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Military investigator Colonel William Edwards is assigned a case involving Major Harry Cargill, a Korean War prisoner of war who is accused of aiding the enemy. Although Cargill admits his guilt and Edwards' superiors are impatiently pushing him to move this case to court-martial, Edwards doubts eventually convinces him of Cargill's innocence.Written by
Marty McKee <email@example.com>
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Maj. Harry Cargill:
A man can be a hero all his life, but if in the last month of it, or the last week, or even the last minute, the pressure becomes too great and he breaks, then he's branded for life. You can't ask a man to be a hero forever. There ought to be a time limit.
Lt. Gen. J. Connors:
There is no defense for treason.
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Hard-hitting drama about Maj. Harry Cagill (Richard Basehart) who is brought up on charges of treason after being in a Korean War camp and giving information to the enemy. Once back in the states Col. Edwards (Richard Widmark) tries to understand what made him crack but he refuses to talk and all of his men give the same strange story, which doesn't make enough sense to Edwards. This film isn't very well known today, which is a shame but I'm going to guess that part of the reason is that it was released in the same year as both 12 ANGRY MEN and WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION. All three films deal with twists and turns within a court setting, although this film here just deals with an investigation as we don't get to actually step inside the courtroom. With that said, all three films share a lot in common but this film manages to ask some pretty hard questions and it doesn't pull any punches with the answer. The film is brutally frank in its subject matter and even though we don't find the answers we're looking for until the final ten-minutes, the film still manages to pack one major punch after another. I think a lot of credit must go to Malden, in his only adventure as a director, and I do wonder how much influence Elia Kazan had on him. The film has a certain look and feel of ON THE WATERFRONT, which Malden of course made with Kazan. It appears that both films ask a lot of the same questions about bravery, talking and how much one person should take. Seeing as how this one takes place in the military it's clear that there is a political slant going on here as I'm sure many people would have to ask themselves how much torture, sickness and threats of death they could take without talking or trying to save their own skin. The "time limit" of bravery is an interesting question and we get many different answers as to how one person should be. The final ten-minutes is when things really start to break down as we finally get some answers and the twist here has been debated by quite a few reviewers. I personally didn't mind the twist and I think it worked well for what the film was going for. There were several directions that the film could have went for but the one they selected worked well enough for me. Another major benefit are the performances with Widmark leading the way in a rather laid back performance by the actor who was often shown as being a demanding, strong character. I thought Widmark was very believable playing it so laid back and I think that quiet nature here actually helped the film as it seems he was the only one who didn't want revenge for what had happened but instead just wanted the truth. Basehart is terrific as well in showing the hell that his character is going through. Dolores Michaels is good as Widmark's aide, June Lockhart is very strong in her one scene and Martin Balsam is on hand for some needed comedy relief. This is certainly an emotionally draining picture as the subject matter is rather ugly and the picture doesn't pull any punches. Malden handles the material extremely well and it's a shame we didn't get to see what else he could do behind the camera.
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