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In 1942 Warsaw, a Polish prostitute is murdered in a sadistic way. Major Grau, an agent 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. The three avoid direct contact with Major Grau and become potential suspects. As Major Grau gets close to them, he is promoted and sent to Paris. In 1944 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
Well, if nothing else, we can agree that they don't make 'em like this any more. A cast of super-prestigious actors, including a reunion of Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif from Lawrence of Arabia, is employed in a huge, unwieldy Euro-pudding of a production about Nazis, murderers and a Nazi murderer.
This isn't an easy movie to summarize, since there are at least three major plot-lines going on at the same time. In one, someone is killing prostitutes in occupied Warsaw and Paris, and Omar thinks the murderer is one of three leading Wehrmacht generals. In the second plot, various high-ranking officers are conspiring to overthrow Hitler and bring the war to an end. And in a third plot, Tom Courtenay's corporal is getting very close to the daughter of Charles Gray's untrustworthy General Gabler.
All three plots intersect, sort of, but I can't help wishing that someone had made up their mind just what sort of movie they wanted to make and stuck with it, rather than trying to make three at once. Courtenay's romantic sub-plot is entirely redundant, and should have been cut out completely, thus shortening the movie to a manageable two hours or so. And was there really any need for Christopher Plummer to saunter on in a minuscule cameo as Rommel? His appearance adds nothing to the story, and the only reason for him being here at all was presumably in order to employ every great British actor alive at the time. I'm only surprised that Laurence Olivier didn't turn up as Goebbels, or Himmler or someone.
And yet, despite the bloat, despite the stunt casting, despite the fact that Philippe Noiret is more wooden than the Black Forest, it works. I watched it for two and a half hours without getting bored, and I loved a lot of things about it - the characters interact beautifully, the tension in the conspiracy sequences builds up to near-unbearable levels, and the look of the thing is sumptuous in the extreme. You really feel you're there with these people, and you can't help but care about them and how the story comes out. In the end, that's what movies are supposed to do, isn't it? Night of the Generals is a long way from perfect, but it just about forced me to like it.
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