Night Ambush (1957) Poster

(1957)

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8/10
Comments on past comments, and a little more
tim-48219 December 2002
Like 'Spleen', I first thought that we were seeing genuine Cretan landscapes. But what puzzled me was not being able to recognise any of it - even allowing for change - especially the coastline where Moss and his party landed. (In his book, he refers to a distinctive landscape) A little digging - on this site- revealed that the film was made in France and Italy with no mention of Crete. The title, 'Ill met by moonlight' surely refers to the 'meeting' of Kreipe and his abductors. The film couldn't really show the fact that Leigh Fermor and Moss et al attempted the abduction on the four evenings that preceeded the actual abduction. The earlier attempts were abandoned because Kreipe came along whilst it was too early for moonlight! (one wonders why was it necessary to change the title for the US market?) I thoroughly enjoy the film, watch it every opportunity and each time pick up something that I've missed previously. However, I cannot help but wonder how much better it might have been if the writers had stuck more closely to the original script throughout. They had informed advisers available, Micky Akoumianakis was a true participant, and Houseman was in Crete as an British agent for a long part of the occupation. Though thoroughly grounded in fact, the few 'elaborations' detract from what was surely a solid enough story to stand on its own.

Regardless of the differences, I continue to regard the film as one of my most favourites.
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A good genre film but it's a shame that P&P's last film together could be called ordinary
bob the moo30 July 2004
With Crete resistance deftly trying to undermine the occupation of the German army, a cunning plan is prepared that will undermine them by pulling off a daring coup from right under their noses. With only a handful of Cretan resistance fighters, Major Fermor and Captain Moss attempt to kidnap the head of the German army on Crete – Major Kreipe. With considerable ease they pull off the kidnapping but they still need to get off the island with their polite but dangerous quarry.

On one night last week I decided to sit down and watch two films that I had taped – both by the legendary Powell and Pressburger (the other being The Canterbury Tale). I sat down to Ill with reasonable expectations as it was to have been their final film together and I had hoped that they would have gone out on a bang by giving the overworked (at the time) genre of war movies a real boost. Based on a real mission (from Captain Moss' memoirs) this film is a good example of the genre but, other than that, there isn't a great deal to recommend it for. The plot is interesting even if they have stripped away a great deal of detail from the story and replaced it with some humour and some stiff upper lips but it has nothing extraordinary about it that would make it stand out from the crowd. The film has a couple of laughs in it but mostly it is a rather serious film – in a way this is not a bad thing as it avoids the usual flag waving quite well and focuses on being a solid story as opposed to a morale booster.

Other reviews have commented on the beauty of Crete's landscapes as filmed here but as far as I am aware the film was made in parts of mainland Europe but I take the point – the film, mostly external shots, looks great throughout. Aside from the landscapes though there is nothing that really makes it stand out as a Powell & Pressburger film – in fact perhaps the extraordinary thing about the film is how unextraordinary it was; if I hadn't known that it was from the Archers then I would never have guessed. The cast match their material with a fairly ordinary series of performances.

Bogarde seems very relaxed in the lead and he is enjoyable even if it would not even register on the radar of his best performances. Oxley is not as good as he has a straighter role to allow Bogarde to carry himself with more of a swagger without off-balancing the film; he is a bit flat at times but mostly he does well. Goring plays it very well and he is an enjoyable sportsman in contrast to the feeble Nazi's that the genre would throw up during the war. The Greek support cast are not as heroic as I think their real lives deserved but they are used well for comic effect.

Overall this is a solid entry into the genre that tells it straight with some humour and a good steady pace – nothing special but it avoids the flag waving that the genre often falls into. However, when you are talking about a Powell and Pressburger film then, although I enjoyed it, one has to feel a bit of regret that such famous names ended their famous partnership with a film that is regularly called 'ordinary'.
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8/10
Straight WWII adventure - in some respects
Spleen24 January 2000
Think of `The Guns of Navarone', but with these differences:

(1) The band of adventurers genuinely like each other.

(2) Their mission is not to blow anything up. Rather, they plan to kidnap a German general and take him to Cairo. It's a publicity stunt. But it soon ceases to be a MERE publicity stunt: demonstrating German vulnerability may be as important as creating it.

