“Roberts, the court martial broke you, but I’m going to finish the job. I’m gonna bust you wide open.”
[Note: The following review is of a non-Peary title; click here to read more.]
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Because he and his cellmates (Ossie Davis, Alfred Lynch, Roy Kinnear, and Jack Watson) are presumed to be cowards hoping to get out of active military service, Andrews and his equally sadistic chief officer (Ian Hendry) do whatever they can to break the men’s spirits and bodies — including sending them pointlessly up and down the film’s titular manmade dirt “hill”. The increasingly grim situation finally comes to a head when one of the new inmates dies from heat stroke, and Hendry is accused by the prisoners of murder.
The subject matter is harsh, but the performances are superb — particularly Connery and Andrews, as well as Ossie Davis in a supporting role as a soldier from the West Indies who must put up with merciless racism on top of other indignities. Meanwhile, Oswald Morris’s crisp black-and-white cinematography is the perfect choice for such a bleak historical setting, and Rigby’s scathing dialogue is smartly conceived. (Note, however, that even native English speakers will want to have the subtitles on, since it’s often difficult to make out what the actors are saying.) Ultimately, while The Hill isn’t a film for the light of heart, those interested in exploring military power dynamics taken to a fatal extreme will surely be interested to check it out. It’s a surprising omission from Peary’s book — especially given that he awards Connery an Alternate Oscar as best actor of the year in his Alternate Oscars book.
Note: Watch for Michael Redgrave in a small but effective supporting role as a sympathetic military doctor.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments: