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A German living in India during World War II is blackmailed by the English to impersonate an SS officer on board a cargo ship leaving Japan for Germany carrying a large supply of rubber for tyres. His mission is to disable the scuttling charges so the captain cannot sink the ship if they are stopped by English warships. Written by
Daniel Bruce <email@example.com>
I stumbled across MORITURI in a Virginia Blockbuster; I've never seen it for rent anywhere else. I noticed that it had Marlon Brando and Yul Brynner, so I thought it had to be worth a try. And so I saw what turned out to be one of the top 20 World War II movies I've ever seen. That's right, up there with PATTON, THE YOUNG LIONS, and the like.
Brando plays Robert Crain, who is assigned to go undercover on board a German freighter transporting a cargo of rubber to the war zone. He must impersonate a Nazi to do this, and must face some hard choices as to how cruel he can be to appear realistic. Brynner is Muller, the captain of the freighter who has accepted the job as his last chance to save his career in the German merchant marine. He is fair and compassionate and must rein in the fanatical Nazi second-in-command that his superiors have appointed for him. En route, the freighter picks up the survivors of a U-boat, including Esther (Janet Margolin) a beautiful young concentration camp survivor who is so brimming with hatred and vengefulness that she can no longer even accept human compassion.
Brando is very good in his role, but he is completely upstaged by Brynner, who gives the performance of a lifetime. His conflict, between his patriotism and self-preservation on the one side and the vileness of what the Nazis are doing to him and to his country on the other, is marvelously realized. The movie also features a beautiful exchange between Brando and one of the passengers - "I was a political prisoner." "Falsely accused, of course." "No. Not falsely accused." (smiles). I have a soft spot for movies where adversaries come to respect each other, and MORITURI is one of the best of that type.
Good luck finding this movie. It's a true diamond in the rough.
Rating: ***1/2 out of ****.
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