(3) We get a good look at Crete - and NOT just because of spectacular scenic photography. We really feel at home on Cretan soil. Michael Powell, who had a talent for finding out-of-the-way composers (he also introduced Ralph Vaughan Williams and Brian Easdale to the cinema) has this time found Mikis Theodorakis, whose score is strongly flavoured but friendly to the ear.

With all this, `Ill Met by Moonlight' is an unusual venture by Powell and Pressburger, in that it isn't unusual: it's another World War II mission story, and there have been dozens. It IS more civilised than most. It tells its simple story neatly and cleanly; it's sweet, unpretentious, and disappointing only in that, since it was Powell and Pressburger's last official collaboration, it would have been nice to go out with a bigger bang.

The title is a line from `A Midsummer Night's Dream'. Its relevance is not obvious, at any rate not to me. Am I missing something?
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Reason for the title
jatrius3 February 2004
Yes , it does come from A Midsummer Night's Dream.

This is because when the operation occurred, the British operators went under the codenames of Oberon, Titania and Ariel for the radio traffic back to Cairo. See Xan Fielding's memoirs as well as Lawrence Durrell's recollections of Paddy Leigh Fermor in Bitter Lemons, his reminiscences of the British campaign against EOKA in Cyprus in the late 50s.

It's not that bad a movie as it absolutely avoids the mawkishness of a propaganda piece and has a semi-documentary feel to it. You must remember there was an entire SS division on the island against which the 5 Britons and about 800 partisans were ranged. It is not so much derring-do as in the vein of The Password is Courage, another excellent true - life drama of Bogarde's.
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9/10
Ill Met by Moonlight and SIS (British Intelligence)
daxart1 April 2006
What may not be widely known to movie fans is that at least two, or possibly three members of the cast of Ill Met by Moonlight, were former serving British Army Intelligence Officers. Dirk Bogart served as a British Intelligence Officer during WW2 on mainland Europe and in particular in Germany. His job was to round up Nazi Concentration Camp Guards. Bogart was at Belsen CC on day one of liberation. The movie, although based upon a novel by the same name, is not a fiction, but based upon actual events which took place in Crete involving SIS (Secret Intelligence Service) Officers and Greek Army Officers and local Cretan Royalists. The plan was to capture a German general and smuggle him out to Cairo. This was in effect an SAS operation which was highly successful. The movie came too close to reality for comfort and I believe that UK SIS wanted to protect former members of the Cretan Resistance as well as it's own serving officers who had taken part in the operation. To this end, I think SIS saw to it that the movie was dominated by one of their own, Dirk Bogart.

daxart
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7/10
Powell and Pressburger's last film
blanche-210 June 2009
"Ill Met by Moonlight" is a different kind of film for The Archers, and sadly, their last venture together.

It's a World War II film, based on real-life events in Crete, about the British army and members of the Crete resistance who kidnap a German officer (Marius Goring) in order to send him to Egypt.

The British are headed up by Dirk Bogarde.

It's a slow moving film, without a tremendous amount of suspense, but I have to say I enjoyed it. It's rich in humor and examples of camaraderie among the soldiers and resistance workers. The photography is excellent, though it's no Black Narcissus.

