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Blu-Ray : Highly Recommended
Ranking:
Sale Price: $24.9 Last Price: $36.99 Buy now! 3rd Party 19.37 In Stock
Release Date: January 6th, 2023 Movie Release Year: 1959

Pork Chop Hill (1959) – Imprint Films Limited Edition

Overview -

Stark, brutal, and a stirring indictment of war, Pork Chop Hill remains one of the best Korean War movies, thanks to its realistic style and a strong performance from Gregory Peck as a lieutenant tasked with a futile mission during the conflict's final days. Imprint Films honors director Lewis Milestone's taut, tense film with a solid video transfer, potent audio, and a nice supplemental package that includes a top-notch commentary and an entertaining Peck documentary. Fans of war flicks will definitely want to import this disc. Highly Recommended.

THIS HILL THAT BECAME THE HELL-TORN HEART OF A WAR! NOW IT IS A NAME THAT HAS COME TO MEAN HEROISM AND GREATNESS!

Lt. Joe Clemons (Gregory Peck) has been given the order: take Pork Chop Hill. If it’s taken by the Chinese, US negotiators at the Panmunjom peace conference would lose face with their communist adversaries an unthinkable outcome. And so, Clemons leads his troops into combat, to fight for an objective that they know to be strategically pointless. But they also know that an order is an order and they must take Pork Chop Hill or die trying so that millions can live in freedom tomorrow for what Clemons and his men will sacrifice today.

Based on a true story and featuring an all-star supporting cast, Pork Chop Hill is an exceptional film.

Special Features and Technical Specs:

  • 1080p High-definition presentation on Blu-ray from a 2K scan
  • NEW Audio commentary by film historians Steven Jay Rubin & Steve Mitchell
  • Gregory Peck, His Own Man – Vintage documentary
  • Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
  • Audio English LPCM 2.0
  • Optional English HOH subtitles
  • Limited Edition slipcase on the first 1500 copies with unique artwork

 

OVERALL:
Highly Recommended
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
Limited Edition slipcase on the first 1500 copies with unique artwork
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p High-definition presentation on Blu-ray from a 2K scan
Length:
98
Aspect Ratio(s):
1.66:1
Audio Formats:
English LPCM 2.0
Subtitles/Captions:
English HOH
Special Features:
Theatrical Trailer
Release Date:
January 6th, 2023

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

Director Lewis Milestone made three definitive war movies about three separate wars in three different decades. In 1930, he helmed the immortal World War I drama All Quiet on the Western Front, which won Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director. Fifteen years later in 1945, he mounted A Walk in the Sun, a devastating account of America's invasion of Italy in World War II, and 14 years after that in 1959, Milestone directed one of the few and finest films to focus on the Korean War, Pork Chop Hill.

Much like Stanley Kubrick's shattering World War I film Paths of Glory, released two years earlier, Pork Chop Hill chronicles a futile military mission that results in dozens upon dozens of unnecessary casualties. In Paths of Glory, a vain French general commands his troops to capture the Ant Hill despite the impossibility of success, while in Pork Chop Hill, Lt. Joe Clemons (Gregory Peck) is tasked with retaking the titular parcel of land so the Americans can use it as a bargaining chip in their peace talks with the North Koreans and Chinese.

Lt. Clemons knows the war will be ending in a matter of days if not hours, but he's ordered to carry out a dangerous mission with few instructions that will send his tired, homesick troops to almost certain doom. Clemons initially achieves success, but miscommunications and logistical snafus complicate matters and force Clemons and his ever-dwindling forces to hang on by the skin of their teeth as they struggle to hold the desolate terrain while waiting and waiting and waiting for reinforcements.

More of a traditional war film than Paths of GloryPork Chop Hill focuses heavily on military maneuvers and battles, but within that violent context Milestone, just as he did so brilliantly in All Quiet on the Western Front, transmits an incisive anti-war message. Pork Chop Hill may be gritty, exciting, and tense, but a deep humanity courses through it, and vivid characters, many of whom only get a few minutes of screen time, populate the story. Milestone also captures the chaos of war and how the broken chains of command and complex bureaucracy put enormous pressure on the regiment officers who must make split-second decisions that might inexorably alter the lives of their men.

Peck plays Clemons with his typical mix of stoicism, grace, and quiet intensity. He's tough when he needs to be - his scenes with a black soldier (beautifully portrayed by Woody Strode) who squirms in the face of battle are particularly strong - but his compassion always comes through. Though at 42 he's a bit old for the role (the real Lt. Clemons was 24 at the time, which really ratchets up our admiration for his leadership and accomplishments), he fills Clemons' shoes well.

The supporting cast is a veritable who's-who of up-and-coming actors who would dominate the world of cinema and television for the next 20-odd years. Rip Torn, George Peppard, Harry Guardino, James Edwards, Robert Blake, Norman Fell, Harry Dean Stanton, Gavin MacLeod, and Martin Landau in his film debut all impress, and Milestone makes sure he gives each and every actor his moment in the spotlight. Peck may loom above them all, but at its core Pork Chop Hill is an ensemble piece that reflects the teamwork and brotherhood of America's armed forces.

