Cease Fire


1954

Film Details

Release Date
Jan 1954
Premiere Information
World premiere in New York: 24 Nov 1953; Los Angeles opening: 12 Jan 1954
Production Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.; Wallis-Hazen, Inc.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Korea

Synopsis

In 1953, as troubled peace negotiations are under way in Panmunjom, Korea, American E Company platoon, led by Lt. Roy Thompson, Jr., is ordered to send a patrol to Red Top, a tall mountain the U.S. military suspects is under enemy control. No-nonsense Thompson selects thirteen men for the patrol, including Sgt. Richard Karl Elliott, a daredevil soldier with whom Thompson has a rocky relationship, and Pfc. Kim, a Korean from a nearby village, whose wife is about to give birth. After the men collect their gear and ammunition, Thompson explains that their mission is to sneak up the west slope of the mountain and gather intelligence on enemy activity. As the soldiers begin their march, many of them wonder aloud about the purpose of the mission, feeling confident that a peace treaty will soon be signed. Later, while crossing a field, Kim spots a farmer he knows and rushes to speak with him, earning a reprimand from Thompson. The farmer then runs to a nearby village, and the patrol continues on, dodging artillery fire as they go. The artillery fire increases, and Elliott suggests they take an alternate route up the steep mountainside. Along the way, they come across two dead Chinese soldiers, who, they worry, may have had time to radio the patrol's position before being shot. The farmer, meanwhile, locates Kim's pregnant wife in the village and tells her that Kim is well and expected home soon. At battalion headquarters in Panmunjom, Army officers are concerned because they have not heard from E Company and have their radio man check on the patrol's position. Word comes that E Company is moving fast toward Red Top, soothing the officers' fears. In the mountains, meanwhile, the patrol encounters two British soldiers, one injured, headed in the opposite direction. Taylor, the healthy soldier, warns the Americans that the trail is lined with mines and offers to show them the way. Taylor guides them to the point where his mate was wounded, then turns back. Aware that more mines lie ahead, Thompson orders Kim and another soldier to the front of the line, where they carefully probe for buried mines with knife points. One mine is narrowly avoided, but when a soldier stumbles down the cliffside, he hits another mine and is killed. Back at Panmunjom, war correspondents Powell and Bateman argue about the stalled peace negotiations. Bateman objects to Powell's cynical view of the process, while the older Powell calls Bateman naïve. Upon learning that Powell was once an idealist like him, but became embittered about treaties after reporting on Versailles, Bateman admits to Powell that he is too trusting, while Powell concedes that his experiences have prejudiced him as a journalist. While crossing a river, the E Company patrol, meanwhile, is attacked by snipers and one man is wounded. Thompson orders Elliott and his sharpshooting friend, Sfc. Albert Bernard "One Ton" Cook, to circle around and locate the snipers, and Elliott and Wright come up behind the enemy soldiers and shoot them dead. At the foot of Red Top, as artillery fire suddenly increases, Thompson receives word that 300 Chinese troops have been spotted in the area. Sure that Red Top is controlled by the Chinese, Thompson leaves some of his men behind to provide cover and tend to the wounded, then leads the rest up the mountain. In the valley below, they see the Chinese troops and radio their position to headquarters. Just then, snipers begin firing on them and radio contact is broken. The message gets through to headquarters, however, and the Army, Navy and Air Force coordinate a land and air response. Back on Red Top, the patrol continues to scramble up the mountain, while exchanging gun and grenade fire with the enemy. Thompson is hit but refuses to allow Elliott to rescue him. Kim, however, goes after a Chinese sniper and is killed. Moments later, Navy and Air Force planes arrive and begin dropping bombs on the Chinese troops, while Army tanks shell the mountain. Thompson's patrol finally takes Red Top, and the victorious lieutenant and Elliott grudgingly admit their mutual respect. After the armistice is signed, the surviving soldiers look forward to going home, while Kim's wife embraces her newborn son and Powell and Bateman write hopeful reports about lasting peace.

Film Details

Release Date
Jan 1954
Premiere Information
World premiere in New York: 24 Nov 1953; Los Angeles opening: 12 Jan 1954
Production Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.; Wallis-Hazen, Inc.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Korea

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The following written statement appears before the film's title card: "The dramatic story you are about to see was actually filmed on the battlefields of Korea." The title cards read: "Paramount Pictures proudly presents Hal Wallis' Cease Fire." The statement "photographed entirely on the battlefields of Korea" then appears after the title. Onscreen credits conclude with the following dedication: "The players in this picture are soldiers-- actual fighting men who were in combat in the last hours of bitter conflict. Some have now returned to their homes. Others are still in service. Some were wounded or killed in action. To these soldiers and the men of the United Nations Command, this picture is respectfully dedicated." Voice-over narration, describing Korea and the Korean War, is heard briefly at the beginning of the picture. Although the film was presented in 3-D, the viewed print was in standard format.
       As noted in the dedication and news items, most of the players in the film were non-actors, soldiers from the Seventh Infantry Division. However, according to the Daily Variety review, the war correspondent characters were portrayed by professional actors. According to publicity material contained in the film's copyright records, director Owen Crump, who was assistant to the head of the First Motion Picture Unit during World War II, chose the soldier actors from a line-up in the field, and all of the action and dialogue was unrehearsed. Crump explained each scene to the men, who then made up dialogue as they went along. Crump and a six-man camera crew shot approximately 140,000 feet of film between June and October 1953, using two 3-D cameras mounted on M-39 armored tanks. According to publicity and a Variety news item, the actual signing of the armistice in Panmunjom was recorded by Crump and used in the picture.
       As noted in a Los Angeles Daily News item, the MPAA previewed the picture in mid-November 1953 and refused to give it a seal of approval because the dialogue included three "hells" and one "damn." In response, Crump claimed that he was merely "trying to catch an honest movie where all the soldiers wouldn't sound like heroes or Boy Scouts....There were a lot of four-letters we left out." The offending words were cut and the MPAA issued a certificate prior to the film's world premiere in New York on November 24, 1953. According to news items, Gen. Mark Clark, former commander-in-chief of the United Nations Far East Command, attended the New York premiere, as well as special military openings in Los Angeles, Washington, Boston and Philadelphia. The Hollywood Reporter review incorrectly lists the film's running time as 85 minutes.