Raid on Rommel (1971)

GP | 99 mins | Drama | February 1971

Director:

Henry Hathaway

Writer:

Richard Bluel

Producer:

Harry Tatelman

Cinematographer:

Earl Rath

Editor:

Gene Palmer

Production Designers:

Alexander Golitzen, Henry Bumstead

Production Company:

Universal Pictures, Ltd.
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HISTORY

The following written prologue appears in the onscreen credits: “After almost three years of bitter desert warfare, Rommel’s brilliant use of his Panzer divisions has driven the British into a position of desperation. The fate of the Mediterranean hangs in the balance.” Raid on Rommel features portions of two actual radio broadcasts made by American radio journalist Edward R. Murrow (1908—1965), whose ground-breaking World War II program CBS World News Roundup was broadcast every night from England with the trademark opening phrase “This is London.” The small role of “Cpl. Bill Wembley” was played by Michael Sevareid, the son of Murrow’s fellow CBS radio journalist, Eric Sevareid. Raid on Rommel was the younger Sevareid’s only feature film appearance. The CBCS lists Jim Poe as screenwriter. The Filmfacts review states that prior Richard Bluel’s screenplay, scripts for Raid on Rommel was also written by James Poe and Philip Dunne.
       According to several reviews of Raid on Rommel , much of the battle footage in the film was taken from the 1967 Universal production Tobruk (see below), which was also about the North Africa campaign, and received an Academy Award for special effects. Most of the reviews stated that these sequences were the only noteworthy portions of Raid on Rommel . A 24 Jun 1970 HR news item indicated that the film was shot on location in San Felipe, Mexico. Modern sources add Ron Berkeley and Mike Kulscar to the cast and Bob Herron as stuntman.
       As indicated in the ... More Less

