(director: Brian G. Hutton; screenwriter: from the novel by Alistair MacLean/Alistair MacLean; cinematographer: Arthur Ibbetson; editor: John Jympson; music: Ron Goodwin; cast: Richard Burton (Maj. John Smith), Clint Eastwood (Lt. Morris Pimpennel Schaffer), Mary Ure (Mary Ellison), Patrick Wymark (Col. Wyatt Turner), Michael Hordern (Vice Admiral Rolland), Brook Williams (Harrod), Neil McCarthy (Macpherson), Anton Diffring (Colonel Kramer), Ingrid Pitt (Heidi), Robert Beatty (Gen. George Carnaby/Cartwright-Jones), Ferdy Mayne(Gen. Rosemeyer), Derren Nesbitt (SS-Sturmbannf├╝hrer Von Hapen); Runtime: 158; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Elliott Kastner/Denis Holt; MGM; 1968-UK)

“If it’s a mindless roller-coaster thrill ride that you fancy, this is the vehicle that knows how to make it a fun ride.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Implausible but passable as pure entertainment is this big-budget WWII espionage thriller, even though it goes for a too long length of almost three hours and the climactic last hour is just filled with explosions. The war drama has nothing relevant to say about anything and the characters are never developed past the one-dimensional cartoon stage, but it delivers the thrills in its well-executed action sequences and is stunningly photographed by Arthur Ibbetson who effectively uses the location shots of the snow-capped Bavarian Alps (the exterior shots were in Salzburg, Austria) to play right into the story. It’s taken from a screenplay and story written by Alistair MacLean, written in six weeks especially for a Richard Burton vehicle to help the actor get a big box office hit after three flops in a row (which it did achieve, as the public loved this action-packed thriller). Maclean later turned it into a novel. Relatively unknown director Brian G. Hutton (“Kelly’s Heroes”/”Night Watch”/”The First Deadly Sin”) glorifies the heroes as men and women of great courage, and makes no effort to make any statements about war or keep it even remotely real. Famed stuntman Yakima Canutt was on board to coordinate with his team some daredevil stunts, especially the fight sequence on the cable car. If it’s a mindless roller-coaster thrill ride that you fancy, this is the vehicle that knows how to make it a fun ride.

An elite 7-man team, masterminded by British Intelligence and with one American aboard, are parachuted into the Bavarian Alps, wearing German uniforms, to rescue American General Carnaby, whose plane was shot down and is being held prisoner by the Germans in an impregnable mountain Schloss. The general was one of the main planners of the upcoming D-Day allied assault and needs to be rescued before the Gestapo makes him talk. The commandos are led by John Smith (Richard Burton), the best agent in British Intelligence. He’s assisted by a young athletic American Ranger Lieutenant Schaffer (Clint Eastwood). Inside the German compound, protected by guards, a high-voltage fence, Dobermans and a barracks filled with SS troops and an entire German division, are planted British undercover operatives to aid the commandos, Mary (Mary Ure) and Heidi (Ingrid Pitt). The female agents help the men take a cable car to the castle, the only way it can be entered, and it leads to much derring-do adventures as the mission has a sudden change of plans due to a few of the British agents killed by double-agents and that the captured general is an American corporal impersonating the general for secretive reasons. It’s now up to Smith and Schaffer to uncover the double-agents and escape intact so they give their boss Colonel Turner (Patrick Wymark) and his boss Vice Admiral Rolland (Michael Hordern) the means to clean up the leaks in their most important agency.

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