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The Hill

original film poster
Directed by Sidney Lumet
Produced by Kenneth Hyman
Written by Ray Rigby (play)
R.S. Allen (play)
Ray Rigby (screenplay)
Starring Sean Connery
Harry Andrews
Ian Bannen
Ossie Davis
Ian Hendry
Michael Redgrave
Cinematography Oswald Morris
Editing by Thelma Connell
Distributed by MGM
Release date(s) 1965
Running time 123 min.
Language English

The Hill is a 1965 film set in a British army prison in North Africa in World War II. It stars Sean Connery, Harry Andrews, Ian Bannen, Ossie Davis, Ian Hendry, Alfred Lynch and Michael Redgrave.

Contents

Plot

In a British Army "glasshouse" (military detention camp) in the Libyan Desert, the prisoners are British soldiers convicted of service offences such as insubordination, drunkenness on duty, or profiteering, and are subjected to repetitive drill in the blazing desert heat. The arrival of five new prisoners slowly leads up to a clash with the camp authorities. One new NCO guard who has also just arrived at the camp employs excessive punishments, which include forcing the five newcomers to repeatedly climb an artificial hill in the centre of the camp. When one of the prisoners dies (Alfred Lynch), a power struggle erupts between the camp's Medical Officer (Michael Redgrave), the Regimental Sergeant Major Wilson (Harry Andrews), and two Staff Sergeants Harris and Williams (Ian Bannen and Ian Hendry), as they attempt to shift blame among themselves.

Roberts (Sean Connery) is a former Squadron Sergeant Major from an armoured regiment, convicted of assaulting one of his officers. His reasons for the assault are revealed in dialogue midway through the film, and Connery's natural charisma, combined with his explanation, make him the sympathetic character of the film.

The RSM, whom one would expect to be the villain of the piece, is played by Harry Andrews, who gives him a certain likeable charm, even when making the wrong decisions. He is a career soldier who sees his task as breaking down failed men, then building them back up again, in his words, "into men!"

Staff Sergeant Williams is new to the prison, and his ambition is matched only by his cruel treatment of the prisoners; he seeks to use their suffering as means for promotion. "And what are you supposed to be," Roberts asks him when he is accused of cowardice in battle, "a brave man in a permanent base job?" The RSM seems to agree; in another scene, he slyly mentions the fact that the Germans were bombing the UK (including the civilian prison Williams worked at) just as Williams was volunteering for prison duty in Africa.

Staff Sergeant Harris is the conscience of the prison who sympathizes with the men, too closely, according to the RSM. The officers of the piece, both the CO and the Medical Officer, take their duties casually and, as Roberts points out, "everyone is doing time here, even the screws [prison staff]."

Awards

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BAFTA Awards

  • Winner Best British Cinematography
  • Nominee Best Film
  • Nominee Best British Film
  • Nominee Best British Actor (Harry Andrews)
  • Nominee Best British Screenplay
  • Nominee Best British Art Direction

Cannes Film Festival

National Board of Review

  • Winner Best Supporting Actor (Harry Andrews)

Writers Guild of Great Britain

  • Winner Best British Dramatic Screenplay Award

Quotes

  • "He took over days ago, you still haven't caught on!" —Staff Sergeant Harris
  • "Don't talk back, you different-coloured bastard!" —Staff Sergeant Williams
  • "Fancy I saw snow on the top of it." —former Sergeant Major Roberts, talking about "The Hill"

References

External links


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