Saturday 14 June 2014

Movie Review: Raid On Rommel (1971)

A derivative second-rate World War Two action adventure, Raid On Rommel arrives late in the cycle of films about the global conflict, and offers nothing new.

It's 1943 and in North Africa the bitter conflict drags on. Rommel's tanks have just seized the strategic port city of Tobruk. In the open desert, Captain Heinz Schroeder (Karl-Otto Alberty) is in charge of a small German platoon that has captured some British prisoners of war. The POWs including a medical unit headed by Major Hugh Tarkington (Clinton Greyn), and a few undercover commandos including Sergeant Allan MacKenzie (John Colicos). Schroeder is also reluctantly escorting the fiery Vivianne Gagliardo (Danielle De Metz), the girlfriend of an Italian general.

British Commando Captain Alex Foster (Richard Burton) allows himself to be captured by Schroeder, and with the help of MacKenzie and the other prisoners they overpower their captors. The British soldiers disguise themselves as Germans and drive behind enemy lines, with a mission to destroy German guns protecting Tobruk from a naval assault. On the way, they stumble upon Rommel himself (Wolfgang Preiss) and two tank divisions resting at a fueling depot, and Foster spots an opportunity to cripple German armour by attacking the secret fuel supplies.

Directed by Henry Hathaway, Raid On Rommel started life as a made-for-television project to re-use footage from 1967's Tobruk. With talent like Hathaway and Burton involved, the film found its way to cinematic release, but despite some reasonably exciting set-pieces, it is a relatively poor effort. The plot borrows heavily from both Tobruk and 1961's The Guns Of Navarone, as Richard M. Bluel's script struggles to find original ideas. The best that he can come up with is a smouldering Italian woman somehow traveling with German troops in the middle of the North African desert. Danielle De Metz sweats a lot and raises the men's temperature, but is then sedated into irrelevance.

Exciting as they are, the patched-on borrowed action scenes from Tobruk are easy to spot, and the rest of the material is generally limp. The same piece of music is looped endlessly, there are interminable scenes of transport trucks rumbling through the desert. Burton is dependable if rather tired, while the other performances are routine. Wolfgang Preiss emerges with some credit as an intellectual Rommel interested in debating stamp collections.

Hathaway inserts some weird psychedelic voice-over and flashback snippets late on, perhaps in an incomprehensible attempt to introduce some anti-war depth. This adds to the film's curiosity quotient but for the most part Raid On Rommel is running on empty.

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