Friday, March 24, 2017


In 1942, British Intelligence gets reports that Germany is working on long-range rocket bombs (what became the V-1 and V-2) which could be devastating to England, and, if rumors are true, even to the United States. Though some are skeptical, Richard Johnson is assigned to head up an investigation of intelligence material, and soon photographic evidence is found of rocket launching sites behind enemy lines. Unfortunately, even though the Allies can bomb them, they can be rebuilt quickly, so a small squad of three agents are parachuted in to pose as engineers from occupied countries—as they are crucial to the German effort—and help sabotage the rocket project. The men (George Peppard, Tom Courtenay and Jeremy Kemp) infiltrate the factory using IDs of dead engineers, but face constant danger of being unmasked, especially when the wife of the man Peppard is impersonating (Sophia Loren) shows up at his boarding house. This is an underrated spy thriller with a nice balance of talk and action, and even a little bit of historical accuracy; the Richard Johnson character, Duncan Sandys was real, as was Hannah Reitsch (Barbara Reuting), the German pilot who helped test the rockets, and of course, the rockets were real, and did real damage. Churchill is a character, and though the actual operation seems to be fictional, it is true that some of the rocket factories were destroyed by Allied bombers, as happens in the climax to the film. There's not exactly an all-star cast—Sophia Loren, the biggest name, has an important but small role—but Peppard (pictured) provides a handsome face and solid leading-man heroics. There is strong support from Johnson, Courtenay and Kemp, and from John Mills, Trevor Howard, Lilli Palmer, Paul Henried and Helmut Dantine. The action and suspense sequences are handled well by director Michael Anderson. Recommended. [TCM]

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