Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Marlon Brando, Yul Brynner, Janet Margolin, Trevor Howard, Martin Benrath
Director: Bernhard Wicki
Genres: Action & Adventure, Drama, Military & War
Suspenseful action highlights this film in which Marlon Brando and Yul Brynner team up to defuse a Nazi freighter, poised to explode upon capture.
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The quest to steal Hitler's rubber...
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 10/10/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It's thought by many that Marlon Brando was probably one of the greatest actors to grace the silver screen, if not one of the weirdest (at least later in his life). Based on that alone (his acting, not his weirdness), I purchased Morituri (1965), having heard little to nothing about the film. The fact it also stars Yul Brynner didn't hurt either. Regardless, I am glad I picked this one up, as it's really quite good.
The title, as far as I can tell, is Latin meaning `for those about to die', which seems apt after watching the film. Directed by Bernhard Wicki, someone I've never heard of, probably because he was an Austrian who mainly directed German films, the film stars Marlon Brando and Yul Brynner. Also appearing are Janet Margolin (Nevada Smith), Trevor Howard (The Third Man), and a German actor I've never heard of named Martin Benrath who I thought was quite good.
The film, set during WWII, begins with German Captain Rolf Mueller being given charge of a cargo ship, leaving Japan and destined for occupied France, one that contains critical raw materials, mainly rubber, important for Germany's war effort. He's none too happy with his assignment, as some of the crew is made up of undesirables and political prisoners destined to be tried upon arrival (I would guess they wouldn't be to eager to reach their destination). The Allied forces, on learning of the contents of the ship, approach Robert Crain, a German demolitions expert and ex-patriot hiding in English ruled India, for the purpose of getting him on the ship, not to blow up the ship, but to disarm the scuttle charges (apparently German ships contained explosives so that if they were to get captured, the captain was to detonate the explosives and `scuttle', or sink, the vessel to keep it out of enemy hands). The Allies want the contents of the ship, not only to hinder Germany's war efforts, but also to assist their own. With assistance, Crain does get aboard the ship, under the guise of an SS security officer named Hans Kyle. Members of the SS, it seems, were not entirely popular by any one's account, especially not by other Germans (think the police and their dislike for their own internal affairs division). This creates complications for Crain/Kyle, as he must secretly search the ship for an unknown number of explosive charges, disarm them, within a certain amount of time, all while keeping the captain and the crew `in the dark'. Not only that, but the ship is forced to take on a group of American prisoners for transport. Things are getting hairier by the minute...
Most of the film takes place on a cargo ship, providing for a very claustrophobic, tense atmosphere throughout. Brando plays his role in a very subdued manner, but it works well. I thought his German accent a bit odd, not entirely bad, just odd, but I got used to it, especially since the movie runs about two hours. Not only did Brando have the acting chops to pull off his character, but he also had the physique, as he had to run, climb, swing and crawl to get around the ship to disable the explosive charges. He seemed very within character, especially the parts when his character discussed his feelings against against war in general. Brynner was also very good as a non-party German, who, while maybe not believing in his leaders political motives, wasn't a traitor either. I really liked the diverse complexity, including compassion and kindness, of his character, the sailor committed to his duties, forced to captain this particular ship with a questionable crew. There was a great deal of character development throughout, which served well to really display the differences among the German people in general with regards to their feelings and loyalties towards their leadership and/or their country. I thought the direction of the film to be really good, as the camera always seemed position in such a way to capture the best possible point of view for that particular scene. The story moved along well, although some will say it was too slow, but I didn't think so...I found myself pretty much glued to the screen, enjoying all aspects of the movie. One of my favorite scenes was when Crain/Kyle is confronted in closed quarters by two German officers from the submarine, which delivered the American prisoners. His ability to play on their own sense of paranoia as they questioned him about his reason for being on the ship was very intelligent and interesting to watch. The plot is complicated, but if you can watch with no distractions, you should be able to follow it along well.
