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"One could give him the most difficult of missions knowing that he
would carry it out and that he would never betray the official who sent
him, but.. it was highly probable that he would rob the official who
sent him out... He would then carry out his mission and return to the
official whom he had robbed to report." Thus did a young filmmaker who
found himself in British Intelligence during WW2 describe Eddie
Chapman. Certainly if Chapman didn't exist, you'd have to invent him.
Playboy, conman, burglar, spy, a member of the pre-WW2 'Gelignite Gang'
and the only British citizen to be awarded the Iron Cross, during WW2
he was recruited by the Nazis as a spy only to end up spying on them
for the British. Terence Young would appear to be the perfect director
to bring his story to the screen - not only did he direct three Bond
movies but he had been a friend of Chapman's: in fact, he was the young
intelligence officer who gave that realistic appraisal of his abilities
and weaknesses. Unfortunately, the book 1967's Triple Cross was based
on was heavily vetted by MI5 and the film had even less to do with the
truth, either as Chapman (who didn't care much for the film) told it or
as it really happened.
One of those international co-productions so popular in the late Sixties (in this case Anglo-French), it has a good cast - Christopher Plummer as Chapman, Romy Schneider, Trevor Howard, Yul Brynner and Bond veterans Gert Frobe and Claudine Auger - and a more than healthy budget. On paper, the Private War of Eddie Chapman, Inc. certainly has everything it needs for an above-average thriller, with Chapman a potentially perfect 60's antihero. Arrested while posing as a financier ("I handle other people's money") in the Channel Islands and still imprisoned when the Germans invade, he's quick to offer his talents to the invaders on the grounds that "I'd rather live for Germany than die for England." After being vetted by Frobe's policeman and Schneider's Countess he finds himself under exclusive personal contract to Brynner's old school general and eventually sent back to England to destroy an aircraft factory, only to immediately offer his services to the even more suspicious British - for the right price.
Yet while it maps out a steady course it all seems a little unambitious, happy to settle for enjoyable enough Saturday night fare. Moments ring true, such as Chapman being paid in British Stirling taken from troops captured at Dunkirk or Howard refusing Chapman's request for a Distinguished Service Order because "I happen to wear it myself when I'm in uniform and I'm a snob about whoever else should wear it," while the film is particularly successful in showing the gradual defeatist attitude that overtakes the Germans, from generals merely grunting a reply to a Heil Hitler to Chapman's working for the British becoming an open secret in the German intelligence community that no-one cares enough to do anything about. Plummer's a convincingly amoral Chapman, blithely untroubled by any semblance of conscience and enjoying the ride, but it's Frobe's suspicious ex-policeman, secure in the knowledge that police are always needed whatever regime is in power, who is the most interesting character despite never being developed as enough of a potential threat. Unfortunately, there's rather a lack of threat throughout despite a couple of minor moments of suspense, Chapman's unshakeable self-belief being mirrored by a script that never seriously conveys the possibility of discovery.
If he's not as lazy as he'd later become, Young's die-hard bad habits are present, from the trademark dodgy dubbing of bit players (step forward Robert Rietty at the microphone) and casting of old pals like Anthony Dawson (Professor Dent in Dr No), with the film managing to be a rather slick package that's perhaps not as well wrapped as it could be in places - to use a metaphor the famed bon vivant probably would have approved of, a good wine delivered in a slightly cracked bottle. Chief among the cracks is the oh so happening Sixties title song that's so wrong it's almost lovable, with dementedly cast-off Bond-song lyrics -
"You've been crossed/And even crossed double/If you've been around, that's normal for the cooourrrsssse/But you won't believe the trouble/You'll find in just one man/The man of the Triple Cross!!!/Give him love/He will always keep taking/He can only win/And you will take the loss/So before your world is shaken/Escape him if you can/The maaa-aaa-aaannn of the Triple Cross!!!!"
There have subsequently been two books about Chapman's exploits this year, with Ben Macintyre's Agent Zigzag highly recommended if you want to find out the true story. But as rainy day take-it-with-a-grain-of-salt entertainment, Triple Cross does well enough.
