Take the High Ground
Cinematographer John Alton worked with director Richard Brooks on five pictures: Battle Circus (1953), Take the High Ground (1953), The Catered Affair (1956), The Brothers Karamazov (1958), and Elmer Gantry (1960). Take the High Ground is rarely revived today, and we are taking a chance ourselves in bringing it back - both in terms of print quality (has the color faded?) and in regard to the film's treatment of an unappetizing subject, namely life in an army boot camp. The liberal-progressive credentials of producer Dore Schary, screenwriter Millard Kaufman, and director Brooks suggest a potentially moderate approach to the dramatic material inherent in basic training. Richard Brooks is on record as somewhat disappointed in the film's resolution:
“The point of Take the High Ground was something with which I was very familiar because it dealt with the same subject as The Brick Foxhole: an incipient fascist, a fascist approach in a democratic nation, with boys who were ostensibly fighting for a cause which was worth while. In other words, how much feeling do you generate to begin with in order to fight for freedom? But the bad sergeant turned out to be a good fellow at heart, and while some of it was good and realistic, the point of it was never really made.”
However, our main purpose in reviving Take the High Ground is to explore further the work of America's leading film noir cameraman, author of “Painting with Light” and cinematographer for such noir expressionist classics as The Big Combo, T-Men, Raw Deal, The Black Book, Border Incident and He Walked by Night.
In researching this forgotten film, we found one tantalizing notice in Films in Review (November 1953) which stated: “Indeed, the photography (by John Alton) of this predominately documentary film is frequently of interest per se, and some of the film's best points are made visually as the result of Alton's skills.”