Along with The Gunfighter (also directed by the erratic but undervalued King), one of Peck's best performances as the martinet required to take over an exhausted World War II American bomber group in England because High Command feels that the present CO (Merrill) is too emotionally involved with his men: appalled by the casualty rates, Merrill is reluctant to turn the screw, and their deteriorating performance is casting doubts in high places about the value of daylight precision bombing, still in its experimental stages. A superb first half dissects the sense of demoralisation, with the group, already bowed under its reputation as a hard-luck outfit, initially wilting even further as Peck applies kill or cure remedies (like segregating the worst misfits and malingerers as a crew known as 'The Leper Colony'). Latterly, with Peck beginning to crack under the emotional strain and go the same way as Merrill, the film sails close to becoming a (less romantic) remake of The Dawn Patrol. But King's control, the electric tension, and the performances all hold firm.
Twelve O'Clock High
Cast and crew
|Screenwriter:||Sy Bartlett, Beirne Lay Jr|