Terence Young directed the first two James Bond films and magnificently
set the style of the series. He tries to bring some of that flamboyance
to "Triple Cross", down to a title song which should have been sung by
Shirley Bassey. But this wartime shaggy-dog espionage yarn resisted the
007 treatment and laid a big egg.
Compared with, say, "Five Fingers" or "I Was Monty's Double", "Triple Cross" is sluggish. It's a European co-production, always a difficult diplomatic problem, and the cast is a mini-United Nations: a Canadian as the secret agent, a British spy master, Germans, an Austrian love interest and Yul Brynner, whose origins (like those of the slab in "2001") were still a total mystery.
Christopher Plummer is sleek and sardonic as Eddie Chapman, a master safe cracker and in reality a working class charmer from North East England who had been a Guardsman; here he seems more of a toff, like Raffles or Bond. The bare bones of his story were true and incredible enough not to need polishing.
Eddie was in jail in the Channel Island of Jersey when the Germans occupied it in 1940 (by air, not as shown here from ships docked directly under Chapman's cell). He offered himself as a Nazi spy to get back to England. There he immediately re-ratted and got sent to Germany, where he trained other agents whom the British caught and turned. The unsuspecting Nazis were so pleased with his apparent perfidy that he was given the Iron Cross. Hence the film's title.
Brynner is a "good German" colonel, an anti-Nazi aristo who pays the price of involvement in the Hitler assassination plot. Among other heel-clickers who think they are controlling Chapman is Gert Frobe-- so that's what Goldfinger was up to before he became a card sharp in Miami. Trevor Howard sports an ugly little ginger beard. Romy Schneider, no longer the plump little ingenue of the Sissi trilogy, is sharp-jawed and wan as Eddie's aristocratic girlfriend.
Their lack of chemistry underscores Plummer's lack of sex appeal. He was losing the kudos he had gained as Baron von Trapp-- maybe he'd have felt more at ease in Brynner's part-- and his stellar status was as brief as Julie Andrews's. Eddie Chapman fared better. Given a blanket amnesty at the war's end, he married and lived long, prosperously and respectably.
This espionage-Flic based on fact concerns about astute safe-cracker
named David Chapman(Christopher Plummer) who encounters himself working
for both contenders in the 40s , as German secret service commanded by
a baron(Yul Brynner) and a colonel(Get Frobe) and British military(led
by Trevor Howard and Jess Hahn). Meanwhile he falls in love with a
gorgeous resistance fighter(Claudine Auger) and a mysterious German
countess(Romy Schneider). Chapman attempts to cheat both sides and play
each other. The he's sent a dangerous mission and parachuted at England
with objective to reconnaissance and factories sabotages. He's even
decorated by General Von Runstedt(Marcel Journet).
Based on real events starred by a real bank robber named Eddie Chapman, this film packs action, suspense, warlike feats and is quite entertaining. First rate main cast as Christopher Plummer as amoral but sympathetic double agent adding a bemusing touch , Yul Brynner as disillusioned German officer, a Von Stauffemberg-alike, and a splendid Get Frobe as cunning Colonel. Ample and stunning supporting cast with a magnificent Trevor Howard, and beautiful Claudine Auger and Romy Schneider, among others. Appear uncredited prestigious secondaries as Gordon Jackson, Howard Vernon,Bernard Fresson and Gordon Jackson. Colorful and evocative cinematography by Henry Alekan, Terence Young's usual cameraman(Mayerling,Poppies are also flowers). Enjoyable musical score by George Garvarentz in a James Bond style. The motion picture is regularly directed by Terence Young but contains some flaws and gaps, though tension at times, as well. The film was realized in his best period when he made the classic Bonds films(Dr No, From Russia with love and Thunderball). Rating : Acceptable and passable.
The ghost of Bond is fairly obvious here. Plummer as the real life safe cracker Eddy Chapman is suitably suave and charming and Yul Brynner is his normal stiff martinet (with added monocle)and Romi Schneider is "okay" (the love scenes are mostly a dud and show little chemistry between Romi and Chris). The production design is pretty good, lots of authentic uniforms and arms, plus plenty of genuine WW2 trucks and cars, the naughty Nazis are a tad stereotypical, but the conference scenes in the Paris hotel are well produced. Perhaps an aircraft buff can identify the twin engined plane used in several sequences, it certainly didn't look German! Overall an entertaining way of passing the time with few phony heroics.
