Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. United Kingdom, 1965. Baroda, Bentley Productions, Jason Films, Monica Corp., Monmouth, Pennebaker-Baroda Productions. Story by Duilio Coletti, Vittoriano Petrilli, Screenplay by Emeric Pressburger, Derry Quinn, Ray Rigby. Cinematography by Erwin Hillier. Produced by Carlo Ponti. Music by Ron Goodwin. Production Design by Elliot Scott. Film Editing by Ernest Walter.
British intelligence sends three men across enemy lines during World War II to find and infiltrate a Nazi factory, where the Germans are creating rocket technology that they will use to destroy London. George Peppard and Tom Courtenay are already parachuting down from their planes when an intelligence error results in the operation being canceled but it’s too late, leaving them stranded and vulnerable in a hotel with an undercover ally Lilli Palmer (in an excellent performance) helping them get to their next post. Sophia Loren is top-billed by her producer husband for what is really a lengthy cameo, showing up to throw a wrench in the works thanks to her connection to these men, and putting herself in grave danger as a result. The third, and least interesting, act sees Peppard and Jeremy Kemp in the factory and having to pull off their sabotage before it’s too late and they are discovered. Exciting and colourful, the film’s choppy plot is not a problem given how swiftly it moves and how sympathetic the characters are: this takes place during a real war and there is plenty of tragedy to be felt in the devastating losses for a good cause. What keeps it from being a classic, however, are technical choices that probably went down a lot smoother in 1965 than they do now, Loren’s super sixties hairstyle and factory sets that look like something more out of a James Bond adventure never really bringing the period fully to life.