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At the Metropolitan

By Edward C. Haley

Ever since wars began, there has been a controversy among military men as to whether the quality of companionship or aloofness stands by a commander best when he wants to obtain a "maximum effort" from his men. In "Twelve O'Clock High," Gregory Peck plays the part of the tartar, sent in to command a group of discouraged, tired flyers; he replaces a man whose companionability has allowed laxity in the group's performance and given it a poor record.

Darryl F. Zanuck's production films this study in the science of command very ably. The picture presents its flyers as normal human beings, afraid, yet not cowardly. They will risk their lives if they can find some purpose in the risk, yet they are reluctant and confused when their missions seem to be accomplishing nothing. Gregory Peck's job, as the new commander, is to give the group some purpose and hope of survival. the production is good because melodrama is kept out of the relationship between the men and their leader almost entirely.

But the picture falls down in the intimate depiction of its commander's character. For all Gregory Peck's grizzle, you can't help realizing that somewhere below that clean-cut chin he has a heart of gold. It seems hard to believe that his men couldn't catch on to the idea that their high command had sent what was really a nice guy down to do the dirty work of restoring morale to a jittery unit.

This movie is well worth seeing for its combat shots alone. Taken by the AAF in action over Germany, these pictures capture the perspective of air warfare--the instant disaster inherent in any given moment. The shots of daylight bombing of a German ball-bearing plant are remarkable examples of modern war's precision.

Though not the best war picture in circulation, "Twelve O'Clock High" is a better-than-average examination of an extremely interesting situation. Avoid the second feature.

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