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Loosely based on fact, "Tobruk" tells the story of an Allied mission to
destroy Rommel's fuel supply at the port city of Tobruk. The film is
quite entertaining, and there are some good ideas in the script, and
some nicely shot action scenes, but the film never really rises above
In 1942, the fate of the Mediterranean hangs in the balance. The Allies have devised a scheme to stop Rommel's advance to the Suez Canal. A group of German Jews led by Captain Bergman (George Peppard), now working with the British, will escort a company of English commandos led by the staunch Colonel Harker (Nigel Green) across 800 miles of harsh desert right into the port of Tobruk, where they will knock out the harbor guns which prevent British troops from landing in the harbor. Then the British will land a strike force to destroy Rommel's colossal underground fuel dump. The movie follows the trek across the desert, where the characters bicker over opposing ideals and motives, discover a traitor in their midst, get stuck in a minefield, etc. etc., and as expected, resolve their differences during a climactic encounter with the enemy.
"Tobruk" is ultimately a movie about conflicting ideals. There are plenty of noisy action sequences and suspenseful moments, but at the heart of the story is a weakly established conflict over different moral standards held by the main characters. Director Arthur Hiller had a significant background in directing TV shows, and it shows. "Tobruk" has a small-scale feel to it from start to finish. The sets even the vast outdoor desert plains are never filled with thousands of extras. This is a movie about what goes on between a few main characters. What's unfortunate is that in "Tobruk" they're never fully developed and, therefore, it's hard to care when they are settled. Major Craig is a selfish pacifist, but all he really does is bicker about how much he hates being on the mission. Nigel Green's Colonel Harker is a typical English officer, playing a part written as most Hollywood roles for the English characters were. He demands order, obedience and when men don't stand up to his authority he just shouts a lot and gets his way. Of the leads, George Peppard makes the most of his role as Captain Bergman. Bergman, a victim of Nazi terror, is out for revenge and out to help re-unite the Jewish people. What's hard to swallow is that Bergman already seems to know the Jews will re-unite in Israel, when it wasn't re-formed into a nation by the U.N. until sometime after the end of World War II. Despite this, Peppard is passionate but never overacts. This is the type of role he was perfectly suited for, and it was fun to watch his performance.
All that said, "Tobruk" is still a pretty good movie. The question of heroism and duty is answered quite well near the film's conclusion, as each of the leads is forced into a situation they would rather not be in, where they must put their lives at stake in order to accomplish something important bigger than they are. Harker states, "We have few saving graces perhaps our willingness to die for what believe is all that matters." Craig comes to respect Bergman's religious ideals and backs him up during the final battle sequence. And with that said the final battle sequence is, quite simply, incredibly well-filmed. The Allied assault on the harbor guns is fantastic. There are dozens of soldiers running about on the beach as a huge artillery installation is blown to bits, and not the least part of it looks staged or faked. Later, this scene is put to shame as some of the heroes take out the entire fuel supply for Rommel with a tank. The fuel dump explodes in grand fashion, with dozens of huge explosions and orange fireballs, some of which must have been real. The visual effects are state-of-the art, especially when one considers that this film was shot in 1966. (It was nominated for Best Special Effects at the 1968 Oscars, but lost to Doctor Dolittle).
"Tobruk" is entertaining and a sufficient afternoon adventure story. From start to finish, and it looks and sounds very authentic. Nothing about this movie seems staged, and despite an average-quality script, it's engaging and thought-provoking. I would suggest renting it at some point.
The Longest Day started a trend in Hollywood to have big all star cast
productions showing with documentary accuracy good accounts of some of
the major events of World War II. Other such films like this would be
Patton, MacArthur, Midway, and A Bridge Too Far. Note I do not include
The Battle of the Bulge in this list.
The seesaw struggle for Tobruk would make a great film as the key port city on the North African coast passes from Axis to Allied hands a few times over the 1940-1942 period. But if you're looking for a factional account of that story, this ain't it.
