAR (Anthony Mann, 1957) ***7/10
Anthony Mann, one of my favorite Hollywood genre directors, excelled in noirs and Westerns; however, in this film - and the subsequent THE HEROES OF TELEMARK (1965) - he showed that he was almost as equally adept at war movies, too.

Despite the fact that the film is little more than a standard actioner, one of the countless tough black-and-white combat films to emerge in the wake of A WALK IN THE SUN (1946), Mann handles the proceedings admirably; significantly enough, he nabbed a Directors Guild Award nod for this film rather than for his other more highly-regarded works like, say, WINCHESTER '73 (1950), THE NAKED SPUR (1953) and MAN OF THE WEST (1958).

The combat sequences certainly deliver the goods (particularly the killing of a black member of the outfit by the silent enemy and an intense mine-field crossing sequence) and the battle-of-wits between the rugged Robert Ryan and the tough Aldo Ray - who later teamed up again under Mann's direction for GOD'S LITTLE ACRE (1958) - as well as the unusual relationship between shell-shocked Colonel Robert Keith and Ray keep one watching. The film also features notable roles for Nehemiah Persoff (who goes crazy under the strain of combat and perishes for it) and Vic Morrow as a cowardly soldier who makes good in the end by agreeing to join on a suicidal mission; Elmer Bernstein's score, then, is suitably evocative, effectively complementing the on-screen action.
Director Anthony Mann deserves a lot of credit for this fine war flick.7/10

Men In War was directed by Anthony Mann,who was really more known for his big budget westerns. This, his first and last attempt at a war film, stands out with its realistic battle scenes involving stylish camera angles and innovative editing. Robert Ryan as Lt Benson and Aldo Ray as "Montana, are outstanding as their characters are at odds from the very beginning. Look for James Edwards, who was one of the first black actors to rise above the general sterotypes, even before Sidney Pottier came along. Men In War is worth seeing, especially the last half of the film as it builds to an intense conclusion.
Very Impressive7/10

A war film should have a sense of time and place for it to be exceptional and as I`ve said in previous reviews basically any movie featuring The Korean War could have easily taken place in any campaign of WW 2 . MEN IN WAR is a case in point that could have been set in the Ardennes in December 1944 as an American platoon are cut off by a German counter offensive . In fact it could easily have been set during the Indian wars of the 1870s with a bunch of calvarymen lost and surrounded by hostile natives


And yet director Anthony Mann and screenwriter Philip Yordan have made a very memorable and compelling Korean war movie that lifts it above B movie standards . The story is simple with a bunch of US soldiers stuck behind enemy lines but we`re shown what it`s like to be a soldier fighting a war , we`re shown the courage , the fear and the camaradeire of reluctant warriors. In many ways this could have been an Vietnam allegory like MASH or TOO LATE THE HERO . Only thing is MEN IN WAR was made several years before America got involved in Vietnam . It`s difficult to believe but it`s true as we see Lt Benson and Sgt Montana come close to " fragging " each other at one point or the quite remarkable scene where Sgt Killian picks some flowers and puts them in his helmet . If I have any problem with this movie it`s the final sequence that suggests that soldiers fight and die for medals when in fact soldiers fight and die for one another

A quick word about the cast: All are very good but the stand out performance is by Robert Keith as the nameless Colonel . As the movie progresses the audience care as much for the Colonel as much as Sgt Montana does . Perhaps when I mention that the Colonel has hardly one single line of dialogue you`ll understand just how superb Keith`s performance is


MEN IN WAR comes highly recommended