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In 1942, in Warsaw, a Polish prostitute is murdered in a sadistic way. Major Grau, a man from German Intelligence who believes in justice, is in charge of the investigation. An eyewitness saw a German general leaving the building after a scream of the victim. A further investigation shows that three generals do not have any alibi for that night: General Tanz, Maj. Gen. Klus Kahlenberge and General von Seidlitz-Gabler. They three avoid a direct contact with Major Grau and become potential suspects. As far as Major Grau gets close to them, he is promoted and sent to Paris. In 1944, in Paris, this quartet is reunited and Major Grau continues his investigation. Meanwhile, a plan for killing Hitler is plotted by his high command; a romance between Ulrike von Seydlitz-Gabler and Lance Cpl. Kurt Hartmann is happening and Insp. Morand is helping Major Grau in his investigation. The story ends in 1965, in Hamburg, with another similar crime. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Warsaw, December 1942. When a prostitute is savagely murdered, German Intelligence Officer Major Grau is called to investigate. An eyewitness who caught a glimpse of the perpetrator through a crack in a door, reveals that the killer wore grey trousers with a red stripe down the side - the uniform of a Wehrmact General. Grau quickly narrows the suspects down to three men whose whereabouts on the night in question cannot be accounted for.
Having been aware of this film for many years, I finally managed to catch a rare screening of it last night on British TV. Part of my curiosity to see it was due to the sheer weight of the cast:- Omar Sharif as Major Grau, Peter O'Toole, Donald Pleasence and Charles Gray as the Generals, plus Christopher Plummer, Tom Courtenay, Philip Noiret, Gordon Jackson, John Gregson, Harry Andrews, Nigel Stock and Patrick Allen - phew! The film itself starts quite promisingly as a murder mystery and maintains the interest while based in Warsaw. It features an impressive sequence involving the flushing out of Polish Resistance fighters in the city. An interesting side-note at this point is that the armour used here appeared to be either real Tiger tanks, or pretty good replicas. This attention to detail was quite unusual for a film made in 1966. Usually, contemporary armour was used in war films of this vintage - I'm thinking particularly of 'Battle Of The Bulge', 'The Bridge At Remagen' and even 'Patton'.
However, once the scene shifts to Paris in the summer of 1944, the film starts to lose focus, meandering off on sub-plots about the Hitler assassination conspiracy and Tom Courtenay's character's love life. For long stretches Omar Sharif disappears altogether and the momentum is lost. Another distraction is the way the film jumps forward at intervals to the '60's, where we find Philip Noiret's Policeman interviewing some of the secondary characters in an attempt to solve the mystery. But by this point the killer's identity has become all too clear.
The film is by no means a total waste. It is in part an interesting study of German senior officers. The acting is good throughout, and to see stalwarts of British war films like Harry Andrews and John Gregson playing Germans is both curious and original. The script is literate, production design handsome, and the 1.78:1 presentation on ITV3 gave a tantalising glimpse of how good Henri Decae's photography would look in it's full 2.35:1 Panavision frame. But overall I was left feeling that with tighter handling regarding the killer's identity, and more emphasis on the central plot, the film could have been a far more satisfying whole.
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