Korean War Filmography: 91 English Language Features through 2000 (review)
- Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies
- Center for the Study of Film and History
- Volume 33, Number 2, 2003
- pp. 83-84
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Book Reviews | Regular Feature particularly today when digital special effects are as big a draw as narrative and characterization. Viewed in this light, the essential problem of American dominance remains the same, but the crucial issue is national, and, above all, popular diversity within that dominance. This is an interpretation as much as a summary, but it shows that Chapman is a tough-thinking, original writer, remarkably so, considering that his remit did not require him to be. Cinemas of the World is designed for undergraduates and non-film studies students in outer disciplines, so he would have been well within his rights to offer the usual text book-style plod round the territory . True, he does fall now and then into the inevitable lists, and the lack of space can lead to some unfortunate plot summaries; for example, High Noon is turned into a not very interesting diagram of the issues surrounding the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities. Still, this is a small price to pay for breadth and authority. The book may exhaust (this reader began to get footsore round about the Middle East), but it is an engaging, excellent piece of work, and it deserves a more general readership than it is likely to get. David Lancaster The University of Leeds. firstname.lastname@example.org Robert J. Lentz. Korean War Filmography: 91 English Language Features through 2000. McFarland, 2003. 496 pages; $45.00. Impossible to Win As a turning point inAmerican history, the KoreanWar stood as an awkward transition between World War II and the Vietnam Conflict. This was the first time that American GIs fought under the United Nations flag, offering tangible credibility to President Truman's so-called doctrine ofcontainmentphilosophy. It coined new words—brainwashing and turncoat—created a massive buildup of military might that endured for another two decades, and, by all accounts, became the first war that the United States lost. At the same time, Hollywood churned out dozens ofpropaganda films to remind audiences that—in the end—truth, justice, and the Red-White-and-Blue would always prevail. But did they? Unlike the glory days ofJohn Wayne, the KoreanWar photodramas took on an amorphous life of their own. While many titles supported this police action, other screenplays became critical, even caustic, about a confrontation that seemed impossible to win. Perhaps that is why these motion pictures and the war, itself , have recessed into a state of national anonymity. However, as Robert J. Lenz has observed in his new study, Korean War Filmography: 91 English Language Features through 2000, Hollywood productions always serve as a mirror that allows a society introspection because their titles reflect the contemporary social attitudes even ifthe content is distorted, misrepresented, confused, or skewed. As Mr. Lenz explains, the first Korean War titles appeared by early 1951 just seven months after the Thirty-Eighth Parallel crossing. Two cinematic potboilers, Korean Patrol andA Yank in Korea, sugarcoated the ground combat while waving Old Glory but The Steel Helmet pushed aside the usual patriotic bromides and focused on the unsightly truths every ground-pounder encountered . Other photodramas routinely followed and by July 1953 approximately twenty moving pictures were released generally with storylines that used stock newsreel footage, cuts fromWorld War II archives, and two-dimensional characterizations. Overall, Mr. Lenz muses, most of these productions were minor achievements . But during the next five years, from 1954-59, Hollywood— now standing on its hindsight stool— made over thirty movies that depicted the police action in realistic terms. Titles such as The Bridges at Toko-Ri, the McConnell Story, Battle Hymn, and Pork Chop Hill exposed some ofthe misery associated with fighting a see-saw war on foreign soil, thousands ofmiles from home. Other scripts, Men in War, The Hunters, Time Limit, and Men of the Fighting Lady restated America's commitment to stop communist expansion on this faraway peninsula. Eventually, these motion pictures began their slow decline to obscurity as memories of this forgotten war faded from public attention, especially after United Artists released The Manchurian Candidate, a photoplay that captured the Red Scare's paranoid mood. After this 1962 film, the Korean Conflict, like the proverbial hot potato, was off...