The problem with it is that it isn't up to the usual standards of Powell and Pressburger and not representative of them. I do love Dirk Bogarde, though, in everything.
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The worst Powell/Pressburger film; it relies on stock plot devices
bensonj9 December 2004
This must be the worst film by Powell and Pressburger. Powell describes its failures so well (in his autobiography MILLION DOLLAR MOVIE, page 364) that one need not dwell on all the details. The biggest problem is the flip, arch, schoolboy attitude of the characters. Powell complains of Bogarde, and claims that his performance effected the others, but the script and direction can't escape blame. One of the strong moments in the much more interesting non-fiction book this is based on is when the author realizes that it's not just fun and games but all for real when the general's driver gets killed. This moment of realization is not in the film. The travel across the island with the general is much too long, and there is no evolution to the relationship between the general and his captors, which makes it very tedious. Goring is a weak-sister general; perhaps Powell's first choice of Curt Jurgens could have made a difference. But the greatest disappointment is the use of hackneyed dramatic structure, particularly in the final scenes. Whether Powell and Pressburger were good or bad, they were always original. But the sequence where the general tries to bribe the boy is so familiarly presented that every step of its structure is obvious from the start. Ditto the scene when the general leaves his hat, where we're given a clue in the dialogue that the British are on to this ruse. The scene is baldly inserted to give some sense of danger to the trek. Then there's the "I don't know Morse code, do you?" routine at the end, which is lazily resolved by Cusak coming up out of nowhere with no particular explanation. These, and other tired script devices are taken, unadorned, straight out of Saturday matinée westerns. I can forgive the lack of pacing, but not this. The photography is stunning, even though the "on-location" isn't Crete. And despite Powell's disparaging remarks about VistaVision, it really enhances the black and white.
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8/10
interesting WW II spy intrigue from U.K.
ksf-210 June 2009
Filmed ten years AFTER the end of the second world war, Night Ambush (ILL MET BY MOONLIGHT to the rest of the world) is a story of British operatives in Crete, reporting home on the activities of the Germans. Their plan is to grab a German officer and take him away. The only name I recognized here is British actor Dirk Bogarde, who plays Major Patrick Fermor. In this story, David Oxley plays Captain I.W. Stanley Moss; Moss is also the original author of his own true account of this WWII story, according to Wikipedia. Part of the story is kind of a jolly old adventure, with dancing and singing, which was a little odd for spies keeping a low profile. Take note of the German officer who barges in at the dentist's office to inspect everyone's papers; Christopher Lee (would have been about 30) has played many roles, frequently the villain in Star Wars, Man with the Golden Gun, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and even Sherlock Holmes. Interesting career,he has worked with many of the greats. As others have mentioned, incredible outdoor photography, which seems to be the Italian Alps. Quite good quality sound and photography by the Rank Organisation, for the 1950s. Screenplay and direction by Powell and Pressburger, who had made 25 films together. Good way to spend 104 minutes (although IMDb shows "US version 93 mins", Turner Classics DID show the 104 min version ....there were a couple off- color remarks, but certainly not 10 minutes worth.) Doesn't seem to have won any awards, but interesting spy story from WW II.
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Quite an entertaining war adventure film but it could have been a great deal better
GusF16 March 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Based on the 1950 book of the same name by W. Stanley Moss, this is quite an entertaining war adventure film but it could have been a great deal better. It tells the story of the kidnapping of General Heinrich Kriepe, the commander of the German occupation force on Crete, by Moss, his Special Operations Executive (SOE) colleague Major Patrick Leigh Fermor and the Cretan resistance in April 1944. However, it approaches the material with a light touch, incorporating quite a bit of humour and often seeming like a "Boy's Own" adventure. I don't have any problem with this approach but it is not executed as well as I would have liked. The film was released under the rather more obvious title "Night Ambush" in the United States.

The script by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger is fairly good but there are a few structural problems. It was a mistake for the kidnapping to occur comparatively early in the film as the planning stages could have been much more interesting and it sometimes feels as if it has nowhere to go after that. The depiction of the kidnapping itself was apparently accurate but it was not depicted in a very exciting manner. After that, there is not much of a sense of suspense or tension as the two British officers and the Cretans evade the Nazi patrols comparatively easily. However, I did like the fact that there was a sense of mutual respect and admiration between the British and German forces, something which Powell and Pressburger explored in more depth in "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp". While the writing is not up to their usual high standard, the duo's direction is as deft as ever. The film looks beautiful and it makes great use of the beautiful scenery of the south of France. Unfortunately, this was the final film that they made together under their production company, the Archers, but they later collaborated on "They're a Weird Mob" in 1966 and "The Boy Who Turned Yellow" in 1972.

