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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 <email@example.com>
Many felt that the reason why Decision Before Dawn (1951) picked up a surprise Best Film nomination at the Academy Awards was because its producer Darryl F. Zanuck had pushed it with an expensive 12 page glossy insert in all the trade magazines. See more »
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 »
Sgt. Paul Richter:
We just closed our eyes and went along, until we found ourselves forced to fight the wrong enemy.
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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.
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