Bitter Victory (1957)

Approved  |   |  Drama, War  |  March 1958 (USA)
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Reviews: 20 user | 26 critic

A commander receives a citation for an attack on Rommel's headquarters, which is actually undeserved as the commander is unfit for his job. On top of that, unbeknownst to him, his wife is having an affair with one of his officers.



(screenplay) (as Rene Hardy) , (screenplay), 4 more credits »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Captain Leith
Major Brand (as Curt Jurgens) (as Curd Jurgens: in closing credits)
Jane Brand
Raymond Pellegrin ...
Anthony Bushell ...
General Paterson
Alfred Burke ...
Lt.Colonel Callander
Sean Kelly ...
Lieutenant Barton
Ramón de Larrocha ...
Lieutenant Sanders (as Ramon De Larrocha)
Sergeant Barney
Ronan O'Casey ...
Sergeant Dunnigan
Fred Matter ...
Oberst Lutze
Raoul Delfosse ...
Lieutenant Kassel
Andrew Crawford ...
Private Roberts
Private Wilkins
Harry Landis ...
Private Browning


In North Africa during World War II, Major David Brand is assigned to lead a British commando raid into German-held Benghazi to retrieve whatever documents they can lay their hands on at the German headquarters. His number two will be Capt. Jimmy Leith who speaks Arabic fluently and knows Benghazi well. Brand also learns that Leith and his beautiful wife Jane were lovers before the war creating tension between the two. Brand is untested in battle and freezes at a critical moment, losing the respect of his men. After the raid, the trek back is arduous and takes it's toll on the men. It also results in only one of the two senior officers surviving. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

commander | rommel | raid | well | africa | See All (146) »


30 Fighting "Desert rats" Invade Africa's Fortress! See more »


Drama | War


Approved | See all certifications »





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Release Date:

March 1958 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Bitter Victory  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


In March 1958, this film was being shown on a double bill with Cell 2455, Death Row (1955). See more »


Major Brand: War is not murder.
Capt. Leith: [chuckling condescendingly] Brand, you're wonderful! You have the Christian decency that forbids killing a dying man but ignores the work of a sharpshooter.
Major Brand: [defensively] Well, war is killing.
Capt. Leith: [laughing] Better and better. So, the fine line between war and murder is distane... Anybody can kill at a distance with the same sort of courage that a man shoots rabbits, but when it cokes to the dirty work. you have to call on a civilian.
Major Brand: What is it that you're trying to say?
Capt. Leith: That I ...
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Crazy Credits

"The producer gratefully acknowledges the kind cooperation of the British war office and of her majesty's forces in Lybya." See more »

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User Reviews

Ego Cannot Replace Courage, But They Can Look Alike.
30 October 2009 | by (Cincinnati, OH, United States) – See all my reviews

Possibly Nicholas Ray's most masculine film, he begins with a great opening credits sequence and follows with a studious, procedural atmosphere. When it gets emotionally dramatic quite soon, it remains taut, spare, subdued. Because Ray doesn't tell us how to feel about it, our understanding of the histrionics is that much clearer and unclouded. By the twenty-minute mark, the tension is a natural agreement between us and the film, which sits back viewing objectively horizontal planes, or stationary horizontal shots of whatever natural blocking. Even a shootout in the desert night.

Bitter Victory is a rare treat, a military thriller involving war and covert ops, but focusing not on combat or conspiracies, but on the agitated envy two Allied officers who are situated on a commando raid together. We skip the parachuting in to Bengasi but we're quickly witness to their wordless close calls and perceptions of un-subtitled Arabic. This downbeat emotional drama is what no Jack Ryan or Jason Bourne film would have the nerve or insight to do. It sees combat violence, sneak operations and life-or-death situations, of course, but it does not see the core of the suspense in it. But one of the two central characters, yes, essentially just two, is burying his knowledge that he's unfit for his job and undeserving of his command as deep as he can beneath the assurances of his aggressive justification. Another is having an affair with that very commander's wife, whose emotions are displaced from her husband.

The on-screen violence is far from realistic, but building towards it and simmering down from it are steady and natural to the point that I might even say that it is Ray's most effective film about repression and male anger, even the great In a Lonely Place, in which Humphrey Bogart's outbursts betray an all-too-real recklessness in his eyes. The tension in Bitter Victory makes brief outbursts by, say, the latter said central character, played intensely by Richard Burton, feel twice the jolt of the violence which is expected of his mission. And the tensions heightened by the controlling anger of the commander, in a strong performance by Curt Jurgens, create a balance of ambiguity. We know the crushing inadequacies that haunt the very men we find so brutally cold.

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