Morituri (1965)

123 mins | Melodrama | August 1965

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HISTORY

Three days after the release of Mutiny on the Bounty (see entry), the 11 Nov 1962 NYT announced that producer Aaron Rosenberg’s next project would be an adaptation of Werner Jörg Lüddecke’s World War II sea thriller, Morituri, which was published in Germany in 1960. At the time, Daniel Taradash had already begun work on the screenplay, for which a 1 Aug 1962 DV item said he would receive $175,000. The 1 May 1964 NYT stated that Morituri was one of many new projects contributing to a production boom at Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp., following the studio’s financial struggles related to the excessive spending on Cleopatra (1963, see entry).
       As reported by the 7 Feb 1963, 11 Jun 1963, and 13 Jun 1963 DV, stars such as Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston, and Robert Stack were considered for the leading role, while the 10 Jun 1963 LAT claimed Lee J. Cobb had been signed to play “Capt. Asmann,” who is not in the final film. Development stalled until the following spring, when a 17 Apr 1963 NYT news item announced that Rosenberg would reteam with Mutiny on the Bounty star Marlon Brando. According to the 20 Jan 1964 Var and 7 Feb 1965 NYT, recent Screen Actors Guild (SAG) union rules limited the number of European actors Rosenberg was allowed to hire to portray the film’s German characters, as only major stars set for key roles were permitted to accept work in the U.S. A 4 Sep 1964 LAT brief included Paul ... More Less

