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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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 »
When Happy is being chased through the train yard, he is shown running between two moving trains. In the reverse shot, there is only one train, but then in another shot from the original angle, the second train is back again. See more »
Of all the questions left unanswered by the last war, and probably any war, one comes back constantly to my mind. Why does a spy risk his life. For what possible reason, If the spy wins, he's ignored. If he loses, he's shot.
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As American forces approach Germany near the end of World War II, it becomes crucial for them to get an idea of the Germans' capacity to resist. In order to do that, they recruit spies from among German POWs, train them and send them into Germany to gather information. This is somewhat of an unusual film about a subject that, as far as I know, had never been dealt with before or since (the movie is based on fact; American military intelligence did indeed use German POWs as spies). The location filming helps the picture greatly, as the war had only been over for a few years and Germany still hadn't rebuilt yet. Performances are universally top notch, notably Oskar Werner as a young German soldier code-named Happy who volunteers to return as a spy, and especially Hans Christian Blech as Happy's tough, opportunistic, and not entirely trustworthy partner. There are some nail-biting moments, notably aboard a train when Happy and his partner come under scrutiny by a suspicious Gestapo agent. The film has a tough, gritty, dangerous look that is totally atypical of the usual 20th Century Fox gloss, and is all the better for it. Gary Merrill as the tough American officer in charge of the operation, and Richard Basehart as an American agent sent in to accompany the two German spies, also turn in first-rate performances, and director Anatole Litvak keeps the film full of twists and surprises, but it's Oskar Werner's show, and he is up to it. An excellent film and one to put on your must-see list.
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