Triple Cross tells the story of professional thief Eddie Chapman who
worked as a double agent for the Germans and the British during World
War II. He's charmingly played by Christopher Plummer who was at the
height of his career with The Sound of Music on the horizon for him.
Chapman was some piece of work and he was only able to accomplish this whole thing by dint of the fact that he was operating on the Channel islands when World War II broke out. By that time he'd eschewed opening safes by cracking combinations, he was using controlled amounts of gelignite in his work.
Sent to prison on the Isle of Jersey, Plummer is there when the Germans take over those islands and promptly offers his services to the Nazis. After taking him up on the offer despite the stern objections of Gert Frobe, Plummer gets an assignment back in the United Kingdom. Of course upon landing there he promptly offers his services to the British and they take him up on it as well.
I love to watch Christopher Plummer on screen. He's so suave and professional in everything he does whether it's the Duke of Wellington in the film Waterloo, to Baron Von Trapp in The Sound of Music, to even the villainous hypocritical reverend in Dragnet. He's never anything, but at his best for his audience.
His handlers at the British and German ends are Trevor Howard and Yul Brynner. Howard is in the stiff upper lip tradition of his country and Brynner provides an air of melancholia for his part. It ends in tragedy for him as he's part of the bomb plot to kill Hitler in 1944.
By the way it is just that somehow Plummer was conned biggest of all in the end. To see what I'm talking about by all means catch Triple Cross.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First of all, this is an entertaining movie, with the requisite
suspense and action well done, interesting characters and good acting.
Frankly, I don't see what all the griping is about.
Some of the comments downplay the historical accuracy of the movie, but from what I can learn online, the basic elements are astonishingly correct. The impact Eddie Chapman, an otherwise obscure criminal languishing in a remote jail, had on the course of World War II is, if anything, underplayed in the movie.
We've all seen the newsreel footage of V1 and V2 bombs falling on London. What they fail to mention is that they were not landing where the Germans thought they were aiming for. And we have Chapman to thank for that. He was sending back skewed information about the locations of impact, which led the Germans to correct their aim away from central London. That's a pretty sweet trick to play on the Germans. And that part of the story is absolutely true, though you have to listen closely to documentaries of WWII to catch any mention of it.
What the movie focuses on, instead, is Chapman, the audacious con man. Without reading his autobiography, it is hard to be sure of the details, but anyone who pulled off what he did must have been worthy of this portrayal.
What we also see is the fallibility of decision making by German leaders, contrary to the near omniscience they are sometimes credited with. Hinted at also is that some of those German military leaders were not totally loyal Nazis. There was a loose underground among the upper levels of the old military guard, people like Baron Von Grunen. You can read about the German underground, such as it was, on Wikipedia. It's good to see a movie that doesn't portray Nazis in simplistic stereotypes.
And it should be noted that Gert Fröbe, who was an actual member of the Nazi Party during the war, only used this as a cover to rescue Jews from the Holocaust, like a minor Oscar Schindler. BTW, I wonder if we hear Fröbe's actual voice here, unlike in Goldfinger?
Looking at the photo of the real Eddie Chapman, you wonder how he was such a ladies man, yet he was. The Christopher Plummer portrayal makes him look more glamorous than he probably was, as a sophisticated jewel thief, much like Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief, rather than a crook who burglarized movie theaters.
But the basic story is correct, and effectively portrayed. How would you feel being inside the Nazi Reich being trained as a spy to be sent to England, who might be uncovered with the slightest slip, by either side, and executed? The tension is well portrayed in the film.
However, and here is the spoiler, the movie's title is misleading: I can't find a triple cross, though he did cross enemy lines several times. He was a Brit who offered to work for the Germans, but when he got to England he never delivered; he went straight to British authorities and told them the truth. This was a very wise decision, because the British already knew something about his mission from their decoded German Enigma messages.
