Wednesday, October 29, 2014

WTF? What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? (1966)


                When is a farce farcical?  When it is Blake Edwards’ “What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?”  Edwards got the title from a question asked of him by his son.  Edwards had been in the Coast Guard during WWII and if he was ashamed to answer that question, making this movie was not the solution.  Edwards was coming off the underperforming “The Great Race” and apparently decided the box office blahs were due to too much subtlety.  He was hoping to replicate the success of “Operation Petticoat” by using the old more-ridiculous-is-better formula.  The script was by the usually competent William Blatty, who was coming off the hilarious “Shot in the Dark” (one of my favorite comedies).  “Daddy” was shot in California where a quaint Italian village was created for the setting.  Edwards went with a middle of the road cast of recognizable stars. 
                The movie is set in Sicily in 1943 during Operation Husky.  Gen. Bolt (Carroll O’Connor playing the same role as in “Kelly’s Heroes”) sends a company commanded by the green Capt. Cash (Dick Shawn) to reconnoiter the village of Valerno.   The Americans go charging into the village to find the citizens and Italian soldiers involved in a soccer match.  Capitano Otto (Sergeo Fantoni) immediately  surrenders and the crowd sings “The Eyes of Texas”.  Yes, it’s that kind of movie.  Otto insists on postponing he and his men’s trip to a prison camp until the annual town festival is finished.  Only the by-the-book Cash thinks that is a bad idea.  If you get him drunk, however…  Pretty soon he is not the only one.  Meanwhile, a PR Maj. Pott (Henry Morgan) arrives to chronicle the glorious American success.  He is taken captive by “Italian soldiers”, but escapes into the catacombs beneath the town.  Wouldn’t it be hilarious if he went insane and found a gladiator suit to wear?  Wait, there’s more!  When a fistfight breaks out between the Americans and the Italians a reconnaissance plane snaps a picture of the “battle” and Gen. Bolt smells glory.  Lt. Christian (James Coburn) realizes that to keep the farce going, they will have to stage a battle for future recon flights.  Luckily they have an enormous supply of blanks handy.  (Don’t ask.)  Everyone in the town is involved including the prostitutes who spectate and applaude the better deaths.  Don’t stop the movie at this point because you will miss the appearance of two bumbling bank robbers, four incompetent communists, and party pooping Nazis.  And hijinks aplenty.
                “What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?” is the kind of movie that no participant wants on their resume.  Everyone embarrasses themselves except the Italians, who were probably told it was a drama.  (I apologize for that swipe at the Italian war effort.)  It is sad to see James Coburn stuck in this.  It was fortunately a bump in his road as he made “Our Man Flint” that same year.  Aldo Ray continued his career decline and Shawn did not build on “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad World” from three years earlier.  All the fault lies with Edwards who had some ability with farces, but this one smacks of desperation.  The movie degenerates from the start to where you expect a cameo from a kitchen sink.  More is not usually better, but normally if you are going to get away with it it would be in a movie of this type.  Unfortunately, little of the quantity is quality.  The movie strains so much for laughs that Blatty must have pulled a muscle in his brain.  It does not help that the usually reliable Henry Mancini contributes a lame score.  Everyone was off their game for this one.
                There are some terrible WWII comedies and this is one of them.


Friday, October 24, 2014

CRACKER? Cast a Giant Shadow (1966)

