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  Tobruk Worth Fighting For
Year: 1967
Director: Arthur Hiller
Stars: Rock Hudson, George Peppard, Nigel Green, Guy Stockwell, Jack Watson, Percy Herbert, Norman Rossington, Liam Redmond, Heidy Hunt, Leo Gordon, Robert Wolders, Anthony Ashdown, Curt Lowens, Rico Cattani, Peter Coe, Lawrence Montaigne
Genre: WarBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Major Donald Craig (Rock Hudson) is part of the Canadian Army, but it is 1942 and when he was fighting in the war in North Africa he was captured and taken to Algiers to be escorted to a Nazi prisoner of war camp. However, while he takes all this in his stride, he has been transferred to the ship to take him to his destination with the other captives when there is a commotion outside and the cell door opens, revealing what appear to be German soldiers led by Captain Bergman (George Peppard). Naturally Craig is suspicious, yet has no choice but to be led out at gunpoint where these Germans set off explosives and place him in a boat to escape. So what is going on?

What is going is that Craig has been re-captured by Germans, but not any Nazi Germans, nope, these are very special good guys for they are the S.I.G. who were an actual army unit in World War II made up of Jewish combatants wishing to fight back against the terrible blight on their homeland. Down the years this film has been subject to criticisms of its historical accuracy, and while the trappings of the forties era it was set were closer to the era it was made, so vehicle buffs will find much to get a bee in their bonnet about, there really was a raid on Tobruk by this unit, in conjunction with the British Army. Fair enough, it didn't pan out in the same fashion, never mind the same result, but artistic licence and war movies often went hand in hand.

This was a Gene Corman production, hiring one of his brother Roger Corman's regular actors Leo Gordon to pen the script. Gordon was best known for his bad guy roles, both in the movies and in real life, in his earlier years at least, but proved he had a handle on how to assemble a decent slice of action cinema, and this particular example has been diverting viewers on television for decades who wanted wartime escapism to lose themselves in for a couple of hours. That might seem a strange thing to want to immerse yourself in, but it was the case when war movies were being churned out by all and sundry that they represented a clear cut world of good and evil where you would know who to back.

That said, by 1967 there was a note of uncertainty entering into the moral landscape in many genres, and war movies were one of those. You didn't get a whole lot of that here, indeed Peppard's accent may give you the most pause, but what you did get was a running theme of not taking everything at face value, that things may not be as they seemed, most blatantly in the mission Craig agrees to undertake when requested to by British Colonel Harker (Nigel Green, introduced showering). That is to pretend the S.I.G. are Nazis and escorting a group of British P.O.W.s across the desert, when they are in reality heading off to a fuel base on the coast of Libya with a view to blowing it up and foiling Rommel's plans for dominating the region. As you might anticipate, there would be a few hardships along the route, though not how ruthless the film would be.

If you ever wanted to see Rock Hudson armed with a flamethrower then this was the movie for you, as while there was no swearing, sex or violence that was overly bloody or gory, it was made plain that people were getting killed here, both on the wrong side of history and the right side. Intrigue was added when it emerged there was an insurgent in their midst, leaving the mission in even more jeopardy, though the identity of the villain was not exactly difficult to spot thanks to a stereotypical makeup job on the actor that immediately raised suspicions. Nevertheless, the film made no bones about bumping off various characters when it suited them, simply to raise the stakes in many cases, and the final scenes may have descended into a melee of explosions and gunfire, but the impression was that the victory was at best a qualified one, perhaps a nod to the real life events. Very well photographed to take advantage of the sandy locations, maybe this wasn't much seasoned war movie fans had not seen before, but for what it was, pretty good, with a rare and emphatic mention in a sixties war movie of the plight of the Jews in the conflict to remind us what the heroes were fighting for. Music by Bronislau Kaper.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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