The Mountain Road

The Mountain Road is a remarkably prescient, sensitive, and insightful look at American military intervention in Asia. The 1960 movie, starring James Stewart, follows a demolition team that is trying to cover the retreat of the Chinese Nationalist Army in World War II, by blowing up the mountain road of the title.
I caught it on cable last night, and was blown away myself. There before me was a capsulized version of the problems of well-meaning Americans, caught in the trap of having to blow up a country to save it, not understanding the people they mean to help. It is a remarkably gritty and powerful treatment. I’ve not read the novel on which it’s based, by Theodore White, but I imagine the moral complexity of the tale is drawn from White’s experiences as a war correspondent in China. (He wrote more than the Making of the President books!)
Don’t be fooled: Not much romance for Cousin James in this movie
I remember seeing this movie when it first came out, at a drive-in theater with my family. My sisters and mother talked right through it, so my father stood outside the car so he could watch it in peace. Sensing a guy moment, I joined him. He told me that this was a special movie, realistic about what war is really like. I was nine or ten, so I didn’t get it very well. Now I do.
Oh, and don’t miss Harry Morgan in a bravura turn as the sergeant. It could have been a stereotypical thing, but it’s not. He’s great.
Harry Morgan, without Jack Webb!

Put on your NetFlix Queue. Now.