The film stars Dirk Bogarde in a characteristically excellent performance as Leigh Fermor, a colourful gentleman adventurer and scholar soldier of the old mould. Known as "Philedem" to the Greeks, he played a major role in helping to organise the Cretan resistance during the war. Bogarde brings all of the considerable charm and charisma at his disposal but Leigh Fermor was seemingly a larger than life figure and there are, at best, only a few hints of that in the script. Powell and Pressburger regular Marius Goring is very good as the honourable General Kriepe but I would have still preferred if their original choice Curd Jürgens had been cast instead. That said, Bogarde and Goring have good chemistry. Plus, their slight resemblance makes it easier to buy that Leigh Farmer could be mistaken for Kriepe in the dark than it would have been if the far larger Jürgens had been cast. David Oxley, probably best known for playing the small role of Sir Hugo Baskerville in "The Hound of the Baskervilles" (1959), is fairly dull and forgettable as Moss. In contrast to Bogarde, he is mostly charisma free. Cyril Cusack is great as Captain Sandy Rendel, who was not washed for six months and has the pungent smell to prove it. Wolfe Morris, Michael Gough and Laurence Payne are very good as Leigh Farmer and Moss' Cretan allies George, Manoli and Andoni Zoidakis respectively, even though Gough's Greek accent is practically non-existent. The film also features nice small appearances from former SOE operative Christopher Lee and Richard Marner (both of whom got to make use of their fluent German), George Pravda and an uncredited David McCallum in his film debut.

Overall, this is a fun film belonging to the "men on a mission" World War II subgenre but I would have liked it if the Archers had bowed out on a stronger film.
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NOT the final joint effort by Powell-Pressburger
craigbhill3 June 2013
This story, which i found a lot better than everyone else who has posted, is neither the final film from The Archers, or what was left of them, the two principals (see 'They're a Weird Mob' of 1966 and 'The Boy Who Turned Yellow', 1972), nor their worst film, nor Pressburger's alone, as some have claimed. I can't see how this film, which is neither predictable nor unsuspenseful, can be graded lower than the Graf Spree/River Plate disaster, which includes a big scene in it wherein the main characters sit around a table and describe the end of the German warship rather than show what they're describing because the producers ran out of money! THAT is pretty ignominious, compared to this minor little thriller that is, i just remembered, also NOT Dirk Bogarde's worst film! He made a few clunkers in the '60s nowhere near as interesting as this story of the people of Crete, under immense duress due to the presence of the uninvited English army, which was bombarded throughout the story by Germans who were also piling up large numbers of collateral Cretan damage in the process. It's a wonder the Cretans didn't throw the Brits out just to save their own necks. Now, that is the situation underlying the several subplots we see played out, an astonishing one most of the other reviewers seem not to have caught.

A far more memorable war romance than most Powell-Pressburger aficianados apparently think it.
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7/10
Well-Made But Minor World War II Thriller Based on a True Story
zardoz-1324 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
"Night Ambush" qualifies as a minor but factual account about the April 1944 abduction of a high-ranking German general by the British with the aid of Crete resistance fighters. The writer & director combo Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, who made "One of Our Aircraft is Missing," based their screenplay on the 1952 book "Ill Met by Moonlight: The Abduction of General Kreipe" by W. Stanley Moss. British officer Major Patrick Leigh Fermor (Dirk Bogarde of "The Servant") steal ashore after dark and help the resistance capture Kreipe (Marius Goring of "The Red Shoes") and take him on a grueling journey into the mountains across Crete to a rendezvous with a British warship while the Germans scour the terrain in search of their commanding officer who was the top officer on the island of Crete. Ostensibly, there is not much combat action in this thriller about stealth, but the scenery looks spectacular. Michael Gough, who later gained fame as the butler in the Michael Keaton "Batman" movie makes an appearance as Andoni Zoidakis, while future "Dracula" Christopher Lee plays a German soldier. Competently made drama boasts its share of twists and turns in the narrative as our heroes toil on foot to meet the British destroyer that will transport Kreipe to Cairo for questioning. When everything is said and done, General Kreipe salutes Fermor and congratulates him for his daring escapade. The mutual respect and admiration between the British and the Germans was a theme that recurred throughout the war films of Powell and Pressburger. British cinematographer Christopher Challis lensed this atmospheric wartime thriller in black & white. Challis shot the World War II thriller The Battle of the River Plate (1956) for Powell and Pressburger, and the film was later retitled as "Pursuit of the Graf Spee.
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9/10
Superb mission and resistance film of WW II
SimonJack20 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
"Ill Met by Moonlight," aka, "Night Ambush" is an unusual World War II film. It's one of many films about a special mission during the war, and it's one of many films about resistance and the underground. But, with both of these elements it also has some other less common aspects. First, it has the kidnapping of a German two-star general. Second, it's a rare look at the Greek underground in World War II. Third, it's about the widespread Greek resistance to German rule. This was the first such civilian resistance that Nazi Germany met in its conquests to that time. And, fourth, it's about a unique network that was established and operating during that time.