The anamorphic wide screen picture on this DVD looks pretty good, but I did feel it could have been cleaned up a little. There were some very minor flaws visible every once in awhile, but the main thing I noticed was the `softness' in the black parts when scenes were heavily shadowed. It's kind of hard to explain, but a bit more noticeable than the other flaws. As far as special features go, there's a teaser trailer for the film (I'm unsure who made this, but after watching the movie, I felt the person who did make it had no idea or even a sense of what the film was about, as it presented something other than what the movie was, at least I felt), and original theatrical trailer, and trailers for some other, older Fox war films like Crash Dive (1943), The Hunters (1958), and What Price Glory (1952). All in all, I thought Morituri was very decent, well made film rich with characters and a complex plot that rewards those with the patience to enjoy the more sophisticated side of films (I'm not trying to be snobby here, but I do feel this film hasn't gotten the attention it deserves, unduly so).
Michael C. Browning | Palm Beach Gardens, FL United States | 05/09/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This movie came out amid a spate of World War II remembrance movies in the early 60s, I think, and by then people were getting tired of the genre. That's a pity, because this is a really remarkable piece of work. There are parts of it that seem almost directed by Orson Welles, particularly the extraordinary camerawork below decks as Brando tries to defuse the bombs that would sink the ship. The script is one of the most searchingly intelligent you'll ever come across, and the whole thing explores the theme of loyalty and lying and expediency with a brilliance you just don't see in movies anymore. It's like Kafka at sea. There are splendid scenes where Brando, using an exaggerated German accent, makes himself into an SS agent, then has to backtrack to present himself in another role to Yul Brynner (who is also excellent in this film) like an instant chameleon. Then he has to act another way for the crew. Then he has to act another way for the woman. Then he has to act another way for the German officers. I've never seen Brando do better. There is a sort of hall-of-mirrors strangeness and refined characterization in this film that makes it quite unique. The DVD presentation is crystalline and the play of shadows and light over the decks and underdecks is quite astonishing. Jerry Goldsmith, who must have been very, very young when he did this, did the score. It reminds me strongly of "The Third Man," with virtual zither-like effects. I don't want to make this sound too academic and hypercritical, but this odd little movie is one of the smartest, most intelligent, artistic things I have seen in a long while. It makes all the John Wayne movies about Marines taking beaches and saving China from the Chinese, look very, very stupid. Exquisitely written, exquisitely acted, exquisitely filmed. This is the best movie you never saw."
A classic wwII sea adventure
K. Rai | New Delhi, India | 10/11/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of the best WWII films i Have seen. It really boggles my mind that this film flopped at the box office and with the critics.
Brando and Brynner are amazing to look at and the screen crackells with their chemistry.
The film has serious drama, dialogue and the plight of the concentration camp vicitms is poignantly handled.
Brando is amazing to look at and his command of the accents is great to watch. He is just brilliant and Brynner stands up to him very well..
The direction is tight and the cinematography is one of the best i have ever seen.
The movie should be reevaluted and get its rightful and much deserved appreciation.
a 21 gun salute to the movie. Another slap on the critics who ssaid that Brando did nothing great in the 60s.
The only hitch that i can see is that there should have been extra features besides the trailors in the dvd.
all in all, great fun."
Those Who Are About To Die
Octavius | United States | 09/09/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Bernhard Wicki's film of high seas suspense in a world of espionage during WWII. A very tight script and good direction compensated by the amazing talents of Brynner and Brando.
The film focuses on the character of Marlon Brando who plays a wealthy German who had escaped from Germany to settle in India. Brando is the epidemy of self interest and doesn't care who wins the war. British intelligence approaches him and orders him to board a German merchant vessel leaving Tokyo Harbor for Strasbourg France with a cargo of rubber for the war effort. The Allies are also short on rubber and so coerce Brando to seize the ship under the threat of deporting him back to Germany where he would probably be shot as a traitor. Under such duress, Brando accepts the assignment and begins to demolish the explosives that are intended to scuttle the ship should it be captured or impaired. Brynner is the ship's commander and is an apolitical character. Although old fashioned in terms of patriotism, Brynner's character has no love for Hitler or the party unlike his 1st mate. Brando uses his cover as an SS officer to manipulate the first mate. At the same time, Brando uses his real identity to persuade the prisoner crew to mutiny and come with him to meet the Allied ships waiting for them. Things go terribly wrong however as the ship deviates from its expected course and Brando's cover is blown. What follows is a high suspense story of courage and determination.
This is a great film with lots of character development and suspense. The performances of Brando and Brynner are simply outstanding. This is a great film to own."