So the British then have him send back false intelligence to the Germans. That's a pretty good double cross, but then Chapman goes back to Germany, convinces them he is still working for them, and is eventually sent back to England again, where he sends back more false information. Truly amazing! But still only a double cross.
There is some brief mention of plans for the D Day invasion of France. It is well known that the Allies used General Patton in England to set up a ruse that we were planning to invade at Calais, which Hitler firmly believed. This deception was perpetrated on many levels, including a fictional corpse created with the help of Ian Flemming. Chapman may have sent back information confirming the presence of real troops around Patton, instead of the plywood tanks they actually had, though this is not stated in the movie.
So, while there is almost inevitably some fictional elements in a movie based on history, the fundamentals are accurate enough in Triple Cross for it to be a valuable supplement to factual information found in the countless documentaries about World War II. And the story is amazing enough that someone should make a genuine documentary about Eddie Chapman's exploits.
Eddie Chapman was a brave man, doubly so because when he conned the Germans, he had no way of knowing if England would win the war.
I highly recommend this movie.
What seems sometimes like an incredible tale of how a con man easily
convinces the British and the Germans that he's working for them during
WWII, with very little effort, is given rather routine treatment under
the direction of Terence Young.
Christopher Plummer, fresh from playing the Captain in "The Sound of Music," lends a polished air of humor and sarcasm to the role of Eddie Chapman, a safe cracker who makes himself useful to both the British and the German armies by acting as a go between who uses his skills to thwart Germany's war plans for bombing London. Based on a true story, I'm sure it embellishes the truth with lots of fictional twists and turns that serve the purpose of keeping a viewer tuned in to find out what happens next.
A shorter running time would have helped, but the performances are all on a good level with special nods to Yul Brynner, Trevor Howard, Gert Frobe and Romy Schneider. Much of the story seems unconvincing despite the fact that the basic ingredients are based on a true story.
Somehow, Plummer's casting seems slightly off for this kind of material. Gert Frobe is a standout as a doubting Nazi who suspects Plummer is not quite what he pretends to be. Brynner is more low key than usual as an anti-Nazi German officer who knows the end of the war is near. Romy Schneider is excellent as Plummer's love interest.
Could have been a much tighter, more suspenseful tale than it is.
Quite right, it is definitely not a German plane. The aircraft is a
1946 French SNCAC Martinet.
This was enjoyable to watch on a quiet evening at home. It was particularly interesting for me because I knew nothing of Edward Chapman's charmed life and wartime exploits so now I would like to know more about him and I'll be tempted to read up a bit and do some research about him.
The film was well made with good production values and direction. My complaint is with the editing which was off kilter at times. The story line was abrupt and frequently resulted in too many fast changes. For instance we needed to see how Edward Chapman got passage on the vessel to Lisbon.
ok, it has its flaws...and it's too long but nevermind that. 'fantastique histoire..' features a stellar international cast with christopher plummer playing the amoral eddie chapman playing the enemies against each other. it's dialogue and style is quite 'tongue-in-the-cheek', quite humorous at times. one of the more light-headed yet very entertaining WW2/spy-movies. definitely worth seeing, but don't take it too seriously.
These international films were big in the '60s, and Triple Cross is no
exception. It stars Christopher Plummer, Romy Schneider, Trevor Howard,
Yul Brynner, Gert Frobe, and Claudine Auger.
Triple Cross is loosely based on the exploits of Eddie Chapman, a successful thief who becomes an agent for the Germans and then an agent for the English, though he keeps working for the Germans.
The story is even more fascinating because it's true, but somehow, the film falls flat. Instead of being on the edge of your seat, you relax on the couch. Its pace was somewhat slow, the editing jumpy, and the film is short on action.
Christopher Plummer is a wonderful actor, but one gets the feeling that Eddie Chapman was scrappier and lower class than he's portrayed here. The beautiful Romy Schneider is wasted.
The film is directed by Terence Young, responsible for some wonderful films: Wait Until Dark and some James Bond films, and then some not as successful, such as one of the worst films ever made, Bloodline, and another bomb, Mayerling. So one can say he was inconsistent. Unfortunate.
There are apparently two books on Chapman which are probably more interesting.
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