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Bitter Victory (1957)

Cast: Richard Burton, Richard Burton, Curd Jürgens, more...
Director: Nicholas Ray, Nicholas Ray
    see all cast/crew...
Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Columbia TriStar
Genre: War, WWII
Running Time: 102 min.
Languages: English
Subtitles: Japanese
    see additional details...

In Nicholas Ray's WWII drama, two British officers, Captain Leith (Richard Burton) and Major Brand (German character actor Curd Jürgens, who would later play Bond foe Karl Stromberg in The Spy Who Loved Me), a South African, are being considered to lead a daring raid to steal crucial documents from a Nazi stronghold in Libya. The two don't seem particularly fond of each other. Brand's wife, Jane (Ruth Roman of Strangers on a Train), arrives on the base. There's an odd awkwardness when Brand introduces her to Leith at the officers' club. It turns out the two already know each other, intimately. They were romantically involved long ago, until Leith broke it off without warning. Jane later met Brand. Leith and Jane keep their relationship a secret from Brand, but he realizes something's up when he goes out for a bit and comes back to find them dancing together. He later gets angry when his wife slips up and refers to Leith as "Jimmy." Brand and Leith are chosen to lead the mission together. Jane says goodbye to Leith, and Wilkins (Nigel Green of The Ipcress File) and some other soldiers see them together. The raid goes fairly smoothly, until Brand can't bring himself to kill a German sentry, and Leith feels compelled to step in and do it for him. Brand's resentment of Leith grows. The team steals the documents and heads out across the desert to make their escape. They're attacked by a German patrol, and after the melee, Brand arouses suspicious when he orders Leith to stay with three badly wounded soldiers while the rest of the group leaves for the rendezvous point. Bitter Victory is based on the novel by René Hardy. Jean-Luc Godard famously said of the film in his review, "Nicholas Ray is cinema." ~ Josh Ralske, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

So-So Cinema by talltale March 9, 2005 - 8:30 AM PST
1 out of 2 members found this review helpful
I hate to disagree with so famous a personage as Jean-Luc Godard (see the close of the All Movie Guide description above), but Nicholas Ray n'est pas "cinema." Not for me, at least. Ray is no Sam Fuller, either--not that anyone asked him to be. But the comparison kept cropping up as I watched the recently released dvd of BITTER VICTORY, a World War II (Brits vs. Germans in Africa) drama that plods wearily along between its beginning/finale bookends that offer a romantic triangle to goose-up the plot.

Thoughts about cowardice and bravery, the unpleasantness of war and hypocrisy/denial raise themselves lethargically from time to time, to little effect. The movie does offer some fun for old-timers: Richard Burton is his youthful (pre-Cleo) days; a prior-to-ossification Curd Jurgens (back in the 50s, moviegoers knew him as "Curt"); Ruth Roman, wasted here as the romantic interest; Nigel Greene as a crazy-like-a-fox solider; and Christopher Lee, quiet and professional, just one year before "Horror of Dracula" changed his life. The black-and-white Cinemascope transfer is a good one, too.

Back to Mr. Fuller: after watching "Bitter Victory," imagine the pulsing life, snappy dialog and wickedly off-balance sense of good and bad that Sam might have brought to this enterprise. But, then, he probably wouldn't have been interested in a story this tired.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 6.83)
12 Votes
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