In an effort to learn more about German rocketry, the Allies infiltrate the Nazi missile works at Peenemunde. The agents they have selected are all engineers and they assume the identities of real-life individuals who are either dead or otherwise indisposed. What they don't realize is that the mission has been compromised from the beginning by the fact that one of them men is wanted for murder and that one of the applicants for the mission is actually a Nazi agent. In the end, the two remaining agents assist the RAF in identifying the works site during a massive bombing campaign.
Sophia Loren ... Nora
George Peppard ... Lt. John Curtis
Trevor Howard ... Professor Lindemann
John Mills ... General Boyd
Richard Johnson ... Duncan Sandys
Tom Courtenay ... Robert Henshaw
Jeremy Kemp ... Phil Bradley
Anthony Quayle ... Bamford
Lilli Palmer ... Frieda
Paul Henreid ... General Ziemann
Helmut Dantine ... General Linz
Barbara Rütting ... Hannah Reitsch (as Barbara Rueting)
Richard Todd ... Wing Cmdr. Kendall
Sylvia Syms ... Constance Babington Smith
John Fraser ... Flight Lt. Kenny
I remember seeing this movie as a kid and pretty bored I was, but having recently caught it on the BBC I was surprised how good it really is.
Movie's basic outline concerns the development of the German V-1 and V-2 weapons and the subsequent allied attempt to infiltrate the underground factories at Peenemünde, where most of these these so-called `Vergeltungswaffen' ('revenge' weapons) were assembled
Richard Anderson is the British government top official who puts a team together- Peppard, Kemp and Courtenay- posing as Dutch engineers volunteering to work for the Reich.
As the spystory itself is undoubtedly heavily fictionalised the rest is pretty historically accurate. Movie has an elaborate script featuring a plot full of twists and loopholes. instead of relying on big battle scenes or derring-do. Which is probably the reason why it was a bit ignored by the public and critics alike on its release. Moviegoers were expecting some straightforward war epic as "The battle of the Bulge", "The Heroes of Telemark" or "Von Ryan's Express", all released in 1965, with plenty of action but seriously lacking in the historic credibility department.
(spoiler ahead) Actors are solid but watch out for Anthony Quayle as an unusually shrewd German counterintelligence officer and the fact that some of the main stars get killed halfway the movie. Special effects in recreating the V-weapons and their subsequent effect on London are, definitly for that time, very well executed.
There are several subplots, one involving Sophia Loren, but most interesting is the one with famous female Nazi test-pilot Hannah Reitsch (Barbara Rütting), as what must be only time she is personified on the big screen. Movie claims she actually had to test flight the V1, which was a not more then a flying bomb but the Germans first wanted to use it as some sort of semi-kamikaze contraption, with the pilot bailing out at the last minute. After several killed pilots they wisely opted for a simple unmanned version. These were launched en masse at London and other already liberated European cities. Incidentally, the biopic `The Glen Miller Story' (1954) has an important scene with Miller's orchestra playing while being under attack of several V1's. Quite another beast was the V2, a real ballistic missile and a 'wonder' weapon if there ever was one. It was capable of going up in to the stratosphere and remained undetected by radar and reaching speeds of up to 2 mach and at that time impossible to detect and to shoot down. A few hundreds were launched and did some important damage to major supply lines (especially the vital Belgian port of Antwerp) but never seriously endangered the allied offensives. The later ICBM's carrying nuclear warheads are all based on the V2.
(major spoiler ahead) Finally the produces must have realised they had tot put some action sequences in it to justify the star cast and budget resulting in a very Bondlike action sequence trying to prevent, with the help of Bomber Command, a test flight of an improved V2 capable of reaching New York (!).
The British actually bombed Peenemunde several times, which seriously delayed construction time and was instrumental in moving almost the whole plant underground (as most German heavy industry after 1943).
British Director Michael Anderson is best-known for another WWII tale `The Dam Busters', also the SF-epic `Logan's Run' and the TV-series `The Martian Chronicles' He was active until 2000,still turning out the occasional TV-movie.
George Peppard and Jeremy Kemp would team up again next year in the spectacular `The Blue Max' this time not involving rockets but WWI flying crates.
See OC in its original Cinemascope format. Sadly the BBC choose to air in the so-called 'pan-and-scan'version, seriously harming the colour and perspective.