                “Cast a Giant Shadow” is a pro-Israel movie released in 1966.  Hollywood was looking for a way to put America into the heroic story of Israel’s founding.  It found an opening with the tale of an American soldier named David “Mickey” Marcus.  The movie is based on fact.  “The major events actually happened…. The major characters actually lived.”  Take that with a grain of salt.
                Around Christmas time in 1947, Marcus (Kirk Douglas) is recruited by an Israeli to help train the new Israeli army called the Haganah.  Although Marcus insists he’s an American, he decides to go.  It will not be the first time he abandons his long-suffering wife (Angie Dickinson).  She is used to playing second fiddle to war.  Marcus led paratroopers in WWII Europe.  The movie flashes back to liberation of the Dachau concentration camp just in case you forgot what the Jews had gone through.
                When Marcus arrives in Israel, it is under attack from several Arab nations.  He is transported in an armored bus through an Arab occupied town.  He is chaperoned by a sexy Jewess named Magda (Senta Berger) who is married, but open to flirting.  They visit an Arab chieftain who is entertained by a belly dancer to contrast to the Jews who are constantly engaged in communal singing and dancing.  Marcus is viewed with suspicion by his new comrades until he helps rescue refugees coming in by ship and participates in a lame attack against a Syrian supply depot.  Is it possible to have too many explosions?  Yes.  One positive development is Magda’s husband is killed, so end of that complication.  The relationship develops as Marcus rescues Magda from an ambush.  Unfortunately, Kirk Douglas cannot rescue Senta Berger from being a really bad actress.  Marcus has to leave her when she needs him because his needy wife has had a miscarriage. 
                When Marcus returns he brings a mercenary pilot named Vince (Frank Sinatra) to be the Israeli air force.  When Egyptian tanks attack a kibbutz, Vince flies a Piper Cub and drops seltzer bottles on the Egyptian soldiers causing them to panic.  This is followed by a jeep attack which uses feigned retreat to lure the tanks into an ambush by anti-tank guns.  Marcus is promoted to be the first Israeli general and put in charge of the relief of besieged Jerusalem.  A failed attack on a fortress blocking the road to the city is fairly well-staged and enhanced by flame-throwers.  Marcus then decides to build a road around the fortress.  Teamwork.  And communal singing and dancing ensue.
                The film is a pretty good tutorial on the founding of Israel.  Naturally it is very pro-Israel, but it does not make up the basics.  Marcus did have a background with the paratroopers in WWII, but his role was enhanced for the movie.  During WWII he was a valuable member of Civil Affairs and helped with several key negotiations including the surrender of Italy.  He did parachute into Normandy and participated in some of the fighting before his superior pulled him out.  He supervised the cleaning out of the concentration camps after the war and did visit Dachau, but not in the circumstances depicted in the film.  He was approached by an Israeli official in New York in December, 1947 and asked to find Israel a military adviser to train the nascent Haganah.  When Marcus could not find anyone, he volunteered himself.  His wife was not amused.  Marcus entered Palestine under the name “Michael Stone” and did a tour to determine the needs of the Israeli forces, which were many.  He wrote a military manual based on the U.S. Army manual and gave valuable advice about strategy.  He did have to return home when his wife was ill.  Marcus did lead a force of jeeps and half-tracks against an Egyptian tank force that had invaded the Negev.  It is very unlikely a mercenary pilot dropped seltzer bottles on tanks.  After a failed attack on Latrun, Marcus was appointed the first aluf (equivalent of a Brigadier General) to unify the forces working to relieve Jerusalem.  Marcus planned a second attack which also failed and then he came up with idea of what he called the “Burma road”.  His death is accurately depicted in the movie.  He was “the last casualty before the truce".
                The movie was a worthy attempt at a biopic of a hero.  Marcus was the first soldier buried at West Point who died fighting for another country.  It also made sense to make a movie about the founding of Israel.  The movie is not “Patton” however.  It is not a warts and all portrayal.  That does not mean Marcus was a loose cannon, but it does mean the movie is very pro-Israel.  That is totally to be expected from a Hollywood movie made in the mid-sixties.  The casting lends itself to the vibe as we see cameos by actors like Sinatra who probably wanted to be supporters of the cause.  John Wayne was recruited to bring war movie gravitas. 
                The movie is technically sound.  The cinematography is adequate.  Elmer Bernstein provides a good score.  The movie has a lot of singing in it which gets to be a bit schmaltzy.  The set pieces are nothing special.  Director Melville Shavelson had never directed a war movie and it shows.  The violence is typically non-graphic for a movie of that period.  The acting tends to be hammy.  Topol as an Arab chieftain is especially embarrassing.  Sinatra is slumming.  Wayne plays Wayne.  Douglas is his usual reliable self and is obviously sincere.  The dialogue does not help the actors.  The movie is stuffed with lines that are memorably sappy.  I was forced to pay attention to catch the bon mots.  Here are my favorites:
-           “We’ve been knocking off a lot of guys who have been making soap out of my relatives.” (Marcus at Dachau)