The following written prologue appears in the onscreen credits: “After almost three years of bitter desert warfare, Rommel’s brilliant use of his Panzer divisions has driven the British into a position of desperation. The fate of the Mediterranean hangs in the balance.” Raid on Rommel features portions of two actual radio broadcasts made by American radio journalist Edward R. Murrow (1908—1965), whose ground-breaking World War II program CBS World News Roundup was broadcast every night from England with the trademark opening phrase “This is London.” The small role of “Cpl. Bill Wembley” was played by Michael Sevareid, the son of Murrow’s fellow CBS radio journalist, Eric Sevareid. Raid on Rommel was the younger Sevareid’s only feature film appearance. The CBCS lists Jim Poe as screenwriter. The Filmfacts review states that prior Richard Bluel’s screenplay, scripts for Raid on Rommel was also written by James Poe and Philip Dunne.
       According to several reviews of Raid on Rommel , much of the battle footage in the film was taken from the 1967 Universal production Tobruk (see below), which was also about the North Africa campaign, and received an Academy Award for special effects. Most of the reviews stated that these sequences were the only noteworthy portions of Raid on Rommel . A 24 Jun 1970 HR news item indicated that the film was shot on location in San Felipe, Mexico. Modern sources add Ron Berkeley and Mike Kulscar to the cast and Bob Herron as stuntman.
       As indicated in the film, the Libyan port city of Tobruk was the center of major conflict between the Allied and Axis powers during the North African Campaign in the first half of World War II. At the beginning of the war, Libya was an Italian colony, but was captured by British and Australian forces in Jan 1941. In Apr 1941, upon advancing through Northern Africa in several stunning battles that overturned British gains to that point, Field Marshall Erwin Rommel (1891—1944) and the German Afrikakorp panzer divisions attacked Tobruk, which resulted in a siege that continued through Nov 1941 and led to Rommel’s first major loss. Rommel launched an offensive on Tobruk in early 1942 and succeeded in forcing a surrender of the city in Jun 1942. By Nov 1942, British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery’s victory at El Alamein, Egypt forced an Italian and German withdrawal from Libya to Tunisia, which fell to the Allies in May 1943.
       For more information on the life of Rommel, see the entry for Twentieth Century-Fox’s 1951 production The Desert Fox , which starred James Mason as Rommel, directed by Raid on Rommel director Henry Hathaway. In addition to The Desert Fox , Rommel was portrayed in the 1953 film The Desert Rats , starring Richard Burton as a Scottish officer with Mason repeating his role as Rommel, directed by Robert Wise (see below). More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
19 Dec 1971.
---
Filmfacts
1971
pp. 182-3.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Jun 1970.
---
Hollywood Reporter
3 Jul 1970
p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Jul 1970
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jul 1970.
---
Los Angeles Times
17 Mar 1971.
---
New York Times
24 Apr 1971
p. 17.
Newsweek
17 May 1971.
---
Variety
16 Jul 1970.
---
Variety
24 Feb 1971
p. 18.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Asst cam
Gaffer
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Prop master
COSTUMES
Cost
MUSIC
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff
Titles & optical eff
Spec eff
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
Cosmetics
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit prod mgr
Scr supv
Auditor
Driver
DETAILS
Release Date:
February 1971
Production Date:
late June--late July 1970 in Mexico
Copyright Claimant:
Universal City Studios, Inc.
Copyright Date:
19 February 1971
Copyright Number:
LP39051
Physical Properties:
Sound
Westrex Recording System
Color
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
99
MPAA Rating:
GP
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
22874
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1942 Libya, Capt. Alex Foster of British Eighth Army Intelligence assumes the identity of a corporal lorry driver transporting wounded soldiers so that he can make contact with a German convoy escorting British prisoners from a field hospital to Tobruk. Upon being intercepted by the convoy, led by Hauptman Heinz Schroeder, Foster learns from British medical officer Maj. Hugh Tarkington that the bulk of the prisoners were transferred to Tunisia, leaving behind the ailing Sgt. Alan MacKenzie, Pvt. Peter Brown, Sgt. Joe Reilly and Dan Garth. Dismayed, Foster reveals that the transferred group of prisoners was the crack Fifth Army commando unit, with whom he was to liaison for a secret mission. That evening, after Schroeder questions Foster, the men hear American radio journalist Edward R. Murrow describe the recent fall of British-held Tobruk to German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel. MacKenzie tells Foster and Tarkington that the commando leader confided the unit’s mission in which the men were to feign illness, then take over the convoy and continue to Tobruk where they were to destroy the harbor guns in coordination with an assault by the Royal Navy. When Foster suggests that he and the four remaining commandos, along with the British medical aides might still accomplish the mission, Tarkington is incredulous and refuses to allow his men to participate. The next morning as the convoy resumes its journey, Foster tells Tarkington that a fighter aircraft will strafe the group in order to cause a diversion to assist in the takeover. Promising the doctor that once the Germans are taken prisoner he will contact the intelligence base to call the mission ... +


