Hook The (1963)

Hook The (1963)

Directed by George Seaton (The Country Girl (1954)) with a screenplay by Henry Denker that was based on a novel by Vahé Katcha this intense Korean War drama appropriately features Kirk Douglas as Sergeant P.J. Briscoe who’s tasked with executing a North Korean pilot prisoner he refers to as ‘the gook’ (Enrique Magalona in one of only three films in which he appeared). The prisoner who had just killed Lieutenant Troy (Mark Miller) in a bombing raid before crash landing himself is humanly rescued by Private O.A. Dennison (Robert Walker Jr. son of his same named actor father and actress Jennifer Jones in his film debut) who’s more intelligent than your ‘average joe’. Nick Adams (Twilight of Honor (1963)) plays Pvt. V.R. Hackett the only other member of this group who’s beholden to Briscoe for reasons to be revealed. The military personnel were collecting a stash of fuel which has to be transported to where it’s needed by a civilian charter vessel run by Finnish Captain Van Ryn (Nehemiah Persoff). When Briscoe calls into HQ he learns that a school and a hospital were just bombed by the enemy and is ordered by the South Korean officer now in charge to dispose of his prisoner of war who Van Ryn had made bunkmate of the others. So the film is an emotional and psychological thriller as the three discuss the required act and the fate of their prisoner.

Briscoe has but a short time left to serve before he can retire at 40 with a full pension even though he has no one to go home to as Dennison discovers. He’s a hard man whose father and military experience has convinced him that weakness means death. Briscoe has taken Dennison under his wing but rides him while trying to instill these same values. At the same time Briscoe has ‘control’ of Hackett who used to be a Corporal but was bucked down to Private by the Sergeant who was ‘protecting’ him after a drunken brawl with another officer; this however turns out to have been a self serving act. At different times each of the men tries to kill the prisoner but each finds killing another man face-to-face more difficult than expected. Dennison is the humanist whose words ‘work’ on the other two and the two Privates actually try to free their prisoner. The ship’s captain and crew doesn’t get involvement per their neutrality in the conflict. Later when Briscoe is about to report their combined insubordination to their superiors they learn that a cease-fire had been called effectively letting them off ‘the hook’ for not following orders. But they’d left their prisoner alone; knowing his fate he escapes and then tries to sabotage the ship full of oil barrels. The language barrier not only prevents the Americans from telling the North Korean about the armistice but it leads to his own tragic ending.

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