What it's about is an allied raid on the fuel bunkers at Tobruk that keep Rommel's panzers going. The idea is that a group of Jewish soldiers who like Paul Newman in Exodus fought in the British army and these are German Jews, led by George Peppard, with appropriate accents and language will disguise themselves as Nazi soldiers. They will escort British 'prisoners' into Tobruk led by Colonel Nigel Green who will blow up the fuel dumps along with a combined naval and air assault. Along for the ride is Rock Hudson, a Canadian major who dreamed up the idea.
Well at least they didn't make Rock an American since there no American soldiers in that part of Africa at all. But Canada has always been handy if you want to cast a name American movie star in a British locale. Fortunately it fits the plot situation here.
There's action enough for those who like that as I do. But the most interesting part about Tobruk is the relationships between the German Jews and the British. Hudson is the outsider here so he does see both points of view. There is some garden variety anti-Semitism among the British, but it's also tempered with the fact that as Nigel Green puts it, he and others served in Palestine before war in Europe broke out.
Nevertheless as Peppard puts it for the first time Jews are acting like a people since the days of Rome. They are going home to where they started post World War II, to Israel before that was a name of a nation. Anyone who wants to start trouble can find them there. Sad to say a whole lot of people have wanted to start trouble for their own reasons.
So much battle footage was filmed for Tobruk that four years later it got used in another vastly inferior film, Raid on Rommel.
Not a great film Tobruk, but entertaining enough. But hopefully the real whole story of Tobruk will be told.
This thrilling wartime picture contains high-powered action-packed,
shootouts , grand-scale blow-up , intrigue and lots of fun . The film
belongs the sub-genre of warfare commandos , being highlighted by a
stirring and thrilling climax with overwhelming action scenes . This
WWII actioner talks upon a motley group formed by British soldiers
(Nigel Green ,Percy Herbert , Jack Watson, Leo Gordon -who also wrote
the script-) led by a Major (Rock Hudson replaced Laurence Harvey ,
though role was formerly offered to Dirk Bogarde who turned down) and
rebel Jews (George Peppard) craving the dreamed country against the
Nazi and Italian armies in the North African desert -Libya- during WWII
with the aim to knock out the guns of Tobruk . They ought to sneak to
clear the path for bombing strike at oil supply depots before Erwin
Rommel (The Fox of the desert) arrives in Egypt (he'll be stopped in
the Alamein by Montgomery who defeated the German army in the 1942-43
years). They must pass through Alix line disguised as German soldiers
escorting allied privates . There actually was a raid on Tobruk, 13-14
September 1942, including the German-Jewish SIG and fake British POWs.
Unlike the outcome in the movie, "Operation Agreement" was a complete
Decent wartime movie full of battles , explosions , thrills and extraordinary feats . From the beginning until ending the exciting warlike action is continued and the film runtime is adjusted . In the movie there is tension , suspense , emotion and for that reason results to be amusing ; besides , fast movement , and various happenings as well as spectacular scenes makes it entertaining and no boring . The picture has a certain remembrance with ¨Dirty dozen¨ , ¨Kelly's heroes¨ and ¨When the eagles dare¨ and the group of films were made about warlike adventures during the 60s and early 1970s . Portions of the film were edited into the 1971 Richard Burton film ¨Raid on Rommel¨ (1971) by Henry Hathaway and nearly all the action scenes was footage taken from Tobruk . The final confrontation between the protagonists and the enemies on the Nazi desert fortress is stimulating , it's the highlight of the movie . Russell Harlan's cinematography is good , like is well reflected on the splendid desert's photography . Rousing and breathtaking musical score by the great Bronislau Kaper . Well produced by Gene Corman , brother of legendary producer/director Roger Corman , as Gene financed several successful War films such as ¨The secret invasion¨, ¨Von Richthofen and Brown¨ ,¨You can win'em all¨ and the best of all them : ¨The Big Red One¨ . The motion picture was professionally directed by Arthur Hiller . Rating : Acceptable and passable warfare flick . The yarn will appeal to WW2 enthusiasts and Rock Hudson fans.
