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American GIs fight to survive inhuman treatment in a Korean POW camp.
Near the end of the Korean War, Capt. Web Sloane, who had served as a liaison between the United States Army and Russian Intelligence during World War II, is summoned by his commanding officer, Major O. D. Halle and given his new assignment: to find out how North Korea is treating its American prisoners of war. Web agrees to go undercover in a POW camp and report on conditions, and is instructed to use the code word "pipeline" if he needs to communicate with the Army. Posing as an enlisted man, Web parachutes into enemy territory and slips into a line of exhausted prisoners on their way to a camp. The brutal march continues for days, and most of the men do not survive. Meanwhile, at the camp, commanders Col. Kim Doo Yi and Capt. Lang Hyun Choi greet Russian officers Col. Nikita I. Biroshilov and Lt. Georgi M. Robovnik, who have come from Moscow to act as advisors. Kim complains about the indomitable spirit of his American prisoners, and Biroshilov proposes applying principles of behavior modification to make the men more compliant. The new group of prisoners--whose ranks have shrunk from 718 men to 211--arrive at the camp, and begin a course of "education" in Communist doctrine. One day, prisoner Jesse Treadman, who had attempted to get extra rations, is taken away by guards. Jesse is brought before Biroshilov, who offers him food and appears to befriend the young man by promising to assist his ailing mother in the States. When Jesse returns to his quarters, he informs the other prisoners that he has been made a monitor, and urges them to cooperate with their captors. Cpl. Joseph Robert Stanton is stubborn, however, and when he refuses to write an essay on the decay of capitalism, he is interrogated and beaten by Biroshilov. One night, Merton Tollivar is stricken with appendicitis, and Web and Joseph locate a doctor, Capt. Jack Hodges, who says he must operate within twelve hours. Web tells Joseph he plans to pretend to shift allegiances in order to gain access to the necessary medical supplies. Web calls on Biroshilov and offers to promote Communism in exchange for a bottle of brandy, which he uses to get Jesse drunk. He then instructs Jesse to see the camp doctor for sulfa pills, and while Jesse is arguing with the doctor, Web steals supplies from the operating room. Late that night, Hodges sneaks into the hut and, with the men's assistance, manages to remove Merton's appendix. To honor his agreement with Biroshilov, Web makes a recording describing the improved conditions at the camp. He incorporates the code word into his speech, and when Halle and the other American officers hear the recording, Halle deduces that the North Koreans are trying to improve appearances in case the peace talks work out. Halle notes that the Communists have started a propaganda campaign alleging that the U.S. is using germ warfare, and are forcing American pilots to "confess" to this. From their quarters at the camp, the prisoners witness Air Force Lt. Peter Reilly being tortured into making a false confession. Reilly and other pilots are then forced to read prepared statements about germ warfare for a newsreel. Web also appears in the newsreel, which is shown to the prisoners. Joseph angrily denounces Web and smashes the projector, triggering an uprising among the prisoners. As punishment, the men are forced to lie in shallow graves, for days on end, without food or water. The men reject Biroshilov's offer to free them if they will sign statements swearing they have never witnessed atrocities at the camp. Merton dies, and Biroshilov stages a mock execution, which causes some of the men to break down and sign the statement. Biroshilov takes the remaining men to a hilltop and resumes the torture, and all but Joseph give in. Biroshilov captures the little dog that Joseph had adopted and offers to spare the animal's life if he will sign. Joseph refuses, watching in anguish as guards kill the dog. Joseph is finally returned to the camp, but is a changed man, and one night, while the men are watching a movie, sneaks out and kills Biroshilov. Moscow withdraws Robovnik when Biroshilov's murder is not solved, and Kim vows to find the killer at all costs. Before he can do so, however, Kim receives orders to improve the prisoners' standard of living and send twenty of the men home. Kim orders Web to compile a list of prisoners to be repatriated, stipulating that he and the other "progressives" will be sent to Russia to further serve the Communist cause. The men are assembled, and Joseph's name is on the list of those to be released. To Web's surprise, he is also released, and he learns that Jesse added his name to the list. Web reproaches Jesse for agreeing to go to Russia, but Jesse gives the code word and reveals that he also has been working undercover for the military. As the other men see them off, Web, Joseph and Jesse ride out of the camp.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||New York opening: 8 May 1954|
|Release Date:||1954||Production Date:||
|Color/B&W:||Black and White||Distributions Co:||Loew's Inc.|
|Sound:||Mono (Western Electric Sound System)||Production Co:||Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.|
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A movie of conflicting goals
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PRISONER OF WAR
This is another film the studios should release to the public on DVD.