Tuesday, June 11, 2019

The Rack

I mentioned earlier that I recorded quite a few of the movies that aired during TCM's tribute to May 2019 Star of the Month Paul Newman, so I'm getting through them slowly. The most recent watch was The Rack.

A bunch of people are waiting at an airport for a military plane bringing a group of POWs from the Korean War home. Among them is Capt. Edward Hall, Jr. (Paul Newman). He's the son of army colonel Edward Hall Sr. (Walter Pidgeon), and also had a brother who died in the war, leaving behind a widow in Aggie Hall (Anne Francis).

Before the POWs can go home, they have to spend some time at the military hospital to be debriefed by army psychologists and the like. While Ed Jr. is watching a movie, another soldier comes up to him, and puts a noose around his neck with a placard reading "TRAITOR". Oh dear, somebody has something against poor Ed. It's not just this one man, either. Ed is uncomfortable being back home, and feels like his father isn't making things any easier for him. Just wait until Dad finds out about what happened over in Korea.

Apparently during the debriefings, enough evidence was obtained to lead military authorities to believe that Ed Jr. collaborated with the Chinese who were holding them prisoner, and this is a really serious offense. Dad can't believe this, as he raised his two sons to be perfect little soldiers. Surely when they hold the trial, the truth is going to come out and Ed Jr. is going to be exonerated.

The trial begins, with Lt. Col. Wasnick (Edmnod O'Brien) defending Capt. Hall, and Maj. Moulton (Wendell Corey) prosecuting the case. It's a difficult defense, as Capt. Hall has admitted that he did the things he's accused of, although he says that he felt it was the only thing he could do to help the men in his command. Wasnick obviously doesn't believe any of this, and he's going to do everything he can to debunk Hall's defense when he takes the stand.

The Rack is another of those movies that's well-made, but which kept striking me as having something not quite right about them. One of the big things for me was the scene resolving the relationship between father and son, which came across as really artificial.. Something also felt off about the trial, although that's probably because it was a military trial, which does have different rules from civilian justice. But where did they get all the evidence that the Chinese would certainly have kept?

However, Newman gives a very good performance and his clearly on his way to becoming a star in the early picture. The supporting cast is also pretty good, even Pidgeon who is normally a bit too stolid for my tastes. There's a nice early supporting role from Lee Marvin, and James Best (Roscoe P. Coltrane from The Dukes of Hazard) and Cloris Leachman have bit parts.

The Rack is available on DVD from the Warner Archive, and isn't a bad little movie.

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