Battle Hymn

1957

Biography / Drama / History / War

0
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Spilled 23%
IMDb Rating 6.4 10 1013

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Synopsis


Uploaded By: FREEMAN
April 10, 2021 at 10:32 PM

Director

Cast

James Hong as ROK Maj. Chong
Don DeFore as Capt. Dan Skidmore
Jock Mahoney as Maj. Frank Moore
Rock Hudson as Col. Dean E. Hess
720p.BLU
995.41 MB
1280*522
English 2.0
NR
23.976 fps
1 hr 48 min
P/S counting...

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by bkoganbing 9 / 10

Heroic Korean War Story

With all the controversy surrounding End of the Spear where openly gay actor Chad Allen plays a Christian missionary, I was reminded of Battle Hymn where Rock Hudson plays a minister who goes to war. If Rock Hudson were alive today and open about his sexuality, the same kind of controversy would be surrounding this film.

Battle Hymn is based on a book by the Reverend Dean Hess who after service in World War II as an Army Air Corps flier enters the ministry. It seems as though he accidentally bombed an orphanage in Germany, killing several children.

In an effort to redeem himself he enters the ministry, but he feels himself going through the motions of his faith at the church he's assigned to in Ohio. When the Korean War starts, the newly formed Air Force needed not only pilots for combat, but pilots to train the newly forming South Korean Air Force. Hudson takes leave of his church assignment and goes to Korea.

Once there and quite by accident he gets involved with the littlest victims of war, the orphan kids of Korea who know no politics, only that their world is being destroyed. And when the North Koreans start to push the South Koreans and their allies into the Pusan perimeter Hudson organizes a march and then an airlift of over 400 children south to an orphanage.

Rock Hudson had really come into his own as an actor having received an Oscar Nomination for Best Actor for Giant. He brings to Dean Hess an infectious sincerity. As Hess both as minister and Colonel USAF he feels the responsibility of command and faith more clearly than he could ever have been just pastoring a church. In his scenes with Anna Kashfi and Philip Ahn on the march and airlift with the Korean orphan kids, he's just great. And his acting high point comes when he comforts the dying Don DeFore who was his friend in both wars. Hudson really reaches some sublime levels there.

Dan Duryea normally playing some of the nastiest villains ever on the screen shows the good side in his role as the tough Air Force sergeant who helps Hudson in his mission. And James Edwards who for some better breaks could have been the first black actor in leading roles instead of Sidney Poitier, is just great as the pilot who himself machine guns some children while on a mission. Hudson's scene in revealing himself to Edwards and urging to seek divine forgiveness is also touching and compelling.

Were we ever a silly people at times back in the day. If Rock Hudson had been open about his sexuality in 1956 he would have had no movie career. If Battle Hymn were made today it would probably be the subject of as much controversy as End of the Spear. As if love and compassion and care for orphans can only be the products of the straight people in this world.

One other note. Originally offered the role was Robert Mitchum who was turned down by the real Dean Hess because of his marijuana bust in 1948 as not having the proper image to play a minister. How ironic indeed.

Battle Hymn is a fine film, probably belongs on Rock Hudson's top ten list. Catch it if it is ever shown on TCM or AMC.

Reviewed by grahamclarke 5 / 10

Douglas Sirk loses this battle

Douglas Sirk's career at Universal throughout the fifties was a constant battle. It was a battle to make quality movies despite the often dire screenplays and less than talented casts he often had to put up with. Miraculously he most often was victorious despite the odds. "Battle Hymn" was one of his defeats. It remains his least likable film.

In his book "Sirk on Sirk" Michael Halliday sheds some light on this. Sirk had broken his leg badly and had to direct from a wheelchair which severely limited him. But the main reason for this somewhat heavy handed film was the presence of Dean Hess on the set and his overseeing each scene.

The film is a biography of Dean Hess himself. A man who turns to the church after the trauma of bombing a German orphanage and killing 37 children, Hess leaves his position of preacher in small town Ohio and volunteers for service in Korea. It's an odd choice for a man of his past, but "Killer Hess" as he was known, gets the opportunity to save Korean orphans in the process, putting to sleep his inner demons and putting things right in the world.

Sirk was very put off by Hess' presence on the set and more so by his input. He was clearly a man of much ambiguity, something that fascinated Sirk. Yet Sirk was unable to really express this in meaningful way on the screen. He wanted to give Hess a drinking problem as a way of expressing his pain, but Hess would hear nothing of it. He clearly wanted to be portrayed as a holier than though hero. The result is that the film has an awful self congratulatory feel about it.

Sirk was fascinated by characters who conceal within themselves a deep conflict. To him these were the most interesting of all. In all the movies Sirk made with Rock Hudson, he always cast him as the stabling influence and a foil to those unstable characters around him. Robert Stack in both "Written on the Wind" and "Tarnished Angels" is a perfect example of a split character playing against Hudson as the basically good, well grounded opposite. It's of course extremely ironic since in real life Rock Hudson was surely terribly conflicted by his concealed homosexuality while idolised by the masses as a model of masculine heterosexuality. Perhaps that is part of Sirk's affinity for him. Yet Sirk felt that Hudson's simplicity and basic goodness were suited to playing uncomplicated characters. "Battle Hymn" is the only film in which Sirk cast Hudson as a conflicted character. Had his character been better written there may have been a chance to pull it off. But as it stands, it's a competent and respectable performance, but something of a missed opportunity for Hudson.

The rest of the cast acquit themselves well. Anna Kashfi is particularly effective with her ethereal presence. James Edwards deserves a mention, since his role as a black fighter pilot was certainly ground breaking for its time.

There are however some really cringe inducing moments such as the aforementioned James Edwards breaking into "Swing Low" after an air raid and the final scene of the Korean orphans singing "Battle Hymn of the Republic" for Hess as he returns to Korea with his wife. These moments are meant to be uplifting, but seem now to be in somewhat poor taste.

The Korean children in the film were actually Korean orphans and they are a delight. Sirk had great affinity with young children who in turn gave memorable performances in his movies.

But when all is said and done, "Battle Hymn" is a film best forgotten, unlike his other war film, the remarkable "A Time to Love and a Time to Die" which he would soon make.

Reviewed by MartinHafer 8 / 10

A man goes to war to find redemption

When the film begins, you see a flashback of Dean Hess (Rock Hudson) as a pilot during WWII. By mistake, a bomb falls off his P-51 and hits an orphanage. He's haunted by this and this might explain why he became a minister after the war. However, he's still haunted by this mistake and when the Korean War breaks out, he volunteers to serve. His job is setting up an airbase for the South Korean Air Force, although much of his energy ends up being spent helping the many orphans displaced by the war.

In some ways, the film reminded me of the story "Lord Jim"--a guy makes a mistake and spends his life trying his best to do good and somehow atone for his past. It makes for an interesting film and Rock Hudson is just fine in the lead. Worth seeing and very well made.

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