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Bitter Victory (1957)

Approved | | Drama , War | March 1958 (USA)
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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.

Director:

Nicholas Ray

Writers:

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

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Cast

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
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Storyline

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

Plot Keywords:

commander | rommel | raid | well | major | See All (144) »

Taglines:

30 Fighting "Desert Rats" Invade Africa's Fortress See more »

Genres:

Drama | War

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

France | USA

Language:

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

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

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

Quotes

Capt. Leith: You're afraid to go in and kill with your bare hands. That's what makes a soldier and destroys you as a man.
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 »

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User Reviews

 
"The Cinema is Nicholas Ray"
29 February 2008 | by Goodbye_Ruby_TuesdaySee all my reviews

A heavy-handed thing to say, but that's what Jean-Luc Godard proclaimed upon seeing this film at the Cannes Film Festival. The French knew it long before we did: Nicholas Ray was one of the most original and wisest directors to ever make films. He took a French anti-war book and he made it into a film that was so much more than that. Unlike his previous routine assignment to confirm his allegiance to Howard Hughes during the Red Scare FLYING LEATHERNECKS, there are more layers that stretch far beyond the sea of sand that cast Richard Burton and Curt Jurgens away from society. Unlike most war films of its time and like almost every film Ray ever made, the conflict lies not in the battles between the nations, but inside the hearts of the film's protagonists.

The brooding Richard Burton is given a great role as disillusioned soldier Captain James Leith, forced to carry out an assignment with Major Brand, a man he dislikes (the feeling is mutual--Leith had an affair with Brand's wife Jane a few years back, and the desire still lingers on, showing Leith's last trace of humanity). Their assignment is to travel behind enemy lines and take some German documents. The long journey through the desert becomes even more heated as Leith reminds Brand of his cowardice (Brand hesitated to kill a German soldier during an attack) and Brand tries in subtle ways to kill Leith to cover up his cowardice. But this isn't a black and white good-guy/bad-guy caricature; there are so many shades of gray in both characters. As Leith later says, the two are almost mirror images (although he is much wiser than Brand and accepts his futility, Leith is not as strong as some might make him to be; he admits to leaving Jane because he was scared to get close to someone else--like all of Ray's anti-heroes, the ones who reject love are the ones who need it the most), possibly explaining why Brand feels compelled to kill Leith.

BITTER VICTORY wasn't the first anti-war film, but it was one of the few to make its statement so eloquently (and it had the most profound title). Too subtle to connect with American audiences (the film flopped badly at the box-office and when the studio re-cut it several times, each time farther and farther away from Nicholas Ray's original vision, it didn't work) but revered by French audiences, BITTER VICTORY has grown more potent in the decades since its release. The futility of war isn't proclaimed by the horrible violence of battle like countless films, but through the impossible absurdity of a man's role in the war. After all, if Leith "kills the living and saves the dead," what difference does it make, other than that little matter of when and what for? By the end, how is Brand any different from the training dummies with hearts painted over them? The enlightenment that Brand finds by the film's end comes too late; he's already lost what's precious to him and all he has to show for it is a DSO. It truly is a bitter victory.


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