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Marlon Brando stars in this adaptation of Werner Jeorg Kosa's novel. Set during World War II, an anti-Nazi pacifist on a German freighter (who is seemingly working for the British) turns out to be a double agent who is working for a German spy.
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1. Historical background
This is I believe the only war film that was ever made which action takes place on board of a WWII German blockade-runner. Such ships really existed - most of them were large, fast and modern cargo ships which travelled initially from Germany itself and later from occupied France to Japan or Japanese occupied territories in the Pacific. Most were German but there were also some very succesful Italian blockade runners. Between 1939 and 1943 they would bring to Japanese greatly needed plane engines, high tech tools, electronics and optic instruments (like targeting devices for bombers) and then return with a cargo of materials precious to Germans such as rubber, tungsten, tin, vegetal oils, silk, opium and quinine. Many of those ships were intercepted and were either sunk by allied ships or scuttled by their crews, but many others went through the blockade. With allied navies and air forces growing in numbers and using a better technology, blockade runners had to stop their missions in spring 1944 - before that however they contributed a lot to the war effort of both Germany and Japan.
2. The film
"Morituri" was directed by Bernhard Wicki, a German actor and director who previously made the very famous German war drama "Bridge" as well as a highly praised Hollywoodian drama "The visit" starring Anthony Quinn and Ingrid Bergman - he also turned German sequences in "The Longest Day". Wicki was also a communist in his youth and for that reason spend some "quality time" in a Nazi concentration camp during WWII - therefore his hatred of Nazis was very personal...Read more ›
Brando's Crain/Kyle is a peace-loving, somewhat Bohemian German exile living under an assumed identity in India who finds himself blackmailed into going undercover as a Nazi by Trevor Howard's ruthless British intelligence officer ("You're a cold b*****d," snipes Brando: "I was born on a chilly island," replies Howard in the film's best exchange). His mission isn't to sabotage and sink a German freighter with a vital cargo of rubber but to prevent it from being scuttled so the Allies can claim the cargo for their own war effort.Read more ›
The plot, briefly, is this: Lotus-eating, beachcombing, pacifist German Robert Craine (Brando) is living in India during the war and trying to stay out of it (the war, that is, not India). He is blackmailed by a British intelligence officer (Trevor Howard) into boarding a German freighter and stopping it being sabotaged by someone already aboard so that it, and its precious cargo, can be captured by the British. This constitutes the first half of the film, and is quite gripping. "Morituri" was made after Brando started getting "difficult", and apparently he hated this film. But to my eye he is as professional as one could hope for, and shows what a great actor he could be when he tried. He holds his own on screen against Trevor Howard, no mean feat in itself, and plays his part with utter sincerity, conviction and believability. While on board the ship he manages to defuse the bombs that are sprinkled about, all the while avoiding discovery by the would-be saboteur, and managing to conceal his true identity from everyone else. However, as time goes on his cover wears increasingly thin, and eventuallly he is revealed to be an impostor.
But - shock horror! - we are only halfway through the running time. The writers of the plot simply couldn't sustain the story any longer. So a second story is attached - a lifeboat, filled with a motley assortment of survivors from a ship sunk by the Japanese, is picked up by the freighter.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An "old" movie which we greatly enjoyed and will keep to watch now and again over the years. Good servicePublished on 14 Jan. 2014 by M F-P