Ten Seconds to Hell (1959)

93 mins | Drama | April 1959

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HISTORY

Working titles for the film were The Extra Edge and The Phoenix . According to a Nov 1955 HR news item, Britain's Exclusive Films (an alternate corporate name used by Hammer in the early 1950s) intended to make both an English language and German-language adaptation of Lawrence Bachmann's novel, The Phoenix , with Bachmann scripting and co-producing. Only the English-language version was made, and Bachmann's contribution, if any, to the finished script has not been determined. The film was shot on location in Berlin.
       A May 1958 NYT article indicated that director Robert Aldrich received unprecendented assistance from East Berlin authorities and equipment from DEFA Studios in East Berlin. The East Berlin Government in the Soviet sector of the city controlled Berlin's railways and, at Aldrich's request, offered complete cooperation in allowing the filming of an early sequence in the story as the soldiers, returning from the POW camps, arrive in the Berlin train station. The DV review noted that the voice-over narration seemed to be an "afterthought" and indeed, a portion of it contradicts the film when the narrator mentions six weeks having passed since one character's death, yet "Eric" states soon after that three weeks have passed. ... More Less

Working titles for the film were The Extra Edge and The Phoenix . According to a Nov 1955 HR news item, Britain's Exclusive Films (an alternate corporate name used by Hammer in the early 1950s) intended to make both an English language and German-language adaptation of Lawrence Bachmann's novel, The Phoenix , with Bachmann scripting and co-producing. Only the English-language version was made, and Bachmann's contribution, if any, to the finished script has not been determined. The film was shot on location in Berlin.
       A May 1958 NYT article indicated that director Robert Aldrich received unprecendented assistance from East Berlin authorities and equipment from DEFA Studios in East Berlin. The East Berlin Government in the Soviet sector of the city controlled Berlin's railways and, at Aldrich's request, offered complete cooperation in allowing the filming of an early sequence in the story as the soldiers, returning from the POW camps, arrive in the Berlin train station. The DV review noted that the voice-over narration seemed to be an "afterthought" and indeed, a portion of it contradicts the film when the narrator mentions six weeks having passed since one character's death, yet "Eric" states soon after that three weeks have passed. More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
LOCATION
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
20 Jul 1959.
---
Daily Variety
15 Jul 59
p. 3.
Film Daily
15 Jul 59
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
29 Nov 1955.
---
Hollywood Reporter
7 Feb 1958
p. 17.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Apr 1958
p. 23.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jul 59
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
18 Jul 59
p. 339.
New York Times
11 May 1958.
---
New York Times
18 Jul 59
p. 6.
Variety
15 Jul 59
p. 12.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Seven Arts-Hammer Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam op
ART DIRECTOR
Prod des
FILM EDITORS
Supv ed
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus comp
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod mgr
Prod mgr
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel The Phoenix by Lawrence P. Bachmann (London, 1955).
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
The Extra Edge
The Phoenix
Release Date:
April 1959
Production Date:
early February--mid April 1958 at Ufa Film Studios, Berlin, Germany
Copyright Claimant:
Hammer Film Productions, Ltd.
Copyright Date:
17 July 1959
Copyright Number:
LP14643
Physical Properties:
Sound
Klingfilm Eurocord Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
93
Countries:
United Kingdom, Germany, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
19235
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In post-war Berlin, British Major Haven recruits members of a returning German demolitions unit, Hans Globke, Peter Tillig, Wolfgang Sulke, Franz Loeffler, Karl Wirtz and Eric Koertner, to defuse unexploded Allied bombs scattered throughout the city. Delighted by the well-paying position, smug Karl bets the solemn Eric that he will outlive him. Although initially taken aback by the wager, the other men soon agree that half of their salaries will go to the survivors of the dangerous mission in three months’ time. The British provide the men new uniforms and equipment, and assign Frau Bauer as their liaison. Karl volunteers to lead the unit, but the men vote for the reluctant Eric instead. Later, Karl and Eric move into an Allied-approved boardinghouse run by pretty young widow Margot Hoefler, a French woman whose German husband died during the war. Several weeks go by in which the men successfully and safely defuse numerous bombs; then the men are stunned when young Globke is killed while defusing a British one-thousand-pound bomb. Suspecting that the bomb had double fuses, Eric asks Haven to request information from British armaments on its design. At the boardinghouse, Karl continually flirts with Margot, to Eric’s annoyance. One evening when Margot loudly protests Karl’s drunken advances, Eric bursts into Margot’s room to help her and Karl retreats, ridiculing Eric for his motives. Deducing that Eric disapproves of her behavior, Margot explains that her uneasy situation as a traitor to the French and an outsider to the Germans has left her jaded and willing to take happiness wherever she can find it. When Eric remains ... +


