review for The Rack on AllMovie

The Rack (1956)
by Michael Costello review

Screenwriter Stewart Stern's adaptation of Rod Serling's timely teleplay is heavily weighted with the same kind of Freudianism he brought to the script for the classic Rebel Without a Cause (1955). But Arnold Laven's uninspired direction adds little to the script, which is basically a standard courtroom melodrama. The entire issue may now seem artificial and dated, given the military's increased sophistication about the vulnerability of the psyche in combat and under torture, and it's now very unlikely that such a trial would take place, but there are doubtless a few diehards for whom this issue remains vital. Yet even if one discards the equation of resisting torture with honor, the film's Freudian mechanics seem a little too pat to be very convincing here, a fact that the script acknowledges in its equivocal denouement. Best is Newman's performance as the tormented officer, a part in which he evinces a quality of self-loathing that is startling for being so unfamiliar. Edmond O'Brien also convinces as the vigorous defense lawyer, and Marvin scores as an angrily contemptuous POW.