Three days after the release of Mutiny on the Bounty (see entry), the 11 Nov 1962 NYT announced that producer Aaron Rosenberg’s next project would be an adaptation of Werner Jörg Lüddecke’s World War II sea thriller, Morituri, which was published in Germany in 1960. At the time, Daniel Taradash had already begun work on the screenplay, for which a 1 Aug 1962 DV item said he would receive $175,000. The 1 May 1964 NYT stated that Morituri was one of many new projects contributing to a production boom at Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp., following the studio’s financial struggles related to the excessive spending on Cleopatra (1963, see entry).
       As reported by the 7 Feb 1963, 11 Jun 1963, and 13 Jun 1963 DV, stars such as Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston, and Robert Stack were considered for the leading role, while the 10 Jun 1963 LAT claimed Lee J. Cobb had been signed to play “Capt. Asmann,” who is not in the final film. Development stalled until the following spring, when a 17 Apr 1963 NYT news item announced that Rosenberg would reteam with Mutiny on the Bounty star Marlon Brando. According to the 20 Jan 1964 Var and 7 Feb 1965 NYT, recent Screen Actors Guild (SAG) union rules limited the number of European actors Rosenberg was allowed to hire to portray the film’s German characters, as only major stars set for key roles were permitted to accept work in the U.S. A 4 Sep 1964 LAT brief included Paul Baxler and Glen Wilder among the cast, but their participation could not be confirmed.
       Although a 28 Aug 1963 DV advertisement listed Martin Ritt as the attached director, the 22 Apr 1964 edition noted that Brando was consulting with Rosenberg about possible contenders, in hope of avoiding a “repetition” of Mutiny on the Bounty, which was not well received. By the summer, Bernhard Wicki had signed on, and an 11 Jun 1964 DV story reported that he, Rosenberg, and Taradash were in Nagoya, Japan, inspecting a German freighter to be sent to the Southern California coast. Most of the picture would be shot onboard an authentic vessel, with remaining footage completed at the Fox studios in Los Angeles, CA. According to the 6 Oct 1964 LAT, the selected ship was the 10,000-ton Blue Dolophin, which would be leased by the production after making a scheduled trip to San Francisco, CA. Although chosen for its aged appearance, the ship crew mistakenly repainted the exterior during the journey, requiring the art department to “re-age” it before filming began off Santa Catalina Island.
       Various sources suggested that principal photography began either 24 or 26 Aug 1964. The production was plagued with problems, including complications with the ship, which broke down four times. The 9 Sep 1964 DV reported that actor Walter Kohler suffered a concussion while on location, and a 23 Jan 1965 LAT column hinted at rumors of conflict between Wicki and the cast, resulting in the director being temporarily barred from the set. Additionally, the 4 Dec 1964 DV cited foggy conditions on Catalina. Consequently, shooting ran more than three weeks over schedule; the 22 Dec 1964 DV stated that the crew was working overtime to have the picture completed within the next two days. One week later, however, the publication reported that final scenes had been pushed until after the Christmas holiday.
       Late into the production, a 23 Nov 1964 DV brief claimed James Brolin had been added to the cast, but he does not appear in the film. Around this time, Brando’s Mutiny on the Bounty co-star Trevor Howard was signed to make a “cameo” appearance.
       As the picture entered post-production, Fox began to have doubts about the title, which was derived from the Latin phrase, Morituri te salutant (“We who are about to die, salute you”), attributed to Roman gladiators. A 21 Apr 1965 DV brief stated that the scene in which Brando’s character uses the quote was cut after a test screening in San Diego, CA, but the 3 May 1965 edition claimed Fox executives in New York City demanded the title, and its explanation, be retained.
       The studio debuted the film in a special New York City festival for press, which the 10 Jun 1965 LAT stated also included Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines and Von Ryan’s Express (1965, see entries). Brando’s promotional interviews for the film became the subject of the documentary, Meet Marlon Brando, which contained footage recorded during the press junket and debuted at the New York Film Festival in 1966.
       A 1 Aug 1965 LAT indicated that the Los Angeles engagement was scheduled to begin three days later at multiple venues. The New York City release followed on 25 Aug 1965, according to the next day’s NYT review, which referred to the picture as The Saboteur: Code Name—Morituri. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
1 Aug 1962
p. 4.
Daily Variety
7 Feb 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
11 Jun 1963
p. 8.
Daily Variety
13 Jun 1963
p. 2.
Daily Variety
28 Aug 1963
p. 12.
Daily Variety
22 Apr 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
11 Jun 1964
p. 3.
Daily Variety
26 Aug 1964
p. 4.
Daily Variety
9 Sep 1964
p. 11.
Daily Variety
11 Sep 1964
p. 8.
Daily Variety
23 Nov 1964
p. 3.
Daily Variety
4 Dec 1964
p. 13.
Daily Variety
15 Dec 1964
p. 8.
Daily Variety
22 Dec 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
29 Dec 1964
p. 2.
Daily Variety
21 Apr 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
3 May 1965
p. 2.
Daily Variety
8 Jul 1965
p. 4.
Los Angeles Times
10 Jun 1963
Section D, p. 15.
Los Angeles Times
4 Sep 1964
Section G, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
6 Oct 1964
Section A, p. 6.
Los Angeles Times
23 Jan 1965
Section B, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
7 Feb 1965
Section X, p. 7.
Los Angeles Times
10 Jun 1965
Section D, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times
1 Aug 1965
Section C, p. 10.
New York Times
11 Nov 1962
p. 151.
New York Times
17 Apr 1964
p. 29.
New York Times
1 May 1964
p. 43.
New York Times
26 Aug 1965
p. 40.
Variety
20 Jan 1965
p. 3.
Variety
25 Aug 1965
p. 4.
Variety
1 Sep 1965
p. 16.
Variety
24 Apr 1968
p. 22.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
ART DIRECTORS
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost des
Ward
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
Spec photog eff
MAKEUP
Makeup supv
Makeup
Makeup
Makeup
Hairstyles
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
Dial coach
Dial coach
Stills
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Morituri by Werner Jörg Lüddecke (Bayreuth, 1963).
DETAILS
Alternate Titles:
The Saboteur: Code Name--Morituri
The Saboteur, Code Name--Morituri
Release Date:
August 1965
Premiere Information:
Santa Catalina, California, opening: 14 July 1965
Los Angeles opening: 4 August 1965
New York opening: 25 August 1965
Production Date:
24 or 26 August--late December 1964
Copyright Claimant:
Arcola-Colony Productions
Copyright Date:
4 August 1965
Copyright Number:
LP31752
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
123
Country:
United States
Language:
English
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Wealthy Robert Crain, a deserter from the German Army posing as a Swiss national in India during World War II, is coerced by British Intelligence Colonel Statter into masquerading as a Gestapo officer. Installing himself as a passenger aboard a German blockade runner which is carrying a valuable cargo of rubber from the Orient, Crain, using the name Hans Keil, is to deactivate the scuttling charges by which the captain would destroy the ship if faced with capture. Captain Mueller, unsympathetic to the Nazi philosophy, regards the presence of the "Gestapo officer" on his ship with fear and suspicion. Mueller refuses to allow Crain the run of the ship, thus making it almost impossible for him to find and deactivate the explosives before the Allies intercept the vessel at a predetermined point. Two German submarine officers bring aboard the freighter a group of survivors of a sunken ship, among them some American refugees and Esther Levy, a German Jew who has been the victim of Nazi atrocities. Crain, aware that his identity is about to be exposed by the suspicious submarine officers, decides to lead the new arrivals and some of the crew members to mutiny. By the time the Germans learn that Crain is a fraud, mutiny has broken out and the ship is sinking. Crain and Mueller, left alone on the ship, discover that the vessel probably will not sink for a few hours. Crain convinces Mueller that he owes no allegiance to the Nazis, and Mueller radios a nearby Allied ship to save them and the ... +


Wealthy Robert Crain, a deserter from the German Army posing as a Swiss national in India during World War II, is coerced by British Intelligence Colonel Statter into masquerading as a Gestapo officer. Installing himself as a passenger aboard a German blockade runner which is carrying a valuable cargo of rubber from the Orient, Crain, using the name Hans Keil, is to deactivate the scuttling charges by which the captain would destroy the ship if faced with capture. Captain Mueller, unsympathetic to the Nazi philosophy, regards the presence of the "Gestapo officer" on his ship with fear and suspicion. Mueller refuses to allow Crain the run of the ship, thus making it almost impossible for him to find and deactivate the explosives before the Allies intercept the vessel at a predetermined point. Two German submarine officers bring aboard the freighter a group of survivors of a sunken ship, among them some American refugees and Esther Levy, a German Jew who has been the victim of Nazi atrocities. Crain, aware that his identity is about to be exposed by the suspicious submarine officers, decides to lead the new arrivals and some of the crew members to mutiny. By the time the Germans learn that Crain is a fraud, mutiny has broken out and the ship is sinking. Crain and Mueller, left alone on the ship, discover that the vessel probably will not sink for a few hours. Crain convinces Mueller that he owes no allegiance to the Nazis, and Mueller radios a nearby Allied ship to save them and the cargo. +

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

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