-          “War gets you more excited than I do.”  (Mrs. Marcus)

-          “You couldn’t advise a taffy bowl without slugging somebody.”  (Wayne to Marcus)

-          “ The olive branch has not worked around here since Noah ran the Ark into a mountain.” (Marcus)

-           “This has got to be the biggest bluff since the invention of falsies.” (Vince about his air attack)

-          “Did it make sense for a guy with a steady job building pyramids to march his people into the Red Sea?” 

-          “I’ve been so angry at the world ever since I was circumcised without my permission.” (Marcus)

                The plot is themey.  It hammers away at the “war is addictive” theme.  Marcus is not the first cinematic soldier who prefers his job to his wife.  You do feel sorry for Mrs. Marcus.  Especially since the movie throws in the romance subplot with Magda.  Angie Dickinson’s role is almost a cameo.  The real “get” by the casting director must have been Senta Berger.  She was a hot sex symbol at that time (coming off of “Major Dundee”), but not exactly known for her acting ability.  The romantic subplot shoe-horns the requisite soap opera elements, but ends up leaving the audience unfulfilled in a twist that would not have been a twist in 1966.  Another theme is that of the underdog.  You certainly root for the Israelis.  You would be standing and cheering at the end if it weren’t for…

                In conclusion, “Cast a Giant Shadow” is a movie that needed to be made, but it only ended up being average.  It’s too sincere and simplistic.  It does not belong in the Best 100 War Movies list.


Friday, October 17, 2014

NOW SHOWING: Fury (2014)


                “Fury” is the new WWII tank combat movie starring Brad Pitt.  It was directed and written by David Ayer.  He earlier had written “U-571”, a movie for which he had to apologize for historical inaccuracies.  This time he took on a purely fictional story of a tank in the waning days of World War II Europe.  The tank is a M4A2E8 Sherman and it is participating in the drive into Nazi Germany.  The crew is headed by Sgt. “Wardaddy” Collier (Pitt) and they have been together since North Africa.  They are part of the 2nd Armored Division (the “Hell on Wheels” division).  The movie was filmed in the English countryside and had a budget of approximately $80 billion.  The producers relied on four authentic M4s and a Tiger 131 loaned by a museum.  The Tiger is the only operational one in the world and this was the first time a genuine one was used in a war movie.

                The movie opens in the aftermath of what must have been a tank melee.  The title tank is the sole survivor of its platoon, but the assistant driver was killed.  This opens the hatch for a green replacement from the secretarial pool named Norman (Logan Lerman).  He is not exactly welcomed with open arms (like all other replacements in war movie history).  Collier is determined to make a man out of him.  Actually, he is determined to make him into the type of man that they have become.  Norman will become a productive member of the crew once he learns to kill anything that moves and executes any S.S. bastard that crosses their path (because that’s what they would do to you).  The arc is initiated with Norman starting off as a reluctant warrior with some naïve morals.  He’s going to gain some testicles and lose that pesky conscience.

