I admit to have only watched Marlon Brando in abstract versions of himself playing total odd balls (Dr. Moreau), deranged minds in chaos (Apocalypse Now) or even hamster cheeked mob bosses (The Godfather). So wishing to expand his film archive I took a punt on this interesting sounding World War II sabotage adventure but low and behold he’s putting on another accent. To my relief he is far from mad in this film and holds this picture together with his immense presence and talent. The interactions between him and his co star Yul Brynner are magnificent.
Tagline – World War II, Espionage, adventure and human lives have never before been combined so explosively
Robert Crain (Marlon Brando) is a German pacifist who has escaped the Nazi’s and is hiding out in India chilling in a mansion, knocking back fine wines and sticking classical vinyl on his deck. He’s having a lovely time until he is found and blackmailed by Allied Colonel Statter (Trevor Howard). They want to use his engineering background and German accent to pose as an SS officer to gain access to a freighter carrying a shipment of rubber bound for Germany to be made into tyres for the war effort. His mission is to disable the scuttling explosives in the cargo bays so the Allies can capture the shipment for themselves.
What follows is a series of very suspenseful encounters with the ship’s Captain Mueller (Yul Brynner) a crew of ex cons and political prisoners and a do-gooder SS wannabe called Kruse (Martin Benrath) not to mention there’s a war going on.
I thoroughly enjoyed this film and have been thinking about it for the last few weeks. All the performances were stellar and the story is extremely gripping but one thing was so out of place and really quite nasty.
The introduction of a young jewish girl called Esther played by (Janet Margolin), who I must add is incredibly mind blowingly beautiful and had me transfixed. The thing is her story line is so tragic and utterly brutal that it felt so out of place. It is one of the most disturbing and heartbreaking stories you could hear and I honestly felt it didn’t fit in with the mood of the film at all.
Morituri is based on a novel by Werner Jörg Lüddecke and directed by Bernhard Wicki.
From all the new movies I have watched over the last month this one has stayed with me the most. The engine room sets were colossal and with all the noise, steam, grease and oil you could really feel the heat and danger when our hero Robert Crain drops down in the belly of the boat.
Fun Fact – Never underestimate the power of lard!
I read that the movie didn’t do that well at the box office, the title name surely couldn’t of helped unless you went to public school. To be honest I can’t even say it, every time I tell someone about it I say Sherlock’s nemesis Moriarty instead. It did get later released under the maybe better name The Saboteur: Code Name Morituri.
Marlon’s On The Waterfront was ticked off my to watch list recently too. That was one cool film and had me hook line and sinker rooting for Terry Malloy.
Here’s the trailer but be warned at 3 minutes long it does give away a lot of key points.
Further Reading Links