Through his company Heath Productions, this was Richard Widmarks first venture into film production. Directed by his 'real life' friend Karl Malden, Widmark's performance as Colonel Bill Edwards is everything one would expect from this talented actor.
The story is about a group of Korean POWs who were subjected to psychological torture and physical hardship in an effort to make them sign false statements that the USA was using biological warfare. After months of holding out, the senior officer suddenly capitulates and begins to try to indocrinate his men with Korean propaganda. One of the men dies mysteriously. On their repatriation to the USA, it is the job of Colonel Edwards to find out exactly what happened.
The film is set on a military base, Governor's Island,New York, though the introduction and later 'flash backs' take place at Camp Gee Gee in North Korea.
Edward's investigation includes two main characters, the senior officer Major Cargill (Richard Basehart) accused of treason, and Lieutenant Miller (Rip Torn) a main witness. There are many facets to this investigation and Widmark plays each with equal mastery. He uses gentle coaxing with witnesses at first, then when this fails and he is put under pressure from his C.O. to speed things up, he builds up the pressure to angrily try and get at the truth. There is a moving and tender scene when Edwards visits Cargill's wife (June Lockhart) to try and find out why her husband refuses to defend himself against the charge of treason.
The films serious tone during the investigations is relieved for filmgoers by scenes revealing the amicable and loyal relationships Edwards has with his team - right hand man Sgt Baker (Martin Balsam)and secretary Sgt Evans (Dolores Michaels).
The finale comes when Edwards brings Miller and Cargill together once again. Cargill breaks down and tells the harrowing trail of events that lead to his breakdown.
"You can't expect a man to be hero for ever - there ought to be a time limit."
This is a thought provoking film with a difficult and at times unpalatable subject matter, setting personal safety against patriotism. It is a film well worth watching for this alone, one worthy of a repeat viewing, and for Richard Widmark fans it is a must.