                The movie moves through the typical war movie flow of action followed by rest and exposition.  The combat scenes are amazing and among some of the best of recent war movies.  There is an assault across a field that features a dual with anti-tank guns.  Urban warfare of the tank versus sniper variety.  A four on one scrimmage against the Tiger which ends up accurately reflecting the odds against Shermans.  This particular encounter reflects back upon the opening title card that proclaimed that American tanks were outgunned and outmaneuvered by more advanced German tanks.  What sets Fury apart from this fact is that Brad Pitt is in command.  The final cataclysm involves the defense of a crossroads against a large S.S. infantry force.  It’s last stand time.  Surprisingly, the combat scenes are not shot in the “Band of Brothers” and “Saving Private Ryan” style.  They rely mostly on explosions and tracers with a medium amount of quick cuts.  Add to that the unique tank scenarios where you are racing to get that shot off before it’s your turret that is blown to Hell.  The action will have you on the edge of your seat, but not feeling dizzy.  You also will not need sunglasses to shade any bright colors.  This film’s predominant color is mud.  In case you don’t understand the enemy, the music is very Wagneresque. 

                Unfortunately, the rest and exposition scenes are troughs.  Some of the interactions between the crew and the maturation and acceptance of Norman are awkward.  There is a painfully forced blooding of the newbie that defies reality and is offensive toward WWII veterans.  Ayer’s attempt to show the truly horrible effects of war on the psyches of the “good guys” veers too far into the trite territory of “warfare strips away your humanity”.  There is also the equivalent of a dysfunctional family’s Thanksgiving dinner that includes the war trumps civilization theme.

                The combat scenes create enough good will from war movie lovers to overcome some curious flaws.  The film has some extended lulls between the balls to the wall (which happens to be the only graphic wounding that the movie does not depict) action scenes.  Curious partly because Ayer finds no opportunity to develop the characters.  They are all stereotypes.  Pitt plays the hardened leader who is haunted by losses (although he has apparently lost only one man in over two years of serious action).  The movie hints at some deep psychic wound, but never delivers.  It also implies that the crew blames him for something, yet they are ready to die for him with little questioning.  The crew is heterogeneous with the Bible-thumper named “Bible” (Shia LeBeouf probably not having to act too hard), the psychopathic hick named “Coon-Ass” (Jon Bernthal chewing scenery as a cracker, not a Cajun), and the obligatory minority wise-ass named “Gordo” (Michael Pena loving not having competition for audience appeal).  The acting is inconsistent.  Pitt is solid and obviously has watched film of previous actors playing the exact same role.  LeBouef is effective in leaving one to wonder if “Bible” is supposed to be a nutcase or a role model.  Depends on if you are a fundamentalist, I suppose.  Lerman is in over his head and makes the arc hard to believe.  He is cursing up a storm by the end, so there’s that.  Bernthal is the weak link.  You would be obnoxious too if you had dead meat tattooed on your fore-head.

                The movie is definitely more enjoyable if you have not seen a lot of war movies.  I found myself recognizing all the characters (Norman = Upham) and themes from previous movies.  Heck, the movie ends with a last stand, who will survive scene.  “We ain’t never run before.”  And like all fictional cinematic last stands, don’t expect reality to interfere with the carnage.  It is instructive to remind that this last stand is not based on a true story like “The Alamo” or “Zulu”.  As usual in a war movie aimed at the general public, “Fury” builds to a climax that crosses over the line of reality into the realm of ridiculous.  However, up until the end the film is a pretty good portrayal of the lives of tankers.  The tank interior is authentic and the operation is well-enacted.  The soldier talk is not jarring, although the addition of a catch phrase (“best job I ever had”) is a bit lame.

                Once again I have the dilemma of not wanting to scare off any future war movies.  They come along so seldom these days that you have to lower your expectations to not be crushed by unfulfilled anticipation.  “Fury” is a bit better than I expected.  I was skeptical about a Sherman taking on the German army by itself.  The movie confirmed my fears, but it was not laughable and it’s not like we have a lot of great tank movies for it to live up to.  I am not a big Sherman fan, but I admire the men who went into combat in them.  This movie does them justice, but to be a truly great war movie it needed a better writer than David Ayer.  With that said, he has improved since “U-571”.

