Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Sniper's Ridge

One of the movies that's been in heavy rotation on the Fox Movie Channel is Sniper's Ridge. It's airing again tomorrow morning at 4:55 AM, with a further airing at the end of the month.

Sniper's Ridge has an interesting premise. Jack Ging plays Corporal Sharack, stationed with a unit on the front line with the rest of his unit during the Korean War. Everybody knows the armistice is coming in a couple of days, but that means there's still time for the two sides to gain a last little bit of territory. Sharack just wants to sit out the last few days, but he's not in command, so it's not his choice. And even if he were in his command, it wouldn't be his choice if the Communists attack them -- which is precisely what happens. It's at this point that we see Cpl. Sharack's immediate superior, Sergeant Sweatish (Douglas Henderson) has lost it. Sweatish was decorated in World War II, but is now suffereing from shell shock or something, because when the Communists attack, Sweatish retreats into his bunker, forcing Sharack to save the day for his unit.

In fact, Sharack seems to be the only competent solder in his entire unit. And the rot goes up further, at least to Sweatish's superior, Captain Tombolo (John Goddard). Tombolo knows that his little corner of the Army has earned the reputation as the worst outfit in Korea, and also knows that Sharack is taking up the slack for Sweatish. But there's still a war on. Replacements are going to have to wait until the armistice. Now, if Capt. Tombolo were smart, he too would simply wait until the armistice. But he has to send the unit on night patrol, and makes certain that Sharack is going to be on it. This is too much for Sharack, who feels he was supposed to be rotated out already, and he goes AWOL, at least to a MASH unit trying to get himself declared unfit for duty. The doctors are having none of it.

Into all of this walks Cpl. Pumphrey (Stanley Clements). He's an old friend of Sweatish's from World War II who has been knocked down in rank and requests a transfer into his old friend's unit, apparently not knowing what's happened to Sweatish, or anything about the dynamic involving Sharack. It all leads up to a climax in which Sweatish winds up facing being blown up by a land mine, with Sharack being the only one who can save him.

Sniper's Ridge is a B-movie from the end of the Hollywood era of B-movies. In other words, it's the sort of movie that has material that was just as likely to be handled by television, either as a TV movie or an episode of one of those war dramas like Combat. No big stars here, and a Korea that looks more like the Fox ranch, someplace in the mountains of Southern California. The mountains could just as easily have been portraying Minnesota in Little House on the Prairie. The story isn't quite developed enough, but everybody tries professionally with their characters. We're supposed to have sympathy for Sharack, but he acts like such a jerk at times that it's hard to sympathize with him. I don't know whether that's the fault of script, the director, or Jack Ging. Tombolo and Sweatish aren't fully fleshed out, and Pumphrey doesn't get enough time to be be much of a character, either. There's some interesting stuff going on at Sniper's Ridge, but it doesn't quite add up.

As far as I know, Sniper's Ridge isn't available on DVD.

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