A German officer escapes the war and has been in hiding for many years; unfortunately, when an almost impossible mission arises, the SS tracks him down and puts him in charge to execute the mission. He convinces a captured Jewish woman to help him execute the plan and hopefully get them both out of their predicament alive.
"I'd like to make this outfit a little more attractive for the concentration camp."
Bernhard Wicki, director of The Visit, Spider's Web, The Bridge, The Miracle of Father Malachia, and The Conquest of the Citadel, delivers Morituri. The storyline for this picture is interesting with a few clever twists and turns. The acting and characters are worth following. The cast delivers solid performances and includes Marlon Brando, Yul Brynner, Janet Margolin, Trevor Howard, and Wally Cox.
"I'm afraid the success of the mission is your only hope."
I've been wanting to see this for some time, and it's been on and off Netflix online a couple times. I finally got around to seeing this and it was a pleasure to watch Brando in his prime in this picture. This was far from his best film, but wasn't a waste of time either. I do recommend seeing this for fans of the classics, I just wouldn't add it to the collection.
"We haven't had any need for you until now."
An intimate, humanly charged thriller, this drama thrives on subtlety, and that just makes it all the more glaring when the storytellers lapse into some sort of artificiality, in characterization, set piece designs, and dramatics. Contrivances are actually not that big of an issue, but when they do come into play, they typically fall over key moments in dramatic progression, their laziness stressed both in contrast with the gripping subtleties, and by the conventions that plague important areas throughout the course of this film. The character types are also familiar, and quite frankly, they stand to be more so, because even though expository shortcomings aren't glaring, to where you fail to get an adequate sense of background to the characters, the motivations in certain character actions feel rather hollow, being unconvincing and not quite enlightening to the layers of characters in this drama about the dark depths of humanity. These brief, but distinct missteps in characterization defuse the dramatic tension of this thriller, superficializing the consequence and importance of the subject matter, whose sense of urgency which ought to compensate for setbacks in emotional investment go challenged by a certain safeness of the time that the script sometimes does a good job of transcending through graphicness, and, of course, by the film's length. All of these contrivances, conventions, expository lapses, and hiccups in tension are recurrent, but somewhat meager issues that pale in comparison to the film's biggest problem: pacing, which is retarded by long lapses in material and progression that grow repetitious, further chilled out by cold spells in direction. The film is adequately entertaining pretty often, and when it isn't, its thoughtfulness either cuts deep, and falls over aimlessness and only exacerbates the blandness, which in turn exacerbates a sense of urgency in this undercooked and conventional thriller. The final product all but sputters out short of rewarding, but it compels pretty thoroughly more often than not, maintaining your investment sufficiently, and doing sufficient justice to promising subject matter.
It's the storytelling that's lacking in teeth, that is, from time to time, because the story itself, while rather familiar, it all around weighty, with a chilling sabotage tale, backed by thought-provoking themes regarding the dark depths in most everyone, especially during war. Daniel Taradash's script can do only so much to draw upon the edge of this subject matter, what with its being for a film of the 1960s, but he always delivers on wit to hold your attention adequately, and when he does challenge superficialities of the time, through graphic dialogue and somewhat artificial, but nonetheless audacious elements, his inspiration cuts like a knife. Taradash has ambitions, and can back it up with sharp highlights in writing, joined by direction by Bernhard Wicki that is just as inspired, particularly in style, accompanying Conrad L. Hall's black-and-white, sparsely lit, and largely silhouetted cinematography with airtight framing that draws you into bleak settings. The visual style of the film carries an immersion value that, amidst the thickening of the plot, becomes a fitting sense of claustrophobia, backed by thoughtful atmospherics that punctuate a couple dramatic contrivances, and are bland when material lapses, - as it often does - but prove penetrating under the right circumstances. Wicki's directorial inspiration is sound, endearing you through all of the shortcomings, until effectiveness proves to be gripping, with tension that provides a sense of consequence, while a sense of humanity goes defined by a solid cast full of talents (I have to address Wally Cox's presence as a German, just so I can say "Unterdog"!). Standouts from this cast include the incredibly beautiful Janet Margolin (She's badly miscast, though, because that nose is too blasted cute to be Jewish) as a disturbed Jew who is more bitter than fearful of her fate, and the intimidatingly intense Yul Brynner, whose engagingly convincing portrayal of an aggressive and dubious Nazi ship captain is worthy as the antagonistic answer to Marlon Brando's protagonistic performance, which is very Marlon Brando, with a convincing German accent, sure, but is nonetheless nuanced in its subtlety, within charisma, fear and vulnerability which convey a sense of unraveling in morality within a pacifist forced into a dangerous scenario that will shine an unsettling light in how he sees people. Every performance sells, being more consistent than the gutsy writing and direction in transcending superficialities of the time and overpowering this film's respective shortcomings, enough so to compel through and through, and reward those with the patience to take on this sometimes questionably drawn, but ultimately biting thriller.
When it comes time to salute... and hopefully not die right after, there is the occasional contrivance and a number of conventions, and they slow down dramatic momentum and a sense of urgency which are further diluted by periodically thin character motivations and by an excessive length, backed by a slow pace that just about blands the final product shy of rewarding, challenged by worthwhile subject matter whose being done a great deal of justice within intelligent and audacious writing, visually captivating and bitingly thoughtful direction, and inspired acting - especially by Janet Margolin, Yul Brynner and Marlon Brando - secure Bernhard Wicki's "Morituri" as a generally gripping and ultimately thought-provoking thriller.
3/5 - Good
So, the directors view is that all men can become beasts. True, of course. Men are men, and are far from perfect but we know that. It does not change the reality that the Allies rescued Europe from the sociopathic Nazis and as such, the Americans deserve some credit -- not to be potrayed as they were. Which might be why the movie has not gained more popularity.
There are some cracking scenes and one tracking shot in particular to rival Goodfellas. Not to be missed