GRADE  =  B-

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

CLASSIC or ANTIQUE? To the Shores of Tripoli (1942)

                “To the Shores Tripoli” is a service film that was directly impacted by Pearl Harbor.  The movie was filmed at the Marine Corps Training Center in San Diego in 1941.  It was directed by H. Bruce Humberstone (remember that name when I discuss how good the movie is).  Adjustments were made in post-production to take advantage of the attack.  The movie was a big box office success and was credited with greatly increasing Marine Corps recruiting.
                The film begins with a dedication to the Marines and a reference to Wake Island (“Send us more, Japs!”).  Wealthy playboy Chris Winters (John Payne) arrives at boot camp to carry on the family tradition of being a Marine.  He’s not really into that macho bull shit and expects to be treated like God’s gift to the Marine Corps.  They wouldn’t dare make him peel potatoes.  His father, the ex-Marine, expects the Corps to make a man out of his worthless son.  Something has got to give.
                Winters meets a nurse, Lt. Mary Carter (Maureen O’ Hara), and targets her as his next conquest.  She is torn because she realizes he is a hound, but she can’t help being attracted to him.  She even sticks with him when she sees him with his gold-digger fiancé.  She can’t help it!
"I think I can help with that inflated ego"
                Winters other significant other is his Gunnery Sergeant Dixie Smith (Randolph Scott – “Randolph Scott!”).  If you want to know what kind of DI he is - think the exact opposite of R. Lee Ermey.  Smith is the sensitive type of drill sergeant.  He’s going to make a man out of Winters through soft love (as opposed to tough love).  He treats the rest of the recruits with equal restraint.  Boot camp is fraught with – nothing.  (Join the Marines – We’ll Treat You Right)  It turns out that Winters does not have to peel potatoes!  Surprisingly, Winters turns out to be a good soldier and leader.  In spite of all the love, Winters and Smith still have to have the obligatory fight.  It is one of the worst staged fights in boot camp fights' history.  Sarge lies and says he threw the first punch so Winters’ father will not die of shame.  Plus the Marine Corps needs a few good lounge lizards.  The men go on maneuvers.  Winters gets to save Smith’s life when the Sarge ineptly gets left behind at a gunnery target.  Could this movie get any stupider?  Yes.
Are they fighting or dancing?
                In spite of being made into a man, Winters decides to choose his fiancé and a cushy government job over the Corps.  They are riding off into the sunset when word of Pearl Harbor comes over the radio.  He doesn’t care.  Just kidding.  He races back to San Diego and his true loves – nurse Carter, Sgt. Smith, and the U.S. Marine Corps.  He joins his unit as it marches toward a transport ship.  He changes into his uniform as they march.  (Payne claimed this piece of “acting” was the hardest part of the shoot.  Being an actor is so hard!)  A guy in the crowd waves a flag while holding a placard that reads “Me Chinese”.  Gag!  Winters father calls out “Get me a Jap!”  Arrgh!  Mary is waiting to give him a kiss.  Barf!  Everyone sings the Marine Corps hymn.  Give me a break!
                “To the Shores of Tripoli” is one of the worst war movies I have seen.  If ever a terrible film benefited from timing, this one did.  The proximity to the attack on Pearl Harbor explains its popularity.  Plus, let’s face it, 1940s audiences loved patriotic crap.  A similar movie today would be laughed out of the theaters.  The producers deserve some credit for being crafty enough to tack on the ending.  The original ended with the standard smooch between the leads indicative that he was a domesticated male.
                The plot makes no sense.  The characters are all unrealistic.  Nurse Carter would not have fallen for Winters.  Smith is the biggest cream puff in drill sergeant history.  Winters is unrealistic, except in Hollywood terms where he is a stereotype.  It is painful to watch three good actors making asses of themselves.  But then, they all acted poorly in the film so there’s that.  The only positive I can say about it is that it was one of the first films shot in Technicolor.  Maureen O’Hara got her title of “The Queen of Technicolor” from this film.  Ironically, she was a brunette for the film instead of her trademark red hair.  Another example of how screwed up the movie is.
                Classic or Antique?  Dinosaur.

