One Minute to Zero (1952) is a war drama that explores the conflict between humanitarian efforts and the inherent atrocities of war. This story is told through the lens of the Korean War and magnified through the love story of the two main characters. Robert Mitchum plays Colonel Steve Janowski, an American Colonel fighting to help protect the South Koreans from an imminent North Korean invasion. Steve thinks he has everything under control until he meets his match with Mrs. Linda Day (Ann Blyth), an official from the United Nations on a humanitarian mission to help in South Korea. Steve has to evacuate all Americans from Seoul but Linda refuses to leave because she still sees much to do to help the South Koreans. They are both fighting for the same cause but have very different points of view on how it should be done.
Steve and Linda begin to fall in love when Steve saves Linda from an air raid. That moment of danger heightens their attraction to each other. Steve keeps having to save the stubborn and reluctant Linda who keeps putting herself into danger. Linda is no damsel in distress though. She doesn't always realize the gravity of the situations she puts herself in but it's because she is determined to carry out her humanitarian mission is sometimes blinded by her will to do good.
|Steve carries Linda over his shoulder but she fights him the whole time.|
The romantic plot line is at the forefront of the story but this movie does not romanticize war. The film contains a lot of real footage from the Korean War which is both fascinating and often times difficult to watch. There is one very intense scene in which Steve has to reluctantly make a decision about attacking a group of refugees because North Korean rebels have hid themselves amongst a group of them as they march across the border. Linda watches this with dismay. This is a pivotal scene in the movie and very effective. Not only do we mourn the terrible loss of innocent civilians but also the deaths of American troops who leave loved ones behind.
Even with it's very serious subject, there are some light moments too. I think it is absolutely crucial than in any heavy drama but there be moments of respite. A little bit of humor goes a long way. Otherwise you'll be overwhelmed and will not be receptive to the story as a whole. There is a funny scene in the beginning of the film when Colonels Steve and John (William Talman) are getting ready and Steve realizes he needs to get his trousers mended.
Steve steps out of the room to hand his pants to a bellboy and John locks him out of their room. Linda catches Steve in the hallway without his pants on.
Seeing Mitchum both topless and pantless made me smile!
This is a great war drama for those who want a sobering story that really takes a harsh look at the realities of war. Blyth and Mitchum are charming and while their chemistry isn't electric you really do come to appreciate that their characters are meant for each other and they would see that if only they could set aside their differences.
Also, this movie is very relevant today considering the ongoing problems with North Korea and the growing tensions between North and South Korea. It's always great to tie in a classic film to current events especially when you are trying to get someone interested in older movies.
One Minute To Zero (1952) is available on DVD MOD from the Warner Archive Collection.
Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. I received One Minute to Zero (1952) from Warner Archive for review.