War Hunt (1962)
Director: Denis Sanders.
Starring: John Saxon (Pvt. Raymond Endore), Charles Aidman (Capt. Wallace Pratt), Sydney Pollack (Sgt. Owen Van Horn), Tommy Matsuda (Charlie the Korean Kid), Gavin MacLeod (Pvt. Crotty), Anthony Ray (Pvt. Joshua Fresno), Tom Skerritt (Sgt. Stan Showalter), William Challee (Lt. Colonel), Nancy Hsueh (Mama San), Robert Redford (Pvt. Roy Loomis).
an idealist confronts another soldier who kills for revenge and enjoyment during the Korean War
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
Korea. May 1953. Private Roy Loomis speaks of his experiences in Korea. He says from basic training the new soldiers are funneled into "the pipeline" from which they are spewed out somewhere in Korea at the other end. He closely examines what he sees as he travels along the pipeline. There is a lot of poverty and kids starving. He is headed out to the front as a combat infantryman. He wonders if he is going to get killed in combat.
At headquarters Capt. Wallace Pratt tells the men about the situation they are in. Peace negotiators are working on a peace agreement, but it's slow progress. It is their job to make sure that for everyday the enemy stalls at the negotiation table, he suffers high casualties. "The more pain, the more casualties he suffers, the easier the job our negotiators are going to have and the sooner this thing will end." So tomorrow the men will be moving up to the MLR (the main line of resistance). The MLR is about five miles from headquarters.
Loomis is assigned a tent. A little Korean boy who speaks English earns some money by helping one particular GI. The boy, named Charlie, tells Roy to be quiet or he will awaken the sleeping soldier, Raymond Endore. They walk along a barbed wire fence and a young boy on the other side of the fence tries to speak with Roy, but Charlie pulls out his knife and tries to jab the boy with it. Roy is shocked by the hatred and violence behind that knife thrust.
Charlie delivers Roy to the first squad, third platoon. Roy goes up to Sgt. Van Horn and introduces himself. One of the first things Roy asks is about the kid Charlie. The sergeant explains that the kid's family are all dead so one of the guys in the squad looks out for him. The sergeant then tells Roy that his squad leader is Showalter, the man over by the jeep, so Roy goes to report to him.
Roy sits down on the ground with three other soldiers and they clean their rifles. A soldier named Pvt. Crotty says: "We haven't lost a war yet, but we sure are pussyfooting our way through this one." He tells Roy that he's been in the army since 1937. Over the radio comes an enemy broadcast saying: "You are still here because of the dishonest tactics employed by imperialist negotiators. The People's Army of China desires peace."
At night as Roy heads to his tent to get some sleep, he sees Endore heading out. He is dressed in all dark clothing and his face is heavily blackened. Roy is shocked and he asks Crotty" "Who was that?" He's Private Raymond Endore. And where is the private going? Behind the enemy's lines. He goes out every night without fail.
A young Korean girl sees Roy at the fence and she comes over to talk with him. She tells him: "I love you." What she is offering is sex. He tells her that his problem is that he can't even believe that he's here in Korea. He walks away.
Meanwhile Endore is out slitting the throats of enemy sentries. In the morning Endore returns to his tent to go to sleep. He has no guilty conscience. He even whistles a happy tune. Roy gets irritated at the whistling and asks Endore for some quiet. Endore goes right on whistling. Crotty puts his finger to his mouth meaning "shut up, don't confront that guy, he's crazy." So Roy just lays quiet looking at the tent ceiling.
The squad gets on the back of their truck to head to the front. Endore is going to the MLR with the guys. As they near the front they hear an explosion up front. The trucks stop. The men in the trucks wonder if it was a mine or an artillery shell that exploded. They don't know. As they continue their trip, they see the wreckage of the jeep that was leading their convoy. Roy has an uneasy feeling as he looks at the wounded men on the ground moaning. They come to a base camp and then the men walk the rest of the way to their posts.
One of the soldiers tells Roy that over on the ridge of the hill is the Chinese camp. He will see it clearly in the daylight. And now the "Dragon Lady" gets on the loudspeaker to welcome back Captain Pratt and his men. The Americans have their own loudspeakers and they broadcast to the Chinese soldiers in Chinese. Patrol leader gets the assignment to take three men with him and come to the C.P. to talk with the sergeant. And, of course, two men have to be kept on the line all night. Roy and Crotty get the shift from 12 midnight to 2 a.m.
All the guys in the squad are a bit afraid of Endore. When he comes in and says he wants a certain cot, anyone on that cot moves to another one. One of the soldiers remarks: "I'm sure glad he's on our side."
The next morning Roy watches as Crotty waves a helmet around at the end of a stick. He wants a guy known as Frisco to find and kill the Chinese sniper who took a shot at Doyle. The sniper fires and knocks the helmet off the stick, but Frisco reports that he couldn't see any movement. "The sun's all wrong."
