A platoon of heavily disguised Nazis, led by the noble Colonel Kurt Steiner, parachute into a small English village soon to be visited by Winston Churchill, their plan being to abduct the leader.
One of the more preposterous of that breed of pulp war movies that populated the late sixties and seventies, this adaptation of the Jack Higgins thriller is lent a sturdy complexion by the craftsmanlike talents of John Sturges (a director who specialised in beefy bravado: The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven) and a memorable about-face in having Michael Caine play a Nazi, albeit it one who was down on the whole killing Jews part of the war. This was a film never turning full face to the reality of its set-up; look, they’re goodish Nazis. However, as a piece of energetic gung-ho, it’s just that bit slyer and more intriguing than the by-rote men-on-a-mission brigade.
With its idyllic country setting, fully embodying that prettified view Hollywood have of Blighty, the film innately restricted in terms of action. So, Sturges allows his characters to simmer that bit longer. Caine, accent apart, lends this noble man a grim certainty, and his legacy of straight-up good-guys makes it a natural response to side with him. Donald Sutherland is excellent as the IRA spy whose anti-Brit stance has him betray both town and Jenny Agutter. JR himself, Larry Hagman, turns up for an extended cameo as a wisecracking yank Colonel catching a sniff of wrongdoing. And Donald Pleasance has a delicious time as Himmler complete with maniacal cackle.
It plays, rather cunningly, more as a mystery than an out-an-out war movie. Will the villagers catch on before it’s too late? Actually, the big reveal is terrific as a German trooper jumps into a rushing stream to save a drowning girl. A word to the wise for scheming Nazis – don’t wear your real uniform underneath your disguise. From there on in it’s a thrilling bundle of twists to the victorious close. Indisputably daft, this is engrossing enough nonsense shot with assured obviousness by Sturges.
Michael Caine as a Nazi and Donald Pleasance as Himmler...what more could you want.