Cast & Crew
A small platoon fights to keep control of a small hill during the Korean war.
Hell in Korea
Hell in Korea (1956, British title: A Hill in Korea) may sound like a composite of a lot of platoon-in-jeopardy war movies from The Lost Patrol  to Pork Chop Hill . Unlike the latter film, which was also set during the Korean War and depicted embattled U.S. soldiers trying to hold a strategic military position, Hell in Korea has the distinction of being the first U.K. production about the conflict which lasted from 1950-1953 and is interesting for its point of view which combines gung-ho jingoism with the grim realities of war. While the film is routine in almost every other aspect, it is worth a look just to see the roster of up-and-coming British actors who would all have major careers within a decade or less. Although the real star of the picture, George Baker, is less well know to American audiences, he has enjoyed a long and successful career in British television and film, appearing in such series as Bowler, I, Claudius and Doctor Who and films like The Dam Busters , On Her Majesty's Secret Service  and Goodbye, Mr. Chips . More interesting to U.S. viewers is the supporting cast that includes Stanley Baker as the volatile, hate-spewing Col. Ryker, Ronald Lewis, a veteran of several Hammer films, as a despised, weak-willed private, and in smaller roles, Robert Shaw, Stephen Boyd and Michael Caine, who only has a few lines of dialogue but still makes a memorable impression.
Caine had actually served in Korea and that was one of the reasons he was hired for Hell in Korea not just for a supporting role (his first substantial screen credit) but as technical advisor on the film. According to his autobiography, however, his expertise was for naught: "My function as a technical adviser was completely ignored during the making of the film. For example, I advised the crew to spread the troops wide as the latter advanced, which was militarily correct, but they replied that they didn't have a lens of sufficient width to take it all in! I also pointed out that the officer would have removed his signs of rank and worn a hat, the same as the other men, to disguise which one was in command, but George [Baker] was allowed to go into battle with all badges and hat gleaming, every inch an officer. In a real fight, he would never have lasted all of ten seconds. The most glaring mistake that I never brought to their notice was that Portugal [where parts of it were filmed] did not in the least resemble Korea; if anything, Wales was more similar. I did not say anything because I wanted to stay in Portugal I could go to Wales at any old time."
After the Portugal location shooting, the production, which was directed by Julian Amyes, returned to Shepperton Studios to film the remaining scenes. According to Caine, "The company held on to the film for ages before releasing it. After a year of waiting for the perfect moment, with true movie genius they premiered the film on the night that we invaded Suez. The picture went straight down the pan, and my movie career along with it. I bemoaned the fact that nobody had seen the film, until I actually saw it myself. I was terrible! My voice was awful...My eyelashes are blond and so are my eyebrows, which has the effect in close-up of something speaking that hasn't got a face, and it's not much better in medium shot..My appearances were mercifully few, the editor having decided that the cutting-room floor was the ideal place for my first effort at international stardom."
Despite Caine's severe criticism of his work in Hell in Korea, he's perfectly acceptable in his small role. His agent at the time, Jimmy Fraser, however, agreed with Caine's critique and dropped him from his roster. Julian Amyes, the director of Hell in Korea thought Caine had talent though and cast him in his next television production, Jean Anouilh's The Lark. For the next several years, Caine would bounce back and forth between the stage, television and bit parts before being cast in the 1964 historical epic Zulu, which starred and was co-produced by Stanley Baker, his co-star in Hell in Korea; it soon led to bigger and better things.
Producer: Anthony Squire
Director: Julian Amyes
Screenplay: Ian Dalrymple, Ronald Spencer, Anthony Squire (writer); Max Catto (novel "A Hill In Korea")
Cinematography: Freddie Francis
Art Direction: Cedric Dawe
Music: Malcolm Arnold
Film Editing: Peter R. Hunt
Cast: George Baker (Lt. Butler), Harry Andrews (Sgt. Payne), Stanley Baker (Corporal Ryker), Michael Medwin (Pvt. Docker), Ronald Lewis (Pvt. Wyatt), Stephen Boyd (Pvt. Sams), Victor Maddern (Pvt. Lindop), Robert Shaw (Lance-Corporal Hodge). BW-80m.
by Jeff Stafford
Michael Caine: What's It All About by Michael Caine (Turtle Bay Books
Michael Caine: A Class Act by Christopher Bray (Faber & Faber)
Stanley Baker: A Life in Film by Robert Shail (University of Wales Press)