32 user 35 critic

Bitter Victory (1957)

Approved | | Drama, War | March 1958 (USA)
2:01 | Trailer
A Commander receives a citation for an attack on General Erwin Rommel's headquarters, which is actually undeserved, as the Commander is unfit for his job. On top of that, unbeknownst to him, his wife is having an affair with one of his officers.


Nicholas Ray


René Hardy (screenplay) (as Rene Hardy), Nicholas Ray (screenplay) | 3 more credits »
1 nomination. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Richard Burton ... Captain Leith
Curd Jürgens ... Major Brand
Ruth Roman ... Jane Brand
Raymond Pellegrin ... Mekrane
Anthony Bushell ... General Paterson
Alfred Burke Alfred Burke ... Lt. Colonel Callander
Sean Kelly Sean Kelly ... Lieutenant Barton
Ramón de Larrocha Ramón de Larrocha ... Lieutenant Sanders (as Ramon De Larrocha)
Christopher Lee ... Sergeant Barney
Ronan O'Casey ... Sergeant Dunnigan
Fred Matter Fred Matter ... Oberst Lutze
Raoul Delfosse Raoul Delfosse ... Lieutenant Kassel
Andrew Crawford Andrew Crawford ... Private Roberts
Nigel Green ... Private Wilkins
Harry Landis ... Private Browning


In North Africa during World War II, Major David Brand is assigned to lead a British commando raid into German-held Benghazi to retrieve whatever documents they can lay their hands on at the German headquarters. His number two will be Capt. Jimmy Leith who speaks Arabic fluently and knows Benghazi well. Brand also learns that his beautiful wife Jane and Leith were lovers before the war, creating tension between the two. Brand is untested in battle and freezes at a critical moment, losing the respect of his men. After the raid, the trek back is arduous and takes its toll on the men. It also results in only one of the two senior officers surviving. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The Desert Commando Raid They Wiped Off the Record Books! See more »


Drama | War


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Based on the book "Amère Victoire", which was written by the suspected traitor of the French Resistance, René Hardy. See more »


Brand whistles at the ruined fort, but the sound of the whistle comes about one second later. See more »


Major Brand: [walking into a room where Leith is adjusting the fan] Hello, Leith.
Capt. Leith: [contemptuously after adjusting the fans downward] I thought that fan should. uh, cool the colonel's head and not the flies on the ceiling.
See more »

Crazy Credits

End credits are designed to look like they came from a typewriter (although in white on a dark background). There are no upper case letters (capitals) in the credits. See more »


Referenced in The Dreamers (2003) See more »

User Reviews

Ego Cannot Replace Courage, But They Can Look Alike.
30 October 2009 | by jzappaSee all my reviews

Possibly Nicholas Ray's most masculine film, he begins with a great opening credits sequence and follows with a studious, procedural atmosphere. When it gets emotionally dramatic quite soon, it remains taut, spare, subdued. Because Ray doesn't tell us how to feel about it, our understanding of the histrionics is that much clearer and unclouded. By the twenty-minute mark, the tension is a natural agreement between us and the film, which sits back viewing objectively horizontal planes, or stationary horizontal shots of whatever natural blocking. Even a shootout in the desert night.

Bitter Victory is a rare treat, a military thriller involving war and covert ops, but focusing not on combat or conspiracies, but on the agitated envy two Allied officers who are situated on a commando raid together. We skip the parachuting in to Bengasi but we're quickly witness to their wordless close calls and perceptions of un-subtitled Arabic. This downbeat emotional drama is what no Jack Ryan or Jason Bourne film would have the nerve or insight to do. It sees combat violence, sneak operations and life-or-death situations, of course, but it does not see the core of the suspense in it. But one of the two central characters, yes, essentially just two, is burying his knowledge that he's unfit for his job and undeserving of his command as deep as he can beneath the assurances of his aggressive justification. Another is having an affair with that very commander's wife, whose emotions are displaced from her husband.

The on-screen violence is far from realistic, but building towards it and simmering down from it are steady and natural to the point that I might even say that it is Ray's most effective film about repression and male anger, even the great In a Lonely Place, in which Humphrey Bogart's outbursts betray an all-too-real recklessness in his eyes. The tension in Bitter Victory makes brief outbursts by, say, the latter said central character, played intensely by Richard Burton, feel twice the jolt of the violence which is expected of his mission. And the tensions heightened by the controlling anger of the commander, in a strong performance by Curt Jurgens, create a balance of ambiguity. We know the crushing inadequacies that haunt the very men we find so brutally cold.

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France | USA


English | German | Arabic

Release Date:

March 1958 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Bitter Victory See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

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