"Operation Crossbow" is a beautifully constructed thriller that presents in detail the complex business of war. The story takes place during World War II, and it deals with the allied forces attempting to put a stop to the production of a super-weapon that could help the Nazis win the war. Using undercover agents, the good guys try to stop the bad guys from using the new sophisticated weapon. Incredibly suspenseful espionage thriller, with a great cast (Sophia Loren, George Peppard, Tom Courtenay, John Mills, Trevor Howard, etc.) in small, but key roles. The special effects are elaborate and believable, and the entire film looks gorgeous; it is lushly filmed despite its downbeat tone. Also, it explores intelligently the horrible consequences of war, with villains, heroes and innocent bystanders, all main players in a messy web of International intrigue. Director Michael Anderson does a great job balancing personal drama, with broader philosophical issues. Excellent film all the way to its amazing finale, which will put you on the edge of your chair.
An explosive British-Italian co-production, with a first-rate "guest cast" and an awesome, action-packed finale sequence. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie is very talky and, while serviceable, lacks strong visual excitement.
The British high command must thwart German rocket development as V1s rain down on London. They send in a specialized team of commandos to infiltrate the rocket base and stop the threat at the source.
George Peppard (From Hell to Victory), Jeremy Kemp (THE BLUE MAX) and Tom Courtenay (KING RAT) are the commandos in question. The movie runs 2 hours, and the first half hour is dedicated to setting the stage. The leads aren't even introduced for 30 minutes, and they only appear in about half of the film total. Each actor does fine but is offered little material to work with. Anthony Quayle (THE GUNS OF NAVARONE) plays a British double agent who is really an evil Nazi; Richard Todd (THE LONGEST DAY) has a small cameo as a British intelligence officer; Lilli Palmer is a German housekeeper; Patrick Wymark (Where Eagles Dare) is almost unrecognizable as Churchill; and Richard Johnson (The Fifth Day of Peace) is the minister of defense.
On the bad side of the coin: Producer Carlo Ponti's wife, Sophia Loren, is onhand for a really pointless part. She plays the wife of the scientist Peppard is impersonating, and complicates matters for a time (for no purpose other than to suck up time) until she is simply taken out and shot by the resistance. She plays the sappy role to the core, but it's still a waste of talent and good looks. Trevor Howard (VON RYAN'S EXPRESS) has a horrendous role as a skeptical scientist. It's easily his worst acting role ever and you can tell he hates his part.
The action scenes are - for the most part - limited to the final act. There are some great suspenseful sequences of V1s raining down on London, but these are hampered by some second-rate miniature/animation work, pretty bad even for its day. The last 15 minutes, with Peppard and Kemp holding a huge underground factory at bay is excellently filmed. Perfectly edited, with great Ron Goodwin music, the long scene is a perfect example of how a suspense sequence should run. When the factory does go up, it's by a mere miracle - and looks fabulous. Filled with awe striking special effects including a rocket blowing up while launching; detonating jet fuel and men trying in vain to escape an exploding tomb are mind-numbing.
Turner Classic Movies gives the film proper treatment, showing it in widescreen format from a beautiful master print. Everything looks and sounds perfect. The letterboxing is necessary to absorb the scope of the big action scenes and take in the scenery which fills the screen in others. The German scenes are adequately subtitled in the bottom letterbox band.
Most critics give this film a top-notch rating and I fail to understand why. I used to think it was a superb movie until I started writing this review and realized there's nothing really great about. Even as an action movie, it lacks the stunts of WHERE EAGLES DARE; the strong characters of THE LIBERATORS; and the scope of THE LONGEST DAY. It still works just fine, but it's no more than an ordinary war-action film with a good Ron Goodwin music score and little else to offer of any interest.
* The title was (briefly) changed by MGM for the US release to The Great Spy Mission because they thought that having the word "operation" in the title might make people think it was a medical film, a genre that wasn't doing well at the box office at the time.
* Richard Attenborough was offered a key role in this film
* First film role of 'Phlilip Madoc' .
* Gordon Jackson shot scenes playing a RAF pilot but these were removed from the film
* John Le Mesurier and Basil Dignam filmed scenes as British army officers but their scenes were cut.
* Despite receiving top billing, Sophia Loren only appears in a extended cameo role. Producer Carlo Ponti, Loren's husband, believed his wife's popularity in the United States would boost the film's chances at the box office and had her billed accordingly.
* For the section of the film where RAF Bomber Command raid the Peenemunde rocket research site the producers used the Avro Lancaster PA474 used by the Cranfield institute of technology. PA474 was painted in 83 squadron colours in the summer of 1964 for the movie. PA474 now flies as part of the RAF Battle of Britain memorial flight.
* Average Shot Length = ~6.7 seconds. Median Shot Length = ~6.3 seconds.