 grade =  F-

Sunday, October 12, 2014

SHOULD I READ IT? A Man Escaped (1956)

                “A Man Escaped” is a French black and white film directed by Robert Bresson and released in 1956.  It is the true story of a member of the French Resistance who was captured by the Germans  in WWII.  The main character Fontaine (Francois Leterrier) is based on Andre Devigny who was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to the inescapable Montluc Prison.  7,000 men died at this prison.
                In the movie, Fontaine is arrested when he tries to escape in a car and he is beaten and thrown into a cell at the prison.  He discovers that with the help of a purloined spoon he can loosen some of the door panels and get into the corridor to make contact with the other inmates.  The prison has a shocking lack of security.  Colonel Klink ran a stricter prison camp.   The cells are never searched even though the authorities threaten it.  Fontaine gets a package which allows him to make ropes and he hatches a plan to climb out of the prison.  This becomes an absolute necessity when he is condemned to execution.  To complicate matters, a German deserter is thrown into his cell.  The dilemma is whether he should trust this young man named Jost (Charles La Clainche).  He decides to take him along. 
                “A Man Escaped” is a highly regarded movie.  It was shown at Cannes.  It got good reviews.  It is historically accurate in portraying Devigny’s experiences.  The movie does simplify a bit as he made numerous escape attempts with the subsequent tortures.  Some of the tortures were by the infamous Klaus Barbie.  The escape itself is very close to the actual escape.  That may be part of the problem.  The movie is lacking in suspense and has long stretches of boredom.  Surprisingly, the treatment depicted is not very harsh.  You certainly do not get the impression that 7,000 men died in the prison.  The acting is okay with Leterrier solid in the main role.  The soundtrack stands out because it uses Mozart.
                “A Man Escaped” is overrated.  Devigny deserved a movie and the movie does a good job as a documentary, but it is just too slow moving for me.  And I think the same would be said by most war movie lovers.
Grade  =  D  

Sunday, October 5, 2014

CRACKER? Operation Crossbow (1965)

                “Operation Crossbow” is a blockbuster wannabe that was released in 1965.  It is from the subgenre of war adventure similar to two other 1965 releases – “Von Ryan’s Express” and “The Heroes of Telemark”.  It fits the typical 1960s model of all-star cast and big effects.   The movie was directed by Michael Anderson (“The Dam Busters”).  It was made in England and has a mostly British cast.  A London power center was used for the underground missile facility.  The producer Carlo Ponti cast his wife Sophia Loren in what was basically a glorified cameo.  He then gave her top billing.  It’s nice to be sleeping with the producer.

                The film opens with Churchill demanding that his son-in-law Duncan Sandys look into the possible terror weapons the Nazis may be developing.  These weapons turn out to be the V-1 and V-2.  The V-1 is a pilotless missile launched against London via ramps in occupied Europe.  The V-2 was a supersonic rocket with a large warhead.  A subplot involves problems with the V-1 veering off and crashing before it can kill Brits.  The famous test pilot Hanna Reitsch (Barbara Rutting) is brought in to determine the cause of the problem. 

                The movie concentrates on attempts to stop the V-2 program.  Photoreconnaissance  discovers the factory at Pennemunde.  Churchill calls a meeting to decide what to do.  His scientific adviser Lindemann (Trevor Howard) is your typical pompous, pooh-poohing egg-head.  He argues that the site is not worth the effort.  It would take the total resources of Bomber Command and could result in all 600 bombers being lost and thus the war lost.  What a Debbie Downer!  Luckily Churchill is sane and gives the green light.

