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Decision Before Dawn
Decision Before Dawn
Actors: Richard Basehart, Gary Merrill, Oskar Werner, Hildegard Knef, Dominique Blanchar
Director: Anatole Litvak
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
NR     2006     1hr 59min

Richard Basehart and Gary Merrill star in a film that?s ?as stirring a drama as any you'll want to see? (The New York Times). Adapted by Jack Rollens and Peter Viertel from George Howe?s novel Call It Treason, and directed...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Richard Basehart, Gary Merrill, Oskar Werner, Hildegard Knef, Dominique Blanchar
Director: Anatole Litvak
Creators: Franz Planer, Anatole Litvak, Dorothy Spencer, Frank McCarthy, George Howe, Jack Rollens, Peter Viertel
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Drama, Military & War
Sub-Genres: Espionage, Indie & Art House, Classics, Military & War
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Format: DVD - Black and White
DVD Release Date: 05/23/2006
Original Release Date: 01/01/1951
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1951
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 1hr 59min
Screens: Black and White
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 8
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: French, German

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Movie Reviews

Little known aspect of WW2 spys and intelligence gathering
Seen Them All | SoCal Desert | 02/22/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Richard Basehart plays a US Army Intelligence Officer who recruits former German Army POW's (Oskar Werner)to go back into Germany to gather information to help the Allies near the end of the war. Tough, realistic view of spys and the intelligence business. A very good film and well worth watching. One of the best of this genre."
Going home
Flipper Campbell | Miami Florida | 05/29/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Offbeat and emotionally involving tale of German turncoats spying for the Yanks in the closing days of WWII.

Largely forgotten, this intelligent thriller captured a best picture Oscar nomination in 1951. Unusual for war films of that period, it pulls no punches about the fears and miseries of that time in Europe. Oskar Werner is sensational as the German traitor motivated to help end the suffering caused by his country's continued resistance to the inevitable Allied victory. Similar in tone to "The Spy Who Came in From the Cold."

No extras on this Fox "Heroes of War" series title other than an odd news clip about the film getting an award."
Oskar Deserved An Oscar
Cowboy Buddha | Essex UK | 07/22/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I was delighted (and rather surprised) to see this long overlooked film getting a much deserved DVD release. It had been many years since I last saw it - on television - but much of it remained vividly in my memory. Finally seeing it again, it's not hard to understand why.

Based on a true story and filmed in atmospheric black and white, Decision Before Dawn was made entirely on location among the ruins of postwar Europe - unusual for Hollywood films of the time. The story of German POW's being recruited to work as undercover agents in their own country in late 1944 benefits from understated performances and an almost total lack of background music. Much more of an espionage film than a war movie, the heightened sense of reality serves the stifled emotions and confused motives of the characters perfectly. The film only briefly loses its way once - to include the obligatory fallen female - but even this episode is handled well.

Although not top billed, Oskar Werner plays the central character - an idealistic medic caught up in circumstances that have little to do with truth or honesty. One of the finest screen actors ever, Werner gives a superb multi-layered performance, acting as much with his eyes as his voice. The rest of the cast is also good - many of them in far from sympathetic parts. The fact that this was considered a prestige film is underlined by the presence of Richard Basehart, an actor who reputation has underservedly faded over the years.

The direction by Anatole Litvak provides just the right mixture of drama and suspense - more genuine suspense than most Hitchcock films. The script is a taut, no-frills affair. It asks questions but provides no easy answers. The film was nominated for a best picture Oscar. Of course, it didn't win and became rather neglected over the years. Not because it's not a good film, which it certainly is, but possibly because it's not just another bit of mindless entertainment. The drama and suspense engage your emotions, but Decision Before Dawn also gives you a lot to think about."
WW II counterintelligence drama
Cory D. Slipman | Rockville Centre, N.Y. | 10/25/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Anatole Litvak's engaging WWII drama "Decision Before Dawn" examines the war from an entirely different perspective. Filmed in the war ravaged remains of Nazi Germany in 1950, the story commences as American troops are poised to cross the Rhine and enter Germany. In the waning days of the war an American intelligence detail lead by Col. Devlin played by Gary Merrill and Lt. Rennick played by Richard Basehart are using captured POW's to act as spys. Using specially trained and suitable German soldiers they hope to gain sensitive information to aid in the war effort. Oskar Werner playing Cpl. Karl Maurer is just such a man.

Werner, an educated son of a physician, and not a loyal Nazi supporter, is a medic in the German Luftwaffe. He and Basehart along with another Nazi traitor code named Tiger and played by Hans Christian Blech are dropped behind enemy lines to determine the location of crack Panzer units.

What makes the film so unique, was that Werner's odyssey through the dying Third Reich gives us insight into the disposition of the German populace. Their downtrodden existence scrounging out an existence in the final months of the war is a disturbing sight to behold.

Litvack's film is a tribute to the nameless German spys who aided the Allied war effort."