A lot of the comments above seem to be focused on whether or not the
film-makers got the tanks and trucks right, yet at the same time, the
writers admit they loved the movie. Me too; and I don't give a damn
about the equipment, so long as it's reasonably close to the real
Here's the point: a war film that tackles the big issues which the war itself was partly fought over is such a rare bird and especially one that's combined with some good character writing and knockout action sequences that one should embrace it. The movie gives us spectacle, yes, but it does so in a thoughtful way, a remarkable achievement when one considers that the typical war movie of the era was more like "Where Eagles Dare" than this one, ie, a farrago of nonsense designed to showcase ludicrous special effects sequences.
"Tobruk" may not be the literal truth, but it shows people committed to and fighting for beliefs and ideas, and fully prepared to sacrifice their lives if necessary to achieve that greater good. Stirring stuff, and the editing in the final tank sequence is nothing short of amazing.
Tobruk is a superior men-on-a-mission movie with lavish production values and a good set-up even if it has little resemblance to history (there was a Second World War and the Nazis were the bad guys, but that's probably about the only thing you won't need to take with a pinch of salt), with Canuck Rock Hudson sprung from a Vichy French prison ship in Algiers by George Peppard's German Jews fighting for the Allies. Seems he's the only one who can guide them on a raid on the German fuel dumps at Tobruk along with a raiding party disguised as Afrika Corps troops transporting British prisoners of war led by Nigel Green's casually anti-Semitic British colonel. Neither the British nor the Jews particularly trust each other because of that nasty business in Palestine, with Hudson pretty much taking the William Holden role from Bridge on the River Kwai here as a reluctant buffer between them while at a remove from their obsessions. Naturally, there's a traitor in their midst and enemy patrols, minefields and their own airplanes to be avoided, with a Nazi-sympathising Irish spy and his daughter thrown in to complicate matters further and add a bit of half-hearted female interest amid all the testosterone. Obligatory war movie regulars Norman Rossington, Percy Herbert and Jack Watson are present and correct in the ranks (Sam Kydd and Gordon Jackson were presumably busy that month on another war movie) and there's a memorable score by Bronislau Kaper. It's impressively directed by Arthur Hiller with a well-crafted script by Leo V. Gordon that keeps things moving and throws in the odd good spin on some of the clichés en route to a finale that should please all lovers of very big explosions, while Russell Harlan's Techniscope cinematography looks good in the widescreen German DVD.
Often when I see a fondly remembered war film from my childhood I am
bitterly disappointed by it as an adult . Not so with TOBRUCK which I
recently saw again a few months ago . The explosive action scenes hold
up very well today as long as you don't compare them to SAVING PRIVATE
RYAN or BLACK HAWK DOWN but this is a film from 40 years ago . Imagine
how effective they must have been on its original release . And aren't
they fairly graphic ? So much so that I noticed some of the violence
had been edited for its afternoon showing on Scottish Television
One thing I hadn't noticed as a child is how complex the narrative is or smart the dialogue is . There's a couple of subplots one of which is a traitor in the group and of a couple of Nazi sympathisers with documents who want to contact the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem in order to bring the Muslim world on to the side of Nazi Germany . Interstingly enough the Nazis were pro Muslim and had at least two Waffen SS divisions composed of Bosnian s and Albanians . In narrative terms the screenplay is not in any way crowded with these two subplots As for the dialogue it switches from comic relief as in:
" what you doing with your fingers in your ears ? "
" I can't stand the sight of blood "
"Close your eyes then "
" But I want to see what's going on "
through to the serious and philosophical:
" I've heard it said there's a bit of a Jew in all of us "
" Ja and there's a bit of the Nazi as well "
You could be very pedantic and state that the German tanks are in fact American tanks dating from the 1950s but every war film from this period suffers from this flaw and very few are as intelligent or complex as TOBRUCK
