Take the High Ground! (1953)

Take the High Ground! (1953)

Richard Widmark plays your typical Army Sergeant a-hole trying to get the troops in shape during a scant 16 weeks of boot camp; Karl Malden plays his saner assistant. The recruits consist of Russ Tamblyn (yes they figured out a way for him to show off his gymnastic skills) Steve Forrest (better known as TV’s S.W.A.T. leader) and other requisites: a black man a cowboy a recruit that can’t take it and a “girl”.

You’ve seen all of this before though perhaps this was an early film in the genre (I don’t know). It’s so full of cliches I was surprised to learn that it earned (Millard Kaufman his first) an Oscar nomination for Writing (Story and Screenplay). I suspect that maybe I’m just more familiar with the many subsequent films on the subject. I was reminded most of a Clint Eastwood film and a Stanley Kubrick film of the same though those are much more brutal and violent. Of course there are the requisite training sequences with the men climbing over and under various obstacles while live ammunition is being fired or exploded in their vicinity. What makes this film less satisfying is the background story and/or motivation for the Sergeant’s hard edge as well as the weak “love story” between the two officers and a woman played by Elaine Stewart. As far as the recruits that “will never make it” you know what will happen in the end already.

Directed by Richard Brooks Elmer Gantry (1960).

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