Rock Hudson in Battle Hymn (1957)

A Sad Battle

Whilst on a bombing run during WWII, Dean Hess' (Rock Hudson) bomb becomes stuck and when it finally drops it falls on to a German orphanage. It leaves Dean filled with guilt and in the hope of being able to find peace he becomes a preacher in West Hampton, Ohio. But feeling that being a preacher isn't for him he accepts a post back in the military training pilots to fly in the Korean War. It is whilst stationed in Korea that he discovers a group of orphans who sneak in to the base to steal food and so with the aid of En Soon Yang (Anna Kashfi), a pretty teacher, they set about building an orphanage. But with war going on Dean will find himself having to make some tough choices to protect those he has taken in to his care.

I would imagine the true story of Dean Hess probably is an inspirational one as he goes from a pilot to preacher and then finding a way to combine being a fighter and a man of God. Unfortunately when it comes to "Battle Hymn" that story never truly comes to the fore and sadly, and I really hate to say this, but this ends up a surprisingly tedious movie.

Anna Kashfi in Battle Hymn (1957)

The thing is though "Battle Hymn" is a Douglas Sirk movie and as such it has the look, maybe not your expected Sirk look with some stand out colouring but still is identifiably a Sirk movie. It is all a Rock Hudson movie and with Hudson you have tall, dark, handsome, charming and even in hindsight you can understand why so many women swooned over him. The thing is that whilst Hudson delivers an engaging performance it is the same one you will have seen him deliver in a load of other dramas and it certainly doesn't stand out from the crowd.

Now this may sound harsh because there are those who watched "Battle Hymn" back in the 50s and love it but for me it is an incredibly by the book movie. As such whilst everyone delivers what they have to it at times feels like a movie on auto pilot with the rises and falls in drama coming at the same points as in other movies with the same sort of musical accompaniment to them which just adds to this blending in to the mass memory of movies you have watched but with nothing to make them stand out.

What this all boils down to is that "Battle Hymn" may have entertained audiences back in the late 50s, especially those who watched because of Rock Hudson. But now it doesn't have anything to make it stand out from the collective mass of late 50s dramas.