That subgenre being the war movie about a small group of specialist soldiers - "commandos" - who pull off a daring raid, with lots of drama and personality conflicts - these days they're called "special operators." And it's the sort of war picture they sure don't make any more. Pity, in a way. In this screenplay it's the Long Range Desert Group, based on a legendary North Africa force, plus a bunch of German Jews out to confound the Nazis and use their contribution as leverage to achieve nationhood in Palestine -no, Israel!, as George Peppard brusquely corrects Rock Hudson. Which is what gives this movie a very interesting historical dimensions, bringing in as it does, along with Rommel and the Desert War, or course, the meddling of the Grand Mufti, Arab affinities for Nazism, and the struggle for Israel as the Holocaust goes on in Europe. Note the movie was made in '67 - Six-Day War anyone? The premise of the commandos masquerading as Afrika Korps I found a bit much, though. Also much mirth garnered by the use of all-American trucks and tanks (a lot of them post- WWII) for German, Italian, British - I noticed the California National Guard got a big credit at the end. The Grumman Goose was a cute touch, too. At least they got most of the guns right - but the P-40 was good, the right type for the time and place. Also a nice touch to have Rock Hudson play as a Canadian, not an American. And get a load of Dean Stockwell. And there was some pretty good camera work and some clever crane and dolly shots, too. For all its flaws and preposterous elements, and for being a bit of a period piece, it is a most entertaining picture, and lots of stuff blows up.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Whilst there's always the obligatory talky parts in 'sixties films this
still holds its own, especially with a latter movie-status Rock Hudson
at the helm. Morose, enigmatic Canadian officer Craig, at odds with the
CO on the mission, Harker (Nigel Green in yet another military role)
stubbornly goes along with a plan to destroy the dumps at Tobruk to
enable our boys to end the desert war asap.
A good role is played by George Peppard as Bergman, German-Jewish leader of the Jewish Brigade, assisting the British-led attack ironically but essentially dressed as German Afrika Corps soldiers, with a plot to infiltrate the Germans by escorting 'British POWs' into the area they need to sabotage.
Bergman's just as at odds with both Harker and Craig, as there's banter to the up-and-coming state of Israel, which of course Harker has had his 'bar-mitzvah' in Palestine (sorry about that!) Bergman and his chaps have almost the same mistrust of the allies as they have of the Nazis.
Of course, there's a traitor in the midst among the rabble. There are fine moments of action. An attack on 'the convoy' of prisoners, albeit by a British P-40, unknowing of course of their mission is well-handled. A number of the soldiers are killed by their 'own 'plane' before they down it with obvious mixed feelings but it was necessary for the mission.
Of course, they come across an Arab and his pals in the desert who happen to be a bit nasty too. Craig being fluent in German and Arabic poses as the Afrika Corps CO. (Suppose it's possible to find someone who speaks both - or is he a linguist/translator in peacetime Canada, who knows!), and negotiates with the Arabs (Who refuse his offer of a few rifles for two prisoners the Arabs say they have). Craig informs Sergeant Krug to open up with the MG42 and let the Arabs know they're not powerless with a good few rounds as they're demanding too much. They take the prisoners, Craig hands Harker the two 'British Passports', stating they're British (A father and daughter) - "They wanted to be taken to the Germans".
Between these traitors and the traitor among the camp is the intrigue. The traitor's among the Jewish Brigade/Afrika Corps and this leads to tension when Bergman's men are singled out by Harker, as one of the two captured traitors is murdered by the 'brigade's traitor'. Then Mohnfeld (Guy Stockwell) finds one of Bergman's men down a tunnel leading from where the 'daughter' - traitor was killed (Stay with it!) but Mohnfeld kills him in a fight it seems - is this the brigade's traitor? Bergman says not, but because it's happened his men are let off the hook for the moment. The 'father'- traitor is wasted trying to radio Berlin or whatever, unwittingly by an Italian-Axis soldier who didn't know what he was doing out there in the desert, dot-dot-dot-dotting.
