I’ve always appreciated the work done by Gregory Peck. Twelve O’Clock High is no exception. The black and white movie is more of a psychological drama than an action movie, when the hard core Peck replaces his subordinate squadron leader Gary Merrill, who is perceived to be too emotionally attached to his men.
Peck comes on strong as a no nonsense, emotionally detached leader, who looks at his men as unfortunately expendable in the early days of the USAAF attempts at precision daylight bombing of Nazi occupied Europe and Germany itself.
The viewer observes a transition in the Peck character, General Savage, from hard driving, to that of a upper level middle management character study trying to sell “the cause” to the airmen under his command, to the same state of emotional attachment that lead to the replacement Gary Merrill. A fine cast of supporting actors help sell this movie as authentic as per the time period.
The action sequences are at times riveting, yet contain stock footage of Luftwaffe fighters being shot down by USAAF fighters, not the defensive fire of the bombers (there was no allied fighter cover over Schweinfurt). Also, footage of P-47 gunfire substitutes for that of Luftwaffe fighters in close-ups. Considering this film was made in 1949, the aerial footage is not detracting from the storyline of the film.
This film is a very good psychological drama about men and war. Sure, at times, it contains what one may call cliché, but it is the mold upon which future movies of the USAAF bomber forces to come were patterned. A movie well worth watching.