                The bombing results in the deaths of several key V-2 personnel, but the program continues in a new underground facility.  A plan is hatched to send a team to infiltrate the factory.  Naturally one of the operatives has to be a handsome, brash Yank.  Lt. Curtis (George Peppard) and proper Brit nerd Henshaw (Tom Courteney) are paradropped behind enemy lines.  Curtis has an encounter with Sophia Loren so she can appear on the movie poster and on the marquee.  The lengths the movie goes to shoe horn her into the plot is laughable, but the resolution is satisfying and she is lovely.

                Curtis gets a job in the factory.  Meanwhile London is being hit by V-1s in some pretty spectacular explosions.  To make matters worse, the V-2s add to the destruction.  Something needs to be done.  Bomber Command schedules a bombing raid, but someone needs to open up the launch door so bombs can go down the hatch.  This looks like a job for James Bond or Lt. Curtis.  Prepare to see what one man with a submachine gun can do to lots of Germans and what collateral explosions look like.  Spoiler alert: we win the war.

                The movie is loosely based on the truth.  The V-1 (known as “buzz bombs”) and V-2 are accurately portrayed in their use and effects.  Hanna Reitsch is an actual person and one of the most fascinating figures in the war.  She was Hitler’s favorite pilot.  She became famous for her test pilot skills.  She worked on perfecting the notoriously fickle Me-163, one of the first jet fighters.  She was awarded the Iron Cross.  She flew into besieged Berlin in the last week of the war in Europe to deliver Goering’s successor to the Bunker.  She personally tried to persuade der Fuhrer to escape with her.  Imagine if he had taken her up on her offer.  Her test flight in the movie is close to reality.  She actually was trying to determine why the piloted version of the V-1 was crashing on landing.  The piloted version was developed as a possible “kamikaze”, but even Hitler would not give final approval.  This version was launched by another aircraft, not by way of a ramp like the unmanned version.

                Several characters in the film are historical.  Lindemann was Churchill’s scientific adviser and he was skeptical of the terror weapons.  He thought they were most likely a Nazi deception to divert Allied resources.  Churchill did overrule him at a meeting and had Sandys pursue Operation Crossbow.  This included the bombing raid on Pennemunde depicted in the film.  The movie exaggerates the deaths of key Nazi scientists, but the damage to the factory and the subsequent relocation to an underground site was close to reality.  At this point the film leaves reality behind.  None of the operatives are based on real people and the mission is pure bull.  I found no corroboration for the bombing of the underground rocket base.

                “Operation Crossbow” is a misfire.  It has no flow to it and parts are boring.  There is little suspense which is surprising for this subgenre.  The action is stereotypical with a one man army vibe.   The cast is distinguished, but some of the performances are flown in (in the case of Loren, probably literally).  Peppard was forced to make the movie for contractual reasons and this might explain his wooden performance (although he was sort of known for those kind of performances).  Howard has one of his few bad roles as the dunderhead Lindemann.  There is a good turn by Anthony Quayle mainly due to the twist in his character.  The dialogue is average, but kudos for the characters speaking the appropriate language.  (That’s right young people, you will have to read subtitles.)  There is no welcome humor to cut the faux suspense.  The strength of the movie is its effects.  It blows up things real good.  One shot has a row of apartments destroyed by a buzz bomb.  (The producers found a row of flats scheduled for demolition.)  The music is pretty epic and sounds, not surprisingly, like Anderson’s “The Dam Busters” (a great score to crib from).

                Speaking of cribbing, “Operation Crossbow” wants to be “The Guns of Navarone”.  Unfortunately, it is a stupid movie with too many implausibilities.  The public got that buzz and it did not do well at the box office even after they moronically changed the title to “The Great Spy Mission” under the theory that people were not going to it because they were thinking it was a medical movie!  (Medieval medicine, I suppose.) 

When I eventually do my post on the best movies of its subgenre, it will not be near the top.  For now, here’s a taste:

1.       Where Eagles Dare

2.        Kelly’s Heroes

3.        Inglorious Basterds

4.        The Dirty Dozen

5.       Guns of Navarone

6.       The Eagle Has Landed