Sam Spiegel was a displaced Jew with roots in Poland giving him a personal investment in the story. To begin with, all three Generals are suspicious enough. A colonel of the German army Omar Sharif investigates and suspects three generals -two of them Charles Gray and Donald Pleasence are involved in a plot to kill Hitler, the other one Peter O'Toole is the most crazy and dangerous-. The Night of the Generals has a flat, stagey look, with most scenes playing out in wide shots as Litvak struggles to fit his bloated cast onscreen. Grau quickly narrows the suspects down to three men whose whereabouts on the night in question cannot be accounted for. The fact that so many of those involved in making Night of the Generals, from the writers, through cast and crew to the producer and director all had first-hand experience of the topics they were dealing with gives the film an extra dimension of authenticity.
So, I am very pleased that Eureka Entertainment has given it the Blu-ray treatment and presented us with a lovely restored edition. He also suggests a perfectly practical solution to the problem of the disconcerting jumps back and forth in the period. Not available at time of review. He would go on to be nominated for eight Oscars but won none of them. The story ends in 1965, in Hamburg, with another similar crime. Colonel War Room as Raymond Gerome.
Two days ago, a friend of mine saw this movie again and sent me an e-mail. The Warsaw ghettos were little more than waiting areas for concentration camps that were already full to overflowing by this time. The small-scale night of the generals, when three of them were in Warsaw without alibis on the night a prostitute was killed, Ripper-style. Just like Pleasence and Gray, he had paid his dues on the British stage before appearing in teleplays for Armchair Theatre 1957 , Sunday-Night Theatre, and Theatre Night 1959. The mystery element is considerably mishandled, with scenes playing out after the killer's identity has been revealed in a manner that suggests the scriptwriters have forgotten the audience is already aware of whom the guilty party is. If his psychopathy was not directly caused by the war, the environment created by war and the ideology espoused by Nazis gave him license to give in to it. In order to stick a woman's name on the poster, a romantic sub-plot is shoehorned into the drama involving Courtenay's Corporal and Joanna Pettet as the daughter of General von Seidlitz-Gabler.
The Valkyrie storyline simply gets in the way, and it's played out with a lack of suspense, not helped by our awareness of its outcome. Feeling they owed it to producer for making them international stars in , they did so anyway. Tanz is admired and feared by those around him, a decorated war hero sent to Warsaw, by Hitler himself, to rout-out Polish freedom-fighters and end their resistance. In 1944, in Paris, this quartet is reunited and Major Grau continues his investigation. The acting is good throughout, and to see stalwarts of British war films like Harry Andrews and John Gregson playing Germans is both curious and original. It transpires that the victim, who had been stabbed at least 100 times by a maniac, was a prostitute. The case in Warsaw remains closed until all three officers meet in Paris in July 1944.
What happens when a stratum of society is either demonised or deified? Major Grau Omar Sharif , a man from German Intelligence that believes in justice, is in charge of the investigation. After the war, he had his first big hit with the noir thriller Sorry, Wrong Number 1948 starring Barbara Stanwyck and Burt Lancaster. He lingers fetishistically on the insignia, the medals, the textures of the grey fabric and the predominance of black leather. Strangelove seem like a gritty take on a Nazi. His second nomination was for the acclaimed war film Decision Before Dawn 1951. He uses very little colour except for bold red—a visual cue picked-up throughout the rest of the film and later by many a giallo director to foreshadow bloody murder. The novel did fall foul of some controversy over plagiarism of The Wary Transgressor, a 1952 novel by hard-boiled crime writer James Hadley Chase.
Spiegel himself had started out making films in Germany during the early 1930s until forced to flee by the Nazi regime. This artificial divide between the personal and political is the major device holding the story together and filling-in the deeper, philosophical subtext that runs throughout the film. His evidence soon points to the killer being one of three German generals: General von Seidlitz-Gabler; General Kahlenberge, his chief of staff; or General Tanz. Just as Major Grau gets close to solving the case he finds himself promoted and forced to leave Warsaw for Paris but the unsolved case stays with him and over the next 23 years he continues to probe in to what happened that night in Warsaw, 1942. The German army in Poland was having enough trouble feeding their own ranks and if the Poles starved, then there would be fewer to transport to the camps. German Radio Announcer voice uncredited.
After the war, he became a successful author of more than 60 novels, most of them set among the Nazi ranks, and highly critical of them. He then learns that on the night of the murder, there were just three German Generals in town without verifiable alibis. Man at the 25th Anniversary uncredited. The film would have run into problems with the Production Code Administration. What should be Columbo vs the Nazis instead morphs into an unfocussed mess, dropping the murder mystery element early on to follow a series of rambling sub-plots.
Also neatly ties in the July, 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler, with a cameo appearance by Christopher Plummer as Field Marshal Rommel. A fourth General, Rommel Christopher Plummer , is presented as the figurehead of the conspiracy. Some may find it a bit tedious and yes it is long, but when it was over I knew I would definitely see it again sometime in the future so in short: it works! I would disagree as I found it completely absorbing and never felt it drag. This is a philosophical debate that General Tanz has with his driver, Corporal Hartmann Tom Courtenay : as two men sitting together having coffee, what difference is there? Usually, contemporary armour was used in war films of this vintage - I'm thinking particularly of 'Battle Of The Bulge', 'The Bridge At Remagen' and even 'Patton'. Perhaps audiences expected more action-driven battle scenes, rather than a somewhat cerebral, character-driven narrative. Sharif was famous for having a twinkle in his eyes, but here he seems overjoyed with the potential of bringing an officer of superior rank to justice. When Grau, who is now a Lieutenant Colonel, learns of the murder, committed in the same manner as the first, he resumes his investigation and concludes that Tanz is the killer.
One potential criticism that leaps out is that Pettet and Browne are the only two strong female characters in a very manly cast—but then, certainly in the Nazi ranks, wartime was the province of men. It is in part an interesting study of German senior officers. That may not sound like much as many movies have flashbacks and so on but not that many older war movies employed this technique. . Hmm, now that would have been a very different story! Morand Phillipe Noiret is helping Major Grau in his investigation.
Donald Pleasence and Charles Gray portray the other 2 generals with secrets to hide. Meanwhile, a plan for killing Hitler is plotted by his high command; a romance between Ulrike von Seydlitz-Gabler Joanna Pettet and Lance Cpl. The scabbard and the long knife that slides from it. Three primary suspects are lined up - General von Seidlitz-Gabler Charles Gray and General Klaus Kahlenberge Donald Pleasence , both of whom are involved alongside General Rommel Christopher Plummer in Operation Valkyrie, the plot to assassinate the Fuhrer; and General Wilhelm Tanz Peter O'Toole , a cleanliness obsessed weirdo with an unfailing allegiance to Hitler. We hear, rather than see, the murder and the only witness to the killer leaving the scene watches through a crack in a door.