The Rack (1956)

The Rack Movie Poster The Rack (1956)

Run time: 100 min
Rating: 6.7
Genres: Drama | War
Director: Arnold Laven
Writers: Stewart Stern, Rod Serling
Stars: Paul Newman, Wendell Corey, Walter Pidgeon
Captain Edward Hall returns to the USA after two years in a prison camp in the Korean war. In the camp he was brainwashed and helped the Chinese convince the other prisoners that they were fighting an unjust war. When he comes back he is charged for collaboration with the enemy. Where does loyalty end in a prison camp, when the camp is a living hell? Written by Mattias Thuresson
Release Date: 2 November 1956 (USA)

4 responses to “The Rack (1956)”

  1. IMDBReviewer says:

    Newman is an Army captain who returns to the U. S. after having been a POW for over two years in Korea, and is promptly charged with collaboration… Most of the film centers on his court-martial, which reveals that he did indeed cooperate with his captors after intensive psychological torture… Since he admits that he never reached the breaking point, he is found guilty, but the film suggests that society is responsible in not better preparing soldiers for the new methods of torture…

    From the moment he first appears in a wheelchair to be interviewed by a psychiatrist (evoking memories of Brando in "The Men"), through intense scenes with his father (Walter Pigeon), a cold, stern career officer, to the climactic confession, Newman projects the brooding, nervous, introverted quality of a man still in a state of emotional shock…

    Method mannerisms that Newman carries from film to film first appear here, and although sometimes overdone, they are generally effective: his glistening eyes, nervously moving lips and rapid blinking; his habits of rubbing his head, looking away from people and putting his hand over his mouth while speaking… All of these suggest a man burdened with guilt, withdrawn into his own world of shame and bitter memories…

    Newman is at his best during the trial, when he describes the prison camp horrors… Staring straight ahead, he recites his experience in a cool, deliberate manner, to prevent himself from breaking down… But he finally cries when recounting the fear of loneliness that led him to give in—a fear that was born, in his childhood, when his mother died and his father never had time for him… He cries out: "My father never kissed me!"

    Thus ultimately the film’s focus is the alienation between child and parent, which places it in the tradition of many mid-fifties movies, including Dean’s "Rebel Without a Cause" and "East of Eden."

    That theme would continue in Newman’s films: from "Somebody Up There Likes Me," through "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and others, to "Hud," he plays men with serious problems in relating to a father or father-figure… In that context, "The Rack’s" central scene, which follows the confession, has the father attempting a reconciliation… The two sit in a car, with Newman again staring straight ahead, maintaining the barrier between them… He stiffens as his father puts his arm around him, but finally gives in as the old man does kiss him… It’s the film’s most poignant moment—a personal victory for the soldier, who loses everywhere else…

  2. rgkeenan says:

    I’m always shocked that so few people know or have seen this film. This is an excellent movie by any standard: story by Rod Serling, cast with Ann Francis, Paul Newman, Lee Marvin, Wendell Corey, Walter Pigeon, Edmund O’Brian and others. The setting is the Korean and this a court martial trial of an officer that capitulated with the enemy while a prisoner-of-war. The drama is tense, the acting superb and the depth of feelings portrayed in a (then) controversial subject is intense. This film is one of my favorites of all time. I’m shocked there is no video or DVD and that it has appeared only rarely on the late shows.

  3. IMDBReviewer says:

    Caught this rarity on TCM. Much heavy duty talent is involved in this production – Rod Serling as writer, and the acting talents of Paul Newman (his second screen appearance), Edmund O’Brien, Walter Pigeon, and Anne Francis, with bits by Lee Marvin and Chloris Leachman, even! The effort must be marked as a success, with an even-handed treatment of the issue of "breaking point" in a war when the Koreans openly sought to crush their POW’s thru "brainwashing", a term that came into currency at that particular time. The cut and dried atmosphere of the courtroom proceedings are balanced by portrayals of the personal effects of the tragedy on the principals, especially the searing scenes between Newman/Hall and his father. A thoughtful film dealing with a major issue of the day, that is well worth seeing.

  4. IMDBReviewer says:

    Newman is very assured, in this only his second feature. He plays the POW home from Korea accused of selling out his country to the Reds.

    This is a compassionate film which explores all sides of the argument with understanding and restraint. The prosecution aren’t hysterical witch-hunters, and the defence aren’t wet-eyed bleeding-hearts. A serious set of issues is explored in an evenhanded but yet passionate manner.

    This is fascinating drama – very much of its time and it has dated but that only seems to add to its value.

    The ending is ambiguous and may well lead to a heated debate in your family.

    I recommend it highly.

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