Twitter Plot Summary: Based on the real life Operation Crossbow, Allied spies go behind enemy lines to sabotage German V-2 rocket production.
Director: Michael Anderson
Key Cast: George Peppard, Sophia Loren, Trevor Howard, John Mills, RIchard Johnson, Tom Courtenay, Jeremy Kemp, Anthony Quayle, Paul Henreid, Helmut Dantine, Richard Todd, Sylvia Syms, Barbara Rueting,
Five Point Summary:
1. Those dastardly Germans are using rockets to attack London! The cads!
2. Sophia Loren: obligatory female character.
3. Didn’t see that death coming…
4. The odds are stacked against them, naturally.
5. Well that didn’t work out too well for him, did it?
Yep, another war film, this time with Hannibal Smith himself – George Peppard. It’s not available on DVD or Blu-Ray in the UK at the time of writing which is a shame, but you can get a copy imported from Spain if you feel the need to see it. Please note that if you do import a region 2 copy you can either get it in English with no subtitles when the Germans speak (handy), or you can have it all in Spanish and then subtitled in English, which whilst amusing isn’t the way to watch an English language movie. It seems the same problem blights the iTunes version of the film as well, so be warned, if you can’t understand German then you’re probably better off waiting for them to release a version of the film in Region 2 with subtitles. Either that or buy the Region 1 edition which I understand works perfectly.
Now that little rant is out of the way, the film itself. Set in 1944, the Germans are working on their V-1 and V-2 bombs/rockets which are targeting London. The Allies decide to send a team in to sabotage the plant, so they choose three of the best – George Peppard, Tom Courtenay and Jeremy Kemp. Each of them can speak fluent German and are qualified engineers, thus cementing their cover and enable them to get into the German base without experiencing any problems. Or at least, that’s the plan – one of the engineers interviewed by the British secret service is actually a double agent for the Germans, which creates an additional layer of concern for our trio.
Set design looks fantastic and adds to the feeling of real location, subtly enhancing the story at play. Yet again however the female characters are given short shrift – Sophia Loren turns up in a cameo role (yet gets top billing), very briefly, and was clearly only added to the project in a bid to sell more tickets. Her presence is arbitrary and adds little to the story. Either create a meaningful role or don’t bother.
Despite my issues with the Region 2 DVD, I like that the German forces all spoke in their native tongue. Whilst the story is a vastly fictionalised version of actual events, the language barrier helps create a sense of authenticity to the film and clearly delineate the differences between the Allies and the Axis. Apart from this it’s a typical 60s war thriller, the good guys have a job to do against overwhelming odds and it’s likely to be a suicide mission. Yet they push on and do the job regardless, because that’s just what you do in war, old chap.
The final few scenes when the action revs up aren’t too bad, but on the whole I think they could have done a lot more with the core concept. It’s a relatively fun adventure romp with plenty of intrigue and excitement, however I would have preferred to see something more in line with the real story. It might not make as entertaining an adventure, but it would at least be a taut thriller. This is one of the better war films released during the era, although bearing in mind this was released in the same year as Thunderball, Von Ryan’s Express and The Flight of the Phoenix, it feels somewhat quaint by comparison.
Favourite scene: The finale – it all builds to an explosive end.
Quote: “We’ll never win the war unless we are prepared to take risks. Sometimes great risks.”
Silly Moment: The fact that MGM had to rename the film The Great Spy Mission so people didn’t think Operation Crossbow was about Robin Hood. Ugh.