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Decision Before Dawn (1951)

Unrated  |   |  Drama, War  |  25 February 1952 (Norway)
7.4
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 1,560 users  
Reviews: 44 user | 23 critic

As the US Army approaches Nazi Germany, they recruit German prisoners to spy behind German lines.

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(screenplay), (novel), 2 more credits »
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Title: Decision Before Dawn (1951)

Decision Before Dawn (1951) on IMDb 7.4/10

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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 1 win & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Col. Devlin
...
Cpl. Karl Maurer aka Happy
...
Hilde (as Hildegarde Neff)
Dominique Blanchar ...
Monique
O.E. Hasse ...
Col. Oberst von Ecker
Wilfried Seyferth ...
Heinz Scholtz - SS Man (as Wilfried Seyfert)
Hans Christian Blech ...
Sgt. Rudolf Barth aka Tiger
Helene Thimig ...
Fräulein Paula Schneider
Robert Freitag ...
Sgt. Paul Richter (as Robert Freytag)
George Tyne ...
Sgt. Griffin
C.A. Amos ...
Himself (as C.A. Amos 1st Lt. USAF)
Harold Benedict ...
Lt. Pete Gevers
H.W. Briggs ...
Himself (as H.W. Briggs Sgt. USA)
D.G. Devine ...
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Storyline

WWII is entering its last phase: Germany is in ruins, but does not yield. The US army lacks crucial knowledge about the German units operating on the opposite side of the Rhine, and decides to send two German prisoners to gather information. The scheme is risky: the Gestapo retains a terribly efficient network to identify and capture spies and deserters. Moreover, it is not clear that "Tiger", who does not mind any dirty work as long as the price is right, and war-weary "Happy", who might be easily betrayed by his feelings, are dependable agents. After Tiger and another American agent are successfully infiltrated, Happy is parachuted in Bavaria. His duty: find out the whereabouts of a powerful German armored unit moving towards the western front. Written by Eduardo Casais <eduardo.casais@research.nokia.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

A woman's kiss . . . A lighted cigarette - Each had Its meaning! An exciting and realistic story of war . . . of German Prisoners Sent Back Behind Their Own Lines as Agents of the Allies!

Genres:

Drama | War

Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

| |

Release Date:

25 February 1952 (Norway)  »

Also Known As:

Legion of the Damned  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The producers and director Anatole Litvak chose to film the movie on location in postwar Germany because of its authentic background - many of the country's large cities still had areas that had been bombed into rubble and not been rebuilt yet, and there was a lot of actual WW II German military equipment - tanks, rifles, uniforms, etc. - still available. See more »

Goofs

Karl is mistakenly called a corporal. The Luftwaffe uniform that he wears both in the US POW cage and while back in Germany has the rank insignia of an "Obergefreiter", specifically three winged emblems on the collar patches, plain shoulder straps and two chevrons on his left sleeve. Also when the list is checked for his name at the bridge the rank is written down as 'Gfr' (gefreiter) The ranks of Gefreiter, Obergefreiter and Stabsgefreiter (all which were partially identified by chevrons on the sleeve) were not NCOs and had no command authority over other soldiers. They were simply grades of seniority and would be more equivalent to Private First Class (PFC) in the US military. The German rank that is the closest equivalent to Corporal is Unteroffizer. Also, Karl is wearing the medical badge on his right sleeve; Luftwaffe enlisted medical personnel wore the badge on the left sleeve, while Wehrmacht (army) wore it on the right. See more »

Quotes

Col. Devlin: A kid like Happy, even if he came through it alive, a traitor's always a traitor, no matter what his reasons are.
Lt. Dick Rennick: We didn't hesitate about using him.
Col. Devlin: In a war, to save lives, you use whoever you can. Trouble is, you always lose the best ones 'cause the best ones are willing to take a chance.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in That Girl: Decision Before Dawn (1968) See more »

Soundtracks

Ach, wie ist' möglich dann (Treue Liebe)
Written by Kükcken
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User Reviews

Well-written, well-acted. Great "issue" film
8 December 2000 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

A taut story, first-rate acting, and a compelling subject make this film worth seeing.

Espionage/spying is a tricky subject, but "Decision Before Dawn" handles it brilliantly. No flash, no Mata Haris, no absurd coincidences. Weaving human drama and the grim realism of war, this film is that rare gem that manages to teach without preaching.

Among the superb performances is our hero Happy, played with just the right blend of suspense and humanity by Oskar Werner. Happy (an ironic name given to him by his American overseers) is torn between love of his native land and his duty to what is right. Werner walks this tightrope better than most I've seen.

In the end, however, it's the script that is the true gem of the film. Peter Viertel is a master story teller, with such great screenplays as "Saboteur" and "The Hard Way" to his credit. Viertel, with a story by author George Howe, weaves an intricate, but not confusing, narrative of war and devotion and duty. He's one of the few _writers_ I look for when I check out "On TV This Week" on IMDB.


28 of 28 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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