In 1942 Libya, Capt. Alex Foster of British Eighth Army Intelligence assumes the identity of a corporal lorry driver transporting wounded soldiers so that he can make contact with a German convoy escorting British prisoners from a field hospital to Tobruk. Upon being intercepted by the convoy, led by Hauptman Heinz Schroeder, Foster learns from British medical officer Maj. Hugh Tarkington that the bulk of the prisoners were transferred to Tunisia, leaving behind the ailing Sgt. Alan MacKenzie, Pvt. Peter Brown, Sgt. Joe Reilly and Dan Garth. Dismayed, Foster reveals that the transferred group of prisoners was the crack Fifth Army commando unit, with whom he was to liaison for a secret mission. That evening, after Schroeder questions Foster, the men hear American radio journalist Edward R. Murrow describe the recent fall of British-held Tobruk to German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel. MacKenzie tells Foster and Tarkington that the commando leader confided the unit’s mission in which the men were to feign illness, then take over the convoy and continue to Tobruk where they were to destroy the harbor guns in coordination with an assault by the Royal Navy. When Foster suggests that he and the four remaining commandos, along with the British medical aides might still accomplish the mission, Tarkington is incredulous and refuses to allow his men to participate. The next morning as the convoy resumes its journey, Foster tells Tarkington that a fighter aircraft will strafe the group in order to cause a diversion to assist in the takeover. Promising the doctor that once the Germans are taken prisoner he will contact the intelligence base to call the mission off, Foster stealthily prepares the others for the distraction. The takeover is successful, although the Germans shoot down the fighter plane and destroy the radio. Because the destruction of the radio has rendered them incapable of contacting intelligence to cancel the mission, Foster insists that they must proceed so that they can back up the other troops involved in the mission and Tarkington reluctantly agrees to allow his men to help. After Foster takes Schroeder’s written orders allowing the convoy to proceed into Tobruk, he, MacKenzie and Garth don the Germans’ uniforms, but Tarkington demands that Schroeder and his men be spared. Foster agrees and the convoy resumes, leaving the Germans behind. As the trucks proceed through the desert, Foster and Reilly instruct the medical soldiers in loading and firing the mortar, operating the flame thrower and the use of repelling techniques. Late that afternoon, the group is stunned to come upon two panzer divisions and Foster and MacKenzie conclude that there is a secret fuel supply nearby. Foster enthusiastically advocates destroying the fuel dump and asks Tarkington if he can provide medicine that would imitate the symptoms of typhus in order to gain access to Rommel’s camp, which they know to be nearby. Although Tarkington remains dubious, the ploy convinces the panzer guards that some of Foster’s men are gravely ill and they receive radio approval to go to the field hospital in Rommel’s camp. Once there, Tarkington pretends to tend the men feigning illness, which impresses Rommel, who is visiting wounded German troops. Tarkington surprises Foster by chatting to Rommel about stamp collecting, a favorite hobby of both men. When the field marshal invites Tarkington to his tent to continue the discussion, Foster protests, but the doctor privately encourages him to use this diversion to discover the location of the fuel supply. In the communications tent Foster, who speaks fluent German, overhears the location of the fuel dump and after Tarkington rejoins them, the convoy departs. Some miles from the panzer groups, Foster and the men find and capture a solitary scout tank. The commandos take the tank and head towards the fuel depot, unaware that Schroeder and his men have been picked up and are reporting Foster’s undercover activities to Rommel. Arriving at the depot, the tank surprises the German guard and easily blows up the entire dump. Foster and the men escape their burning tank and return to the convoy, which departs hurriedly to cover the last few miles to Tobruk. The following day when the convoy is passed by a German military police column, Foster orders his drivers to follow them closely to give the appearance that they are an official escort. The procedure hastens the convoy through the security check-point at the edge of Tobruk. Upon receiving a report that the medical convoy has arrived in the city, Rommel orders Schroeder after them. Foster and the men arrive at the harbor without interference and Foster and MacKenzie cut all of the communication wires. MacKenzie and the other three commandos hurry away to place charges at the gun base while the medical aids under Foster provide them cover. Meanwhile, as dusk approaches, the Royal Navy, confident that the guns will be destroyed, closes in on the Libyan coast. Spotting the distant vessels, the harbor guns begin firing, but the British ships remain out of range. Foster leads several of the medical personnel on a defensive attack to draw German fire from MacKenzie’s group. As the naval ships come within range they begin firing on the harbor and launch several landing craft. Foster is wounded in the leg but crawls to safety. Schroeder and a tank arrive at the height of the battle and, finding the remnants of the convoy, seek out Foster. British medical aide Merrihew, a conscientious objector, tends to Foster until he is killed by Schroeder, who is then shot down by Foster. At sea, when a cruiser is sunk by one of the harbor guns, the fleet’s admiral calls for a course reversal. MacKenzie’s men break into the gun pill box and kill the gunners, then set off the explosives which destroy the guns in a blaze of fire. As the Royal Navy resumes its course toward Tobruk, German forces close in on Foster and Tarkington while the survivors are rescued by the landing craft at the harbor’s edge. +

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

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