That network included a thousand or more Greek soldiers, 500 British soldiers, and hundreds of Cretan civilians. The military were men who couldn't be evacuated in time, and who weren't among those captured as the Allies were overrun by the Germans in 1941. The Cretan people hid these men in mountain hamlets and villages around the island. With the Cretan resistance fighters, this lot formed a loosely organized underground. The movie doesn't show it but alludes to the formidable hindrance the network was to the Germans. By clandestine radio, it kept in touch with British command in Egypt.

All of this makes for a most interesting wartime drama. It's not one of combat action, or even much resistance fighting. The killing that takes place is off screen and only alluded to. This is a movie about a calculated and well carried out ambush, kidnapping and flight from the enemy. The flight is aided by the natural mountainous terrain of Crete, and the collaboration with and support from people of the local villages and hamlets.

Some reviewers take exception to the almost cavalier attitude or persona of the lead characters, especially Dirk Bogarde, as Major Patrick Fermor. He is known to the local Cretans, and the Nazi secret police, as Philedem. Most of the British leaders have that sort of carefree air about them as well. They seem to mirror the easy-going, carefree demeanor and attitudes of the Cretans themselves. As this movie shows, they could move about quite easily without German detection. They knew their land and its rugged terrain that the enemy did not know. So, who is to say that it wasn't something like that? With advisers for the film and the source material, it's likely that life was like that for those people then and there.

The story is about a true event, based on a book, "Ill Met by Moonlight." That was a wartime diary of W. Stanley Moss's service in Crete. The original film title is the same as that of the book. It was renamed "Night Ambush" on release in America, and the film was cut by more than 10 minutes. I saw the original 104-minute British version.

David Oxley plays Moss. Major Fermor requested his assignment for the 1944 mission to kidnap Major General Kreipe (played by Marius Goring). Kreipe commands 30,000 Germans on the island. That includes a paratrooper division that was the main assault force for the Germans in taking the island. So, the Brits now want to kidnap the Kreipe to humiliate the Germans and boost Allied morale. The operation was planned by British intelligence and carried out by the mixed underground.

This may be one of those instances when it was more difficult to shoot a movie in a place than to carry out a war there. In 1957, the roadway system in Crete probably did not yet lend itself to the movement of huge film crews and equipment to mountainous areas for filming. So, this film was shot instead in similar terrain that was more easily accessible. The mountain scenes were shot in the Maritime Alps of Italy and France. The coastal scenes were shot along uninhabited and rugged spots that could still be found in 1957 along the French Riviera.

This is an excellent movie. It's a deserved testimonial to the Cretan people. And, it's a nice story of a little-known highly successful Allied coup during WW II. It should be in any serious World War II film collection.

For those interested in history, here's a little more that the film doesn't cover. The German invasion of Crete was called "Operation Mercury." It was the first large airborne assault in history. It was also the first time German troops met with mass resistance from a civilian population. The German parachute had only one riser, so it couldn't be controlled. And, the German jumped without their rifles which were dropped separately in bundles. Before many could get to their weapons, they were met by the Allied underground and the civilians. The latter were armed mostly with pitchforks, sledgehammers and other crude weapons. But they exacted a huge toll on the Germans. As a result, Hitler forbad future paratrooper assaults in the war. The Americans and British had far superior chutes, and they jumped with their weapons. So, the Allies had many successful airborne assaults during the war.

