3-D war in 1953, “With all the Explosive Impact of Real-Life!”
DIRECTED BY OWEN CRUMP/1953
STREET DATE: NOVEMBER 21, 2017/KINO LORBER STUDIO CLASSICS
Brought forth with the best of intentions and wooden sensibilities that would give challenge to even the mightiest of sawmills, 1953’s Cease Fire! is a cinema-defying hodgepodge of oil-and-water aesthetics and techniques.
Cease Fire! is considered noteworthy for several reasons, not the least of which being that it’s a Korean War combat film shot in the combat fields of Korea during the war, utilizing actual American soldiers for onscreen talent. The aim of producer Hal B. Wallis and company, of course, is to deliver an authentic work of then-contemporary historic fiction. Our (actual) boys navigating “the strangest war of all!” It must be said, then, that so much of the overall effort is in vain. The blah visual nature of the Panmunjom terrain gives the overshot Hollywood hills a run for their money. And these honorable U.S. soldiers may be many things, but “actors” is not one of them.
The sheer Eisenhower-ness of it is all but insurmountable.
The film is locked into the premise that, as peace talks drag on, word is spreading that the war itself is either over or on the brink of being over. Such a supposed inevitability, then, only underlines the subsequently heightened pointlessness of any loss of life in such a phase. While a boldly honest inclusion, it’s nevertheless weird, as Cease Fire! was conceived and created entirely as a propaganda tool to help disenfranchised Americans at home understand what this war was like for their fighting troops. Enacting scenarios of them facing, enduring, and succumbing to battle in such times can only further frustrate most anyone.
In an attempt to further amplify the attempt towards this goal, a novel, new approach was taken to the combat film genre. 3-D, that perpetually doomed parlor trick of a process, more typically utilized for such titles as Gorilla at Large and House of Wax, is employed in the interest of rendering the film all the more “realistic”, even “immersive”. The jury must remain out on the effectiveness of the 3-D, as this review is only able to cover the also-included 2-D transfer of Cease Fire!, alongside of the director Owen Crump’s envisioned stereoscopic version.
Cease Fire!, being a terminally G-rated realization of an R-rated subject matter (note: MPAA ratings were a good decade away from existing at this point), the artifice of the glaringly sanitized soldier-speak can’t help but prove unintentionally amusing to today’s eyes and ears. (An example of the supposed witty banter of Lt. Thompson’s hero brigade: “We’ve been walking a long time, but don’t seem to be getting anywhere!”). The sheer Eisenhower-ness of it is all but insurmountable.
Cease Fire! joins Kino Lorber’s existing stable of films rescued from obscurity in conjunction with the 3-D Film Archive. This diverse bunch of forgotten titles include 1960’s September Storm and 1953’s Those Redheads from Seattle. Whether or not these particular titles truly warrant the resources put forth for these restorations is another matter; for now, film buffs and war film aficionadros can be as happy as the vintage 3-D devotees that Cease Fire! has been recovered.
The Blu-Ray itself lacks a certain level of quality control, witnessed in a needless slideshow of stills and lobby cards which play out over the vintage radio ad for the film. The whole way through, the 3-D Film archive’s logo is awkwardly particularly cropped off screen. In the film proper as seen here, there’s at least one glaring audio dropout. The perpetual military march music, courtesy of composer Dimitri Tiomkin, sounds good enough to be stuck in one’s head for hours afterward.
The listed extras are a bit misleading, as the “In-depth look at Cease Fire!” feature turns out to be nothing but a referral to an essay on the 3-D Film Archives website. It is indeed in-depth, but it’s no blu-ray extra. What we do get is an alternate 3-D version of “An important message from General Mark W. Clark, former Commander-in-Chief, United Nation Forces in the Far East”, the film’s over two and a half minute opening sequence. Yes, the first thing viewers of Cease Fire! get is a long, locked-down single shot of a buttoned up military guy at a desk addressing the camera in regard to why the rest of the movie is the way it is, any why they made it in the first place. It is as exciting as it sounds, but also the authentic way for this film to start.
The images in this review are not representative of the actual Blu-ray’s image quality and are included only to represent the film itself.