Ernest Borgnine is only in a few scenes, and even in these scenes his screen time is somewhat limited but Borgnine does not allow this to be a problem. His two earliest scenes are directly between Fatso and Maggio as they both purposefully get on each other nerves. Borgnine eats Sinatra alive in these scenes as he brings such menace in his portrayal of Fatso. Borgnine does not show Fatso outwardly aggressive yet he's more chilling by conveying the beast in the man just in that stare he gives Maggio. When Fatso threatens Maggio Borgnine does not show an empty threat but rather a sadistic guarantee that Fatso is certain he will get his satisfaction. Borgnine is fantastic as he makes Fatso such a sinister presence in his few moments on screen that he convinces of what Fatso is doing when not shown. There is not a second wasted in Borgnine's performance making an impact from even a few seconds. Borgnine best scene actually just might be when Maggio is brought to Fatso in the stockade.
Borgnine actually has only a couple of seconds to end that scene as Fatso sees that he has Maggio exactly wants him. Sinatra for some reason chooses to stare blankly at the screen in almost wonderment, not fear or more likely defiance in his face, failing to express what Maggio should be feeling. Borgnine on the other hand brings the most perfect vicious grin to Fatso's face and we know exactly the torture Fatso is planning without having to see it. Borgnine also deserves credit for being one of the actors who completely goes toe to toe with Montgomery Clift without ever being overshadowed. In their one scene together Borgnine proves a match for Clift. Their scene together is sensational as the two meet both having such a reserved intensity as the two suggest that two volcanoes are about to erupt. I especially love though that laugh Borgnine gives before he goes off with Clift portraying one again that above else Fatso loves the idea of the chance for violence.
Now I will note that this is a very short performance and he's not even like a one scene wonder since his role is spread very thinly across his few scenes. His role also technically is quite limited merely that of the evil guard who causes Maggio's downfall. I don't feel though this should be used to complain about Borgnine's performance as he goes above and beyond the duty (no pun intended) with the role of Fatso Judson. Although I certainly would not have minded a little more time given Borgnine here. Nevertheless in his sparse time Borgnine full realizes the sick nature of Judson and it feels as though his performance actually is that of a more substantial character. Not only that though Borgnine absolutely commands the screen for every moment of his performance. This is the definition of a great supporting performance because Borgnine manages to create a memorable and particularly effective character that adds a lot to the film while the character easily could have been just as forgettable as those Sergeants who hassle Prewitt.