The Hill

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The Hill is a 1965 British-American prison drama film directed by Sidney Lumet, set in an army prison in North Africa at the end of the Second World War. It stars Sean Connery, Harry Andrews, Ian Bannen, Ossie Davis, Ian Hendry, Alfred Lynch, Roy Kinnear and Michael Redgrave.

In a British Army “glasshouse” (military prison) in the Libyan desert, prisoners convicted of service offences such as insubordination, being drunk while on duty, going AWOL or petty theft are subjected to repetitive drill routines as a punishment in the blazing desert heat.

The arrival of five new prisoners slowly leads to a clash with the camp authorities. One new NCO guard (Williams) who has also just arrived employs excessive punishments, which include forcing the five newcomers to repeatedly climb a man-made hill in the centre of the camp. When one dies, a power struggle erupts between brutal ex-civilian prison guard Staff Sergeant Williams (Ian Hendry), humane Staff Sergeant Harris (Ian Bannen), Regimental Sergeant Major Wilson (Harry Andrews), and the camp’s medical officer (Michael Redgrave) as they struggle to run the camp in conflicting styles.

“There really isn’t a lot of story”, said Lumet. “It’s all character – a group of men, prisoners and jailers alike, driven by the same motive force, fear.”

Sean Connery agreed to play the lead because it represented such a change of pace from James Bond. “It is only because of my reputation as Bond that the backers put up the money for The Hill“, he said.

Lumet says he told Connery before filming began that, “‘I’m going to make brutal demands of you, physically and emotionally’, and he knew I’m not a director who has too much respect for ‘stars’ as such. The result is beyond my hopes. He is real and tough and not at all smooth or nice. In a way he’s a ‘heavy’ but the real heavy is the Army.

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