|Index||5 reviews in total|
One of the few Foreign Legion films that takes the Legion out of the
desert. The Legion was instrumental in the conquest of Indochina in the
1880s, and fought a bloody, futile war in a vain attempt to retain it,
from 1946-54. In the late 40s, the French government prohibited sending
conscripts to serve in Indochina, so the Foreign Legion was greatly
expanded. A major falsehood presented by the film is the great effort
made by former SS enlistees to conceal their past, since the French
were said to execute any they discovered. The reverse was in fact true,
and the French actively (though covertly) sought out and recruited
former Wehrmacht and SS men. For the first time in the Legion's
history, large enlistment bonuses were paid and former officers and
senior noncoms were advanced to sergeant upon completion of training
and a short probation period. Jobs were hard to come by in postwar
Germany, and the French eagerly made use of this large pool of
disciplined, fully trained professional killers. Just the thing for a
dirty, distant, unpopular war.
Dick Powell joins the Legion to find a wanted SS war criminal. Despite the above, most of the movie is quite realistic and fast moving. There are good action, and even training sequences, and the atmosphere is appropriately gritty and depressing. The legionnaires are depicted with American M1 rifles. This was accurate in the early part of the war. Ironically, these were later replaced by inferior and obsolete French equipment.
An interesting mix of war movie and film noir done reasonably well.
A lot of post war politics gets mixed up in Rogue's Regiment, a story
about a manhunt for an escaped Nazi war criminal. The plot takes a lot
from the Orson Welles classic, The Stranger.
But when Edward G. Robinson is hunting Orson Welles and tracks him to Connecticut he's in the comfort zone of the good old USA even if he doesn't know that Welles is whom he seeks. But Dick Powell as an Army Intelligence Officer tracks his man all the way to Southeast Asia and has to join the French Foreign Legion in order to smoke him out.
Which brings us to the point that Rogue's Regiment can lay claim to the fact that it's the first Hollywood motion picture to talk about the Vietnam War. It wasn't Vietnam then, it was French Indochina where the French are rather foolishly trying to reestablish colonial control. A whole lot of history might have changed in the 20th Century if they had realized colonialism was dead. The rebels were called the Viet Minh then and they were making life very tough for French troops outside their outposts. Six years after this film was made, these same French Foreign Legionaires and regular French Army troops would be surrendering at Dienbienphu. But that's getting way ahead of this story.
The Foreign Legion has been the host to all kinds of criminals and other assorted riff-raff since its founding. They ask no questions when you enlist and Germans, some of whom might have been occupying France, are enlisting. It's here that our man hopes to find anonymity and here to where Dick Powell tracks him down.
With the able assistance of French Intelligence Officer Marta Toren who is working a case of her own, Powell ferrets his man out. In fact he uses the same gambit that Robinson does in The Stranger. There's another well known Nazi in the Legion company and Powell uses him as bait.
Such folks as Stephen McNally, Vincent Price, Edgar Barrier and James Millican fill out the cast in this story set in the then exotic locale of Indochina. Carol Thurston who played the tragic Tremartini in Cecil B. DeMille's The Story Of Dr. Wassell also set in Southeast Asia plays another exotic female in love with the wrong guy.
Though Rogue's Regiment gets a little silly at times, Powell gets captured by the Viet Minh and escapes rather too easily, almost like one of those serials, still the film is generally good. And being a first to talk about the war in Indochina, Rogue's Regiment is a historic milestone of a film.
I doubt though that the folks at Universal Pictures thought they were establishing a milestone.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One of a number of post ww2 noir dealing with escaped Nazi war
criminals. Notorious, The Stranger and Cornered would be several of the
more well known. In this one, Dick Powell is an army intelligence agent
on his way to French Indo-China. He is on the trail of a high-ranking
SS officer. The trail leads Powell to the French Foreign Legion camp in
Saigon. (The French used large numbers of ex-German soldiers in their
war with the Viet-Cong.) Powell's main problem is that there are no
known photos of the man he wants. He joins the Legion himself in order
to try and identify the swine. Said swine, Stephen McNally, is very
careful about his identity and bumps off everyone he thinks is a
danger. Helping Powell out on his case is French Secret Service agent,
Marta Toren. Toren poses as a singer in a cabaret frequented by off
duty Legion members. Also in the mix is Vincent Price as an antique
dealer who supplements his income with a little gun running for the
Viet-Cong. McNally, who picked Saigon and the Legion thinking it would
be the least likely spot to be recognized finds the opposite true. One
of his ex-staff officers from Dachau concentration camp happens to be
in the same unit. While out on patrol the men become involved in a
fire-fight with the Viet-Cong and McNally applies a few rounds to the
man's back. Problem solved. Not quite it seems. Old Vincent has tumbled
to McNally's identity and figures a bit of blackmail is in order. He
knows McNally has a large cache of jewels and gold taken from his camp
victims. Price wants most of it. McNally agrees as long as Price can
supply him with a passport and some American dollars so he can leave
the country. Both of course plan to double cross the other when the
deal is completed. Powell finally figures out what is going on and
arrives just as McNally has bumped off Price. A blazing gun battle and
a well staged round of fist-a-cuffs ensue before McNally is captured.
