Kenneth Hyman’s production of The Hill is a tough, uncompromising look at the inside of a British military prison in the Middle East during the last war. It is a harsh, sadistic and brutal entertainment, superbly acted and made without any concessions to officialdom.
The ‘hill’ of the title is a man-made pile of sand up and down which the soldier-prisoners have to run with full kit, often until they are physically exhausted, as part of a punishment designed more to break a man’s spirit rather than provide corrective treatment.
The screenplay [from a play by Ray Rigby and R.S. Allen] puts the spotlight on a new bunch of prisoners, one of whom (Sean Connery) is a ‘busted’ sergeant-major, and a natural target for the vindictive and sadistic treatment. Another is a Negro sent down for drinking three bottles of Scotch from the officers’ mess.
One of the new intake collapses and dies, and that sparks off a mutiny, which is one of the most powerful and dramatic sequences of the pic.
Connery gives an intelligently restrained study, carefully avoiding forced histrionics. The juiciest role, however, is that of the prison regimental sergeant major, and Harry Andrews does a standout job.