After capturing Crete, the Germans carried out widespread reprisals against the civilians. Between June 2, 1941, and August of 1944, more than 1,000 Cretans were killed in large shootings by firing squads. Homes were looted and villages were destroyed. German generals Bruno Brauer and Friedrich-Wilhelm Muller ("The Butcher of Crete") were the commanders who ordered most of these reprisals. After the war, both were tried for war crimes and executed.
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7/10
Crete under german hands!!!
elo-equipamentos21 November 2018
Several World War 2 talking about Greek as Navarone and many thers,but in Crete was to me the first one, despite the planning to kidnapping a german General looks like useless, in war have a saying "Death soldier,soldier replaced"...well if us accepting this odd idea the picture has your enchantments, even states as made in studio an Cretan amazing landscape are shown along the picture, high mountains and deep valleys, the cast leading by a young Bogarde, a gentleman as Marious Goring and a stink and priceless Ciryl Cusack are the high point, without forget a remarkable young boy Dimitri Andreas as Niko that pursuit one pair of boots, charming and laureate with english dark humor it's a finest entertainment indeed!

Resume:

First watch: 2018 / How many: 1 / Source: DVD-R / Rating: 7
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5/10
Ill Met, Period
writers_reign23 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
even allowing for the fact that Ican take or leave Powell and Pressburger either as a team or working individually this is still pretty ho hum. It's not just that it's yet another true-life adventure torn from the annals of World War II - and boy, were they glad to get rid of it - it's more that it's exciting or engrossing enough to stand out from the others; it's not even that apart from Bogard and a badly miscast Cyril Cusack the only British actors involved are definitely minor league in the shape of Michael Gough and Wolf Morris, it's more that no two actors - and that includes Marius Goring - are able to give the impression that they are in the same film or often in the same scene. All in all it's something of an unintentional Greek tragedy.
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4/10
Disappointing
wigley18 September 2003
As a fan of Dirk Bogarde I was looking forward to finally seeing this film, but it was not really worth the wait. Although the plot was fine, there was remarkably little suspense, which coupled with some surprisingly wooden acting, left one with the feeling that this was just a group of men going for a walk over some hills.

For a war film there is an almost complete lack of action, which is probably true to life, but makes for very boring viewing.

There were also a number of continuity defects (appearing and disappearing mist, car going round the same corner twice) which might have gone unnoticed in a more gripping film, but were glaringly obvious here.

To sum up, one of Dirk Bogarde's worst films.
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6/10
Long out-dated film of little value
ceo-652-97436017 April 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Admittedly, had I seen this film when it came out, then I probably would have given it an 8 instead of a 6. But looking at it from an older point of view over 50 years later, I was really disappointed.

There are three categories of groups involved:

The British, who have great plans to capture a German general and really believe they can drive through 22 German checkpoints with the General having a fit on the floor of the car without being stopped. They have no real plan, no communication system and seem to think the whole thing is "jolly good fun."

Then we have the Greeks, who don't really understand that the whole thing is probably going to cause the SS troops to wipe out a few mountain villages in retaliation. They have nothing better to do than run around laughing and shouting, shaking hands and kissing everybody in sight. So instead of informing the group that about 500 German soldiers are just coming round the corner, it's better to greet long lost friends, before passing on the information. Top gag is of course having a drunken party in a house in the village in the night with a British officer in uniform eating a sheep's head at a table in the middle of the room. The place is filled with singing and dancing, the door isn't locked, they have no sentry .... Really makes the Greeks look completely incompetent and stupid. To say nothing of the British.

And last but not least we have the Germans, who don't even bother to stop the General's car, filled with strange bearded men not in German uniform, as it goes through one checkpoint after another. Really made the Germans look completely incompetent as well. Which they certainly weren't.

If you like this type of film, it can be watched as a relic of the past, but don't expect anything like logic or a real-life story; I had expected much more drama and far less incompetence combined with unintended ridiculous comedy.
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6/10
Pretty ordinary
MartinHafer21 March 2010
A group comprised of British soldiers stranded in Crete and local partisans decide to try something quite bold--kidnap the Nazi in charge of the island. Very little of the film actually involves the setup for the kidnapping and the actual event takes place somewhat uneventfully. The bulk of the film consists of a cross-country trek with the prisoner to try to spirit him out of the country.

I decided to watch this film because I love the acting of Dirk Bogarde--plus, it being a Powell/Pressberger film didn't hurt. However, my overall impression was pretty unexceptional. Now I am not saying it's a bad film. The acting is fine and the direction seemed good as well. The problem, however, is that the story just never seemed all that interesting--even though it is based on the actual kidnapping of a German general by partisans during WWII. Competent but not enough to merit its being seen as anything more than a moderately interesting time-passer.
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