Sgt. Van Horn goes over some instructions for his soldiers. At 23:00 hours core artillery will fire on a Chinese supply dump that Endore spotted. Their own job is to report the effects of the barrage. Roy goes out with the squad to get a bit closer to the Chinese camp. The guys see a Chinese patrol walk by on the ridge. A flare goes up. All of a sudden Roy spots Endore up on the side of the ridge hill. Next to him lays what looks like a dead body. He then sees Endore quickly circling around the body as if he was performing some American Indian burial ritual. Roy looks a bit weirded out.
Back at the bunker Charlie has a nightmare. Roy wakes him up before Charlie wakes up everybody in the bunker.
Roy is back at base camp. Charlie delivers some mail to him. The boy watches two soldiers throwing a baseball around and catching it. Roy asks the boy if he wants to play catch and Charlie says okay.
Endore is with the Captain feeding him fresh information on the changes in the Chinese camp. The Captain tells him that he is recommending him for a commendation. The Colonel comes in and he scolds Endore for not snapping to attention when he came into the tent. Endore says he forgot. Pretty lame excuse. The Colonel now turns his attention to the Captain, who introduces Endore to the Colonel. The Colonel has read the Captain's recommendation for a commendation for Endore. He asks Endore how long has it been since he last had any R&R (rest and recuperation). Endore looks dazed and the Captain says the man hasn't had a chance to get any sleep yet. The Colonel tells the Captain to take Endore off patrol for awhile. Endore does not look happy about this. The Colonel tells the Captain that Endore is a valuable man and the Captain should take good care of Endore, as well as himself.
After the battalion commander leaves, the Captain has to remind Endore that he has to say "sir" to officers as high as the Colonel. Endore is worried about not being able to go out on patrol, but Captain Pratt says don't worry about it, because Endore doesn't go out on patrol. He goes by himself and that is not a patrol.
Playing catch with Charlie, Roy asks how Charlie met Endore? Charlie says he was working for the prostitutes, but Endore offered him a better job -- to join up with the U.S. army. Endore doesn't like it when he sees Roy playing catch with Charlie. He tells Charlie to come along with him. Charlie reluctantly obeys his orders. After Endore and Charlie leave, the Captain tells Roy firmly to just stay away from the boy. Endore is nobody to fool with and Charlie belongs to Endore.
Roy is either a brave man or a foolish one, or both. He asks Endore how does he kill the enemy? Endore gets up very close to Roy and seriously tells Roy how he kills the enemy. He then starts to leave, but Roy now asks him how does he feel after he's killed the enemy? Endore comes back and puts his hand up to Roy's throat and puts pressure on it. He asks Roy: "How do you feel?"
In the bunker Roy gives the baseball to Charlie. In the morning Endore returns and tells the guys that the Chinese are coming soon, maybe even tonight. Roy asks him how does he know they're coming? "Because I read their mail, Loomis."
At night Endore goes out on patrol with the guys. Later that night Roy hears tin cans clanking against each other. A soldier tells him that's just the rats, but when the loudspeaker stops the music, the two soldiers listen intently. The music starts up again and the men relax. The next time the music goes off everybody freezes where they stand. All of a sudden the Chinese begin an artillery barrage. The barrage lasts a long time. Flares go up and this time the troops can see the Chinese soldiers advancing toward them. The Americans open up on the onrushing Chinese. After awhile Roy's rifle jams. He tries to fix it but can't. He grabs a grenade and sits down still holding the grenade in his hand. He looks frozen with fear. Endore takes his place on line. He looks at the scared Roy, but says nothing to him.
The men are told to pull out and they do. Endore leaves Roy behind without hesitation. A Chinese soldier reaches the top of the American defenses close to Roy, but luckily for Roy, a shell hits near the soldier, killing him and knocking Roy out. When he wakes up he has to crawl away from the dead soldier. Roy plays dead when he sees a Chinese soldier coming toward him. The soldier is going through the belongings of the American dead.
The soldier now comes over to Roy and kicks him. Roy suddenly jumps up and grabs the soldier around the neck and gets behind him. The Chinese fellow gets away, but Roy then throws a lot of sand bags on top of him. Roy now rolls down the American side of the defensive fortifications. He has a sprained knee, so he has to crawl his way back to the American lines. Roy as narrator says: "The enemy was turned back at the MLR. They didn't want the ground they gained. They just wanted to give us a hard time. "
So temporarily Roy works as a clerk for the supply sergeant. He uses the typewriter to write a letter home. He writes: "I don't think I'll be as scared the next time."
Roy goes to his bunk. Endore throws the baseball back to Roy saying the kid doesn't want the ball. Roy asks Endore: "Why can't I do something nice for this kid? What are you afraid of?" Endore replies: "If Crotty had seen you chicken, he'd have killed you." Endore leaves. Again Crotty warns Roy. He kicks him and says: "Hey, don't mess with that guy!"