About 20 minutes were trimmed from Pork Chop Hill just prior to its release, reportedly at the request of Peck's wife Veronique, who claimed the film took too long to introduce her husband on screen. Whether Milestone would acquiesce to the demands of a star's wife remains a topic for debate, but the cuts, which supposedly excise chunks of dry roundtable peace talks between the Americans and Chinese, probably improve the film by keeping the focus more intently on the soldiers' gut-churning plight.

Though Pork Chop Hill stands as a realistic portrait of men in combat and hammers home the futility of war, it lacks the emotional gravitas of All Quiet on the Western Front and A Walk in the Sun. It may be the weakest entry in Milestone's war trilogy, but it's arguably the strongest American film that deals with the Korean War. It holds up well and documents a difficult time with dignity, frankness, and honor.

Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Pork Chop Hill arrives on Blu-ray packaged in a standard clear case inside a glossy slipcase. Video codec is 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 and audio is LPCM 2.0 dual mono. Once the disc is inserted into the player, the static menu with music immediately pops up; no previews or promos precede it.

Video Review

Ranking:

The HD master provided by MGM yields a strong 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer that brims with superior clarity and contrast and faithfully honors the dazzling cinematography of Sam Leavitt, who won an Oscar the previous year for The Defiant Ones. Much of Pork Chop Hill was shot at night, but never does the image look murky or fuzzy. Terrific shadow delineation keeps the picture vibrant and crush at bay most of the time, inky blacks heighten tension, and a wide grayscale enhances fine details and provides a palpable sense of depth. Grain is evident but almost always nicely resolved, resulting in a smooth yet film-like picture, and sharp close-ups highlight all the grit, blood, and stubble on the soldiers' faces.

The one minor caveat that drags the transfer down is print damage. Persistent speckling is the main offender, and though it's definitely more prominent in the first couple of reels, it plagues the image throughout. The white dots are especially annoying during the nocturnal battle scenes, as they disrupt the landscape's eerie, seamless blackness, mar Leavitt's gorgeous cinematography, and take us out of the film. A few scratches are evident as well, but it's the speckling that really rankles, and it's just a shame a bit more remastering couldn't have been performed to eliminate it.

That said, this is still a very beautiful presentation and it's a sure bet Pork Chop Hill has never looked better than it does here.

Audio Review

Ranking:

War movies demand powerful audio and this LPCM 2.0 dual mono track delivers just that. Expansive dynamic range allows the explosive effects and rousing music score by Leonard Rosenman plenty of room to breathe and a solid bass presence supplies essential weight. All the gunfire, exploding shells and grenades, and falling debris are distinct, the boots trudging on the dusty terrain are crisp, and though some of the dialogue gets obscured by all the sonic activity, most of the exchanges are comprehendible. No age-related hiss, pops, or crackle intrude and no distortion creeps into the mix. While this track can't offer the immersion of a multi-channel presentation, it still thrusts into the action and hammers home the devastation of war.

Special Features

Ranking:

Imprint supplies a nice extras package that fans of the film and Peck should enjoy.

  • Audio Commentary - Film historians Steven Jay Rubin and Steve Mitchell sit down for an absorbing, informative commentary that adds quite a bit of context to the film. Rubin calls Pork Chop Hill "a primer on how men fought in those days and what they had to do to stay alive" and provides essential information on the movie's production and real-life events upon which it is based. The duo examines a variety of topics, including the racial integration of troops during the Korean War, the deletion of 20 minutes of footage prior to the film's release, the background of some of the soldiers depicted in the film, historical accuracy, and the trademarks of Milestone's directorial style. They also talk about other Korean War movies, provide background on Lt. Joe Clemons (the character Peck portrays and the film's technical advisor), and chronicle Peck's career. Rubin and Mitchell enjoy an excellent rapport and their remarks heighten appreciation for this stellar war film.

  • Vintage Documentary: "Gregory Peck: His Own Man" (SD, 59 minutes) - Peck narrates this slick, laudatory 1988 biographical portrait that was shot during the production of Old Gringo. The 72-year-old actor recalls his insecurities as a youth, difficult childhood, brief stage career, and how he got into movies, shares memories from various films, and discusses his acting style. Clips from The Keys of the KingdomSpellboundDuel in the SunGentlemen's AgreementTwelve O'Clock HighThe GunfighterCaptain Horatio HornblowerRoman HolidayMoby DickDesigning WomanThe Guns of NavaroneTo Kill a MockingbirdThe OmenMacArthur, and The Boys from Brazil chart the progression of his career and such luminaries as Liza Minnelli, Lee Remick, Jane Fonda, Audrey Hepburn, Anthony Quinn, Jack Lemmon, Lauren Bacall, directors J. Lee Thompson and Robert Mulligan, and Peck's son Stephen honor Peck with heartfelt tributes. Color behind-the-scenes footage from Duel in the Sun, a variety show clip from the Jack Benny TV show, and rare photos and newsreel clips enhance the appeal of this enjoyable documentary.

  • Theatrical Trailer (SD, 3 minutes) - Peck introduces the film and says Pork Chop Hill "towers above every war story ever told." 

Final Thoughts

Pork Chop Hill may not have the name recognition of more lavish and lengthy war films, but it stands as one of the most affecting. This uncompromising portrait of a doomed regiment during the war's final days puts us in the thick of battle and depicts its horrors with unflinching grit. High-quality video and audio transfers and a meaty supplemental package distinguish Imprint's Blu-ray presentation of an important and enduring movie. Highly Recommended.