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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>
Bernhard Wicki, the great late Burg theater actor and star of several high-class German TV productions and cinema movies (f.ex. as Dr. Orlovius in R.W. Fassbinder's "Despair", 1977), directed this Hollywood film. And he directed "Morituri" with an astonishing huge crew of mostly German and a few American actors. From the standpoint of today, this is almost extravagant, since which director would nowadays go through the "pain" of hiring real German speakers for the roles of Germans? If Europeans, seldomly enough, make a movie about America, they hire - Americans. If Americans, too often, make a movie about Europe, they hire - Americans. If you see how well Wicki trained Marlon Brandy to make him able to speak with an almost perfect German accent, only in order to hear this two hours and eight minutes long, is worth watching the movie.
However, "Morituri" is full of similar surprises. There is Max Haufler in the movie. Haufler played basically bum characters in the old Swiss movies directed by Kurt Früh. Besides that, he worked with Orson Welles in Kafka's "Process" and with a few comparably illustrious directors and actors. Doubtlessly, with his role of "Branner" (= Brunner = Brynner?), Wicki wanted to let him put one foot in Hollywood's door. However, this was Max Haufler's last role. Desperate from his experiences in the US, he returned to Zurich where he hung himself up at age 55. Also one of the most illustrious, though rather dubious characters of German film is in this movie: Prince Wilhelm Von Homburg who had his one big role in Werner Herzog's "Stroszek" (1977), although he is known to a wider audience because of his character "Vigo" in "Ghostbusters II" (1989).
Morituri is one the most sympathetic war movies, because it transcends its genre. If it would have been made with solely American actors and an American director, it would not be practically overseen. However, the "foreign" crew is exactly what turns this Morituri into a little gem. Such movies were already "about to die" at the time when they were made.
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