As Bergman and his chaps have a reprieve, all goes more or less swimmingly along as we British would say to the dump, leaving Bergman to attack it with some flame-thrower action and Craig to take a tank into the area letting rip in good style. Bergman becomes a victim of his own flames after wasting quite a few Nazis though. Even though he's the hero, he gets done just like in 'The Blue Max' and 'Operation Crossbow' (Though he somewhat deserved it in The Blue Max!) but of course there IS another hero, and like it or not whether you're a Peppard or Hudson fan, it's the latter who's the real hero who's got to live (I mean, he hates authority, is always smarter than Harker and it's nice to show a Commonwealth soldier making it for once, right?).
The boys manage to blow up the dump, Harker and his men are surrounded though and taken prisoner, and the 'traitor' unmasks himself for the info he wants thinking Harker's only going to be chivalrous. But he pumps this traitor with his pistol only to be mown down by the Nazis after a nice speech about 'being a soldier to the max' or words to that effect. (who was the traitor - watch the film, I'm not a total 'spoiler'!)
This had a fair plot, some good angst between the authoritative Harker, Hudson and Bergman, good action, intrigue and a fine cameo of what an NCO is, namely the great Jack Watson playing one again, plus the two little British dregs, played by the fine character actors, Percy Herbert and Norman Rossington. Leo Gordon who plays the gruff Sergeant Krug actually wrote the screenplay. Check it out.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
When the well-armed Allied heroes aren't shooting, stabbing, and
blowing up their Axis adversaries in Arthur Hiller's "Tobruk," they are
at each other's throats in this exciting World War II action-adventure
opus set behind enemy lines in the Sahara desert during 1942. "Tobruk"
doesn't rank as the greatest W.W.II military thriller, but this
widescreen Universal Studios production is definitely a splendid way to
blow off 110 minutes. You can tell that this Rock Hudson & George
Peppard war epic was filmed after World War II ended because the story
features an elite German-Jewish commando squad sanctioned by the
British. No World War II movie made during the actual war would have
dared present such an undercover outfit because most studios shunned
anything that concerned Jewish characters. For example, government
propagandists in the Office of War Information/Bureau of Motion
Pictures severely criticized Warner Brothers for their 1944 movie "Mr.
Skeffington" because the agency felt it played into the hands of Axis
propagandists and their anti-Jewish sentiments. Another reason is that
the heroes wield a flame thrower, a devastating weapon that barbecues
the opposition, as unsavory a way to kill as it was to die, and the
OWI/BMP as well as Hollywood's Production Code Administration would
have condemned it because of its graphic nature. Neither agency felt
that the public was prepared to watch this kind of horrendous combat.
Furthermore, the government propagandists and the PCA would never have
countenanced the strife among the Allies; this would have shown the
Allies in a negative light and all war movies were designed to boost
morale. Casting aspersions against our Allies would never have flown in
any movie. Finally, Rock Hudson's heroic protagonist Major Craig is
anything but a hero of the World War II era variety. Craig warns his
commanding officer Colonel Harker before the raid: "My mother didn't
raise any heroes." "Tobruk" opens with this narration: "North Africa .
. . September 1942. The darkest hours. The world watches as Adolf
Hitler's high stepping Afrika Korps sweep onward to Egypt and the Suez
Canal while the Britishtheir strength dissipated by defeatmake a
desperate attempt to regroup at El Alamein." History in a nutshell! The
British want to deprive German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel of fuel for
his Afrika Korps tank units. Before the British can accomplish this
mission, they have to rescue a Canadian, Major Daniel Craig (Rock
Hudson of "Hornet's Nest") from a Vicky French P.O.W. camp. Earlier,
Craig had proposed his plan for the destruction of Rommel's fuel
supplies, but the narrow-minded English High Command led by Colonel
Harker (Nigel Green of "The Ipcress File") rejected it out of hand. An
elite squad of German Jews sympathetic to the Allied cause masquerade
as Nazis and snatch Craig from the French and then fly him back to
North Africa for a rendezvous in the desert with Colonel Harker. Craig
isn't sure about which side Captain Bergman (George Peppard of "The
Blue Max") is on until he lands at an Allied base. Harker briefs Craig
and Bergman about a proposed raid on the underground German fuel
bunkers in Tobruk. Although the Royal Air Force has been hammering
Rommel, Harker explains that too much fuel is still getting through to
the Desert Fox. Harker uses Berman's pseudo German troops to escort a
party of raiders disguised as P.O.W.s and Craig will guide them across
800 miles of the worst desert that the Sahara can offer. Craig
criticizes the plan, "It's suicide!" Harker proclaims as a rebuttal:
"It's orders!" Our heroes have several minor encounters with the enemy.