In post-war Berlin, British Major Haven recruits members of a returning German demolitions unit, Hans Globke, Peter Tillig, Wolfgang Sulke, Franz Loeffler, Karl Wirtz and Eric Koertner, to defuse unexploded Allied bombs scattered throughout the city. Delighted by the well-paying position, smug Karl bets the solemn Eric that he will outlive him. Although initially taken aback by the wager, the other men soon agree that half of their salaries will go to the survivors of the dangerous mission in three months’ time. The British provide the men new uniforms and equipment, and assign Frau Bauer as their liaison. Karl volunteers to lead the unit, but the men vote for the reluctant Eric instead. Later, Karl and Eric move into an Allied-approved boardinghouse run by pretty young widow Margot Hoefler, a French woman whose German husband died during the war. Several weeks go by in which the men successfully and safely defuse numerous bombs; then the men are stunned when young Globke is killed while defusing a British one-thousand-pound bomb. Suspecting that the bomb had double fuses, Eric asks Haven to request information from British armaments on its design. At the boardinghouse, Karl continually flirts with Margot, to Eric’s annoyance. One evening when Margot loudly protests Karl’s drunken advances, Eric bursts into Margot’s room to help her and Karl retreats, ridiculing Eric for his motives. Deducing that Eric disapproves of her behavior, Margot explains that her uneasy situation as a traitor to the French and an outsider to the Germans has left her jaded and willing to take happiness wherever she can find it. When Eric remains critical, Margot accuses him of denying his own desires. A few days later, Frau Bauer receives a report that Tillig has been trapped under a live bomb by the partial collapse of a ruined building. With the other men away on assignments, Eric and Karl race to the site, and despite Tillig’s protests, inspect the bomb. After Eric defuses the bomb safely, a doctor arrives and upon examining Tillig declares there is no chance for his survival. Refusing to accept the pronouncement, Eric hurries outside to request equipment to lift the bomb, but as Karl expresses his doubts, the building collapses on Tillig and the doctor. Distraught, Eric returns to the boardinghouse where he seeks solace from Margot. The next day, Eric takes Margot to another ruined section of the city and reveals that before the war he was an architect. Eric struggles to conceal his growing feelings for Margot, admitting that he is confused about becoming romantically involved while his life is in danger daily. Back at headquarters, Haven tells Eric that because of the post-war chaos, they have been unable to gather information on the thousand-pound bombs. When Haven discloses that he knows of Eric’s former profession, Karl, unaware that his colleague was an esteemed architect, expresses surprise. Eric tells Haven that he was forced into demolitions when he fell into disfavor for making anti-Nazi political statements. Karl and the other men were all pressed into demolitions as punishment for some indiscretion and all vowed to do everything they could to survive the war. Mocking Eric’s growing anxiety, Karl urges him to quit the unit and give up the wager, but Eric refuses. A month before the wager’s deadline, Sulke is killed while defusing a bomb. Eric, Loeffler and the men agree to adhere to the terms of the wager but discuss giving the salaries to Sulke’s widow and child. When Eric presents the proposal to Karl, he scoffs at the suggestion, explaining that his motto has always been to look after himself. The next day Loeffler is called to defuse a bomb found in a canal. Later, Eric learns that Loeffler has drowned in the attempt. That afternoon when Margot urges Eric to give up the bet and quit the unit, Eric explains he must know whether he can triumph over Karl’s greed and selfishness. A few days later, Karl is assigned to defuse a thousand-pound bomb and Eric joins him at the site to make an inspection. The men discuss a strategy to avoid the potential second fuse, then Eric departs, but worriedly hovers nearby. After removing the top of the bomb, Karl gently handles the cap then abruptly calls for help, claiming the detonator pin has slipped. Eric rushes in and provides a pencil, which he offers to hold in place of the pin while Karl retrieves his tools from the landing. Moments later, Eric is stunned when the rope Karl used earlier to remove the top pulls tautly across his hand, forcing him to release the pencil. The bomb does not explode, however, and Eric realizes that Karl has tried to kill him. Eric strikes Karl, then orders him to finish defusing the bomb. As Eric walks away, the bomb explodes, killing Karl. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.