I was brought up on a diet of Commando Comics, Biggles and Alistair MacLean’s war novels. My greatest wish, when I was ten years old (and rated David Westheimer’s Von Ryan’s Express as the best book ever written), was to see the film version of the book. More about that in a later post, when I’m scraping the barrel for films to review. World War II is an obsession with me (well, almost: it shares space with Westerns, Mughal history, gelato, and a couple of hundred other things). So, a war film, and that too one starring Gregory Peck, was bound to arouse my interest. And am I glad I saw it.
Twelve O’Clock High is a war film that examines the relationships, fears and psychologies of the men who went into battle—and yet it never topples over into melodrama. The action is sparing, the acting excellent, the atmosphere very real.
I’m not a fan of mindless violence and blood and gore, but I’ve always adored old war movies. Whether it’s a fast-paced Alistair MacLean type thriller (read Where Eagles Dare, one of my all-time favourites) or a reliving of a real event, I love the atmosphere: the Schmeissers and the Vickers, the invariably atrocious German accents, the partisan natives, the courage and inherent good-ness of the good guys, which always triumphs over their own other weaknesses. Clichéd, I know, but watchable, too—as in this case.