First, they trick nearby encampments of Italian and German troops to
fire on each other while they slip past them. Second, they plunge into
a German mind field at considerable peril to themselves to dissuade
Axis pursuit. Third, they encounter a native tribe that sells them two
British subjects, a father and daughter working for the Nazi, for ten
rifles. The father, Henry Portman (Liam Redmond of "Barry Lyndon"), has
a special message called the Kesselring document about a group of
dissent generals in the Egyptian Army who are plotting to attack the
British. Eventually, Portman and his daughter die through misadventure
and we learn that a traitor walks among Captain Bergman's men. Not long
afterward, our heroes cruise into Tobruk with a German police escort.
They discover to their shock that two reserve divisions of the Afrika
Korps are relaxing in Tobruk. Our heroes scramble to warn Her Majesty's
Royal Naval assault troops to cease and desist. Craig and Bergman
silence the big guns at Mesa Cove and Craig appropriates a German tank
and destroys the underground fuel bunkers. Bergman dies in a burst a
flame on the background. The German spy emerges at the finale and
Colonel Harker shoots him before he is shot by the Germans. Major Craig
and three survivors escape and make it to a Royal Navy pick-up farther
up the coast.
Arthur Hiller makes certain that we are never in the dark about what is going to happen. Leo V. Gordon's tightly written script provides a wealth of exposition. Hiller takes the starch out of some typical war movie scenes. Instead of staging the briefing in full uniform in a tent, Hiller has the commanding officer brief Hudson and Peppard while he is taking a shower. He conducts the remainder of the briefing without a shirt. "Tobruk" is undoubtedly the first World War II movie where Jews are action heroes and their British commanding officer above Peppard questions their trustworthiness. Hudson is adamantly an anti-hero, but he handles the flame thrower well and he knows out to steal a German tank with a dud hand grenade. There's lots of crisp interesting dialogue in this explosive, action-packed tale about heroes. Hudson makes a good level-headed hero, while Peppard wins our hearts with his bravado, especially in his death scene.
The year is 1942 and Germany's famed 'Desert Fox' is winning the war in North Africa. His vaunted 'Afrika Korps' is nearly unstoppable and is only a short distance from all out victory. In this movie "Tobruk" comes the story of a last desperate attempt to stop Rommel at the port city of the same name. A small detachment of specialist troops called the SIG, join British commandos who will attempt to travel 800 miles through the vast, rugged and hostile Sahara desert and attack Rommel's secret oil reserves. In order to accomplish this nearly impossible mission, the British kidnapped a highly experienced but reluctant Canadian officer, Maj. Donald Craig (Rock Hudson) so that Nigel Green as Col. Harker and George Peppard as Capt. Kurt Bergman, can convince him it must be done. Other Hollywood greats like Guy Stockwell, Jack Watson as Sgt. Maj. Jack Tyne and Leo Gordon as Sgt. Krug are what make's this film completely memorable. Interestingly enough, the story itself was written by Leo Gordon and was so well conceived, it was used to enhance a nearly duplicate film called "Raid on Rommel" four years later. As for this movie, it is so packed with inner conflicts between characters that often, it's hard to tell who they are at war with. Nevertheless, the background world conflict is sufficient to view with admiration the soldiers who willingly gave so much for what they believed. A superior action-oriented film and one which has become a Classic in its own right. Highly recommended. ****
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