Roy is still angry at Endore. He goes outside to talk to Charlie. He wants to know from Charlie what Endore has been telling him. "Did he tell you that a man kills? What about when peace comes?" Charlie says that Endore told him that they are going to stay in Korea and build a house on a hill for the two of them. Roy tells the boy that his friend Raymond lied to him. One day the war will end and Raymond will have to go back to America. Charlie replies that Raymond doesn't lie -- Roy does.
Charlie catches an injured bird and he looks like he's going to harm it. Roy tells Charlie to give the bird to him. Charlie pulls out his knife and one wonders if he is going to use it on Roy or the bird? Roy repeats for the boy to hand the bird over, so Charlie throws it at him and runs away.
Roy talks alone with Endore. He says Endore has been lying to the boy and if he doesn't take the boy to a proper orphanage, he, Roy, will do it himself. He adds: "I'll go to the Colonel if I have to. But I don't want to. It's important to Charlie that it comes from you." Endore has his knife already out of its sheath. He grabs Roy and pushes him up against a bunker wall and holds the knife to Roy's throat. He warns Roy: "Butt out or I'll kill you." Roy slowly walks around the knife and around Endore to get away from him.
Sgt. Van Horn comes around to the men to read to them: "After 22:00 hours, there will be no hostile acts by any of the armed forces of the United Nations." Each man in his outfit has to sign the notice saying that they have read and understood the order. When it finally sinks into the soldier's heads, they start whooping it up. Sleeping on his cot, Endore awakes to the shouts of: "It's over!" Roy tells Charlie that the war is over. This is interrupted when they hear a sound and then see an American soldier down. They rush over to him, but the man (Frisco) soon dies. Crotty and another fellow go crazy and start firing at the Chinese. Sgt. Van Horn pulls the men away from the firing line.
The Captain is really mad at the fellows. He reminds the men that they are still at war until 22:00 hours. So they must act accordingly. They are not supposed to be celebrating because the war is still on. Now he has to write a letter to the recently killed soldier's parents (Frisco's parents) and he doesn't like having to write these letters. So they better buckle down and act like soldiers at war until 22:00 hours.
Charlie visits with Endore. Endore says that Roy is trying to send him away to a bad place where they will hit Charlie if he even breaks one little rule.
Roy writes a letter home saying: "It's hard to believe it's really over." Endore sticks his head in. It's all blackened again. Endore is going out on his killing spree again. And he's got Charlie with him.
Roy tells the Captain what happened and Pratt comments: "Oh boy, this is impossible."
Endore is out teaching Charlie how to kill a man with a knife.
The Captain talks with his men about what to do about Endore and Charlie. He finally says they will go into the demilitarized zone as a grave detail, which is permitted. The Captain adds that they will find Endore because he doesn't think Endore is even going to bother with hiding. He will be out in the open.
Three men, including Capt. Pratt and Roy, go out on the grave detail. The men call out for Endore. The Captain keeps shouts out Endore's name. Endore is actually sitting down talking with Charlie. One of the things he tells Charlie is that he was never seen by an enemy soldier because he is invisible to them. He and Charlie hear the calls for Endore.
The patrol spot Endore and Charlie. The Captain tries to talk him down, but Endore says he's not coming back anymore. Captain Pratt tries to explain that Endore doesn't seem to be understanding the rules they are operating under now that a cease-fire has been declared. Endore turns around and starts walking away with Charlie. The three on patrol start to climb up after them with the Captain saying he has some candy bars for the little boy. Charlie screams at them: "You not come up!"
Endore pulls out his knife and acts like he's willing to kill if they continue up after him. Charlie backs off from Endore. The Captain keeps coming up. Sgt Van Horn doesn't want the Captain to be killed so he goes after Endore. In the scuffle that follows, the Captain has to shoot Endore to stop him from knifing Roy. Raymond Endore is dead. Charlie comes down to look at the body and then starts running off. Roy goes chasing after him, while the Captain goes chasing after Roy.
With a bum knee Roy can't catch up with the boy. He and the Captain watch as the boy runs through an open field. The Captain asks if Roy is okay and Roy says "no".
Good film. One of the men, Raymond Endore, has become a broken man going hunting at night to kill the Chinese guards (by slitting their throats) and to gather information. He probably is psychotic, because he seems to not be in contact with reality. Nobody, except Roy Loomis, will really talk to the crazy man. Everyone else tells Roy that he better stay away from Endore if he values his own life. But Roy won't or can't leave the man alone. He is concerned about the North Korean boy, Charlie, who Endore acts like he owns. Roy keeps coming at Endore and Endore does threaten to take his life. Roy just won't give up. The real showdown between the two men occurs after the cease-fire when Endore still goes out on one of his killing sprees.
Robert Redford was very good as Roy Loomis. John Saxon was also very good as the psychotic man Raymond Endore. Charles Aidman was good as the Captain and Sydney Pollack was good as Sgt. Van Horn.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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