Hill, The/A-, B+
US/1965/BW/Widescreen 177:1/Mono/123 minutes/Directed by Sidney Lumet/Starring Sean Connery, Harry Andrews/MGM-UA/33 Chaps/2 disc/CLV/$49.98
The Hill is a tightly focused film simmering from start to finish. Down and dirty directing from unflinching filmmaker Sidney Lumet, the production has the gritty feeling of reality about it. There is no excess in production style. What you see is what you get and what you get is a powerful movie.
Sergeant Major Joe Roberts is sent to a British desert prison camp during World War II for attacking an officer. Roberts, a decorated career soldier, lost it when his commander ordered his men into battle in a suicide situation. Arrested, he is virtually the lone survivor from his unit. Most assume it is cowardice that stopped Roberts from going into battle with his unit, but, it soon becomes perfectly clear that it was respect for his men.
A fascinating character study of men under the most grueling pressure, The Hill is unrelenting in its vision. The prison camp is run with ruthless authority by Sergeant Major Bert Wilson, with sadistic support from Sergeant Williams. When the men miss the mark in prison camp rules, they are sent up and down a sand hill until they drop with exhaustion. The hill has been built by Wilson to break any rebelliousness of the prisoners. It stands as a monument to inhumanity.
Sean Connery is absolutely superb as Joe Roberts. Playing against type, Connery sheds any hint of his James Bond persona. Pure working man, Connery drips sweat and seethes righteousness. He captures the emotional turmoil of Roberts. Its a performance of award winning caliber. His final scream is unforgettable. Harry Andrews as Wilson is fascinating to watch as he slowly unravels and Ian Bannen offers the only sense of humanity in a sympathetic role. Ossie Davis is also fine as one of the prisoners.
The chief obstacle to appreciating The Hill is the accents of the players. Often dialogue is lost due to the extreme British accents of some of the players. The film could almost have benefited from subtitles, yet the accents of the man is an accurate reflection of their roots and it forms part of the equation of why the prison camp can exist the way it does.
This is an excellent transfer. The white heat of the desert does not wash out the contrast level, yet its intensity is apparent. The pressing is perfectly clean from an immaculate transfer elements. The images are sharp with no peaking. The sound has no hiss and is recorded within its limited parameters cleanly.