McNally gets the rope and Powell gets Toren. McNally as the vicious
Nazi on the run and Price as the blackmailing snake in the grass are
very good here. Powell and Toren both turn in merely adequate
performances. Rest of the cast includes Edgar Barrier, Richard Loo,
Philip Ahn and James Millican.
The director was Robert Florey. His work included MEET BOSTON BLACKIE, DANGEROUSLY THEY LIVE, THE BEAST WITH FIVE FINGERS, DANGER SIGNAL and the very under-rated THE FACE BEHIND THE MASK. Screenplay was by Robert Buckner who did, DEPORTED, A PRIZE OF GOLD.
Toren, who died at age 31, managed to work DEPORTED, MYSTERY SUBMARINE, SPY HUNT, ILLEGAL ENTRY, ONE WAY STREET, Paris ASSIGNMENT and SIROCCO into her 4 year Hollywood career. The d of p was Maury Gertsman who worked on BLONDE ALIBI, INSIDE JOB, SINGAPORE, ONE WAY STREET, THE GLASS WEB and JOHNNY STOOL PIGEON.
The film follows undercover agent Dick Powell (Whit) as he tracks down
fictitious Nazi Martin Brunner as portrayed by Stephen McNally
(Reicher) in the French Foreign Legion in Indo-China. I assume that
McNally's character is based on real life high ranking Nazi Alois
Brunner and the story is a fictionalized interpretation of where real
life Brunner may have gone. Incidentally, the real Brunner never got
caught. Can Dick Powell track down and capture McNally, or does this
story foretell the actual truth of how Brunner may have evaded his
The film begins in a documentary style with clips from the Nazi war trials before it turns its attention to the plight of one particular high-ranking Nazi who has evaded capture. We follow the leads that place him in Indo-China, and that's where we meet our cast, all of whom give good performances. My favourites are McNally and Carol Thurston, who plays devious Vincent Price's (Van Ratten) servant girl, Li-Ho-Kay. Oh yeah, she's handy with a knife.
The film seems to tie itself up rather too neatly but it is an interesting journey - there is suitable tension throughout the film as well as intrigue as to what will happen. We are taken into the world of the Vietnamese freedom fighters, who, as a separate issue, win a victory in the end, a few years later.
1948 and US agent Whit Corbett is given a mission to track down Nazi
war criminal Martin Brunner . It is believed Brunner has fled to French
Indo-China to join the French Foreign Legion . The French meanwhile
have a problem in the country where the Viet Mink are waging a war of
In order to get the best out of this film it's necessary to suspend all disbelief . We're given a short history lesson on the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial where 30 Nazis were found guilty of crimes against humanity - all except one Martin Brunner who has disappeared from the surface of the planet and the entire resources of American , British and French intelligence have no luck in finding . Their task isn't helped by the fact he hasn't been photographed since 1935 and as agent Corbett finds out there's a good reason : " After Hitler and Himmler Reicher was the third highest ranking Nazi . All this leads to a couple of serious questions
1 ) Have the allies tried looking in South America where all the real life Nazis like Josef Mengele and Adolph Eichmann were hiding
2 ) Hitler and Himmler or indeed any other Nazi didn't mind being photographed so why is Brunner different ? No doubt he looked in to a crystal ball and saw he'd be a fugitive so decided to forsake any photo opportunities . Either that or the film wouldn't have worked but you do get the impression the producers could have come up with a better way round this plot point
As it stands the film plays out almost as much as you expect it with the American good guy and a Nazi bad guy who conveniently has met Brunner joining the Legion at exactly the same time . It does play up to the myth that erstwhile Nazis joined the Legion to escape from war crimes . There is some truth in this but the truth of this myth in painfully over stated such as in novels The Devil's Guard by George Robert Elford which purports to be a true story but was very quickly debunked . Perhaps ROGUES REGIMENT is the one piece of fiction that started off the myth ?
An uneasy mix of war movie and film noir with a political slant it's not a very good film in its own right but one thing that is fascinating is the politics . The French are fighting the native population and they're portrayed as being communist stooges . There's also a scene where a French officer studies a wall chart on Viet Minh tactics but later on there's a scene where a Viet Minh leader states that " My friends ? Huh The Viet Minh are not such easily fooled , we may free our selves from [ our French masters ] only to be devoured by the red ones " and this astonishing and prescient line could have changed the whole course of history where Vietnam would 25 years later would have been an obscure exotic country rather than a metonym of bloody folly followed by inglorious defeat
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