Anatole Litvak (director)
13 May 2019 (released)
16 May 2019
The stakes are high in this tense and multi-layered WW2 thriller in which a German general is suspected to be a serial killer who seems to model himself on Jack the Ripper, but manages to escape justice for many years until a twist of fate finally catches up with him…
Warsaw 1942: with the city occupied by the Nazis, the general situation is bad enough but things get worse when the mutilated corpse of a Polish prostitute is found. Major Grau (Omar Sharif) is investigating the crime, which surprises the other tenants in the house – after all, why would a German Colonel be interested in the murder of a Polish woman... However, the victim turns out to be a German agent. There is also an eyewitness though he only spotted the lower part of the suspected killer after he’d left the room of the murdered woman. Especially the trousers provide an important clue, as they had a red stripe running along the sides of the legs - indicating that the offender must be a German General. Of course, this sits rather uncomfortable with General Seidlitz-Gabler (Charles Gray), General Kahlenberge (Donald Pleasence) and General Tanz (Peter O'Toole) who arrogantly claim that no German General would commit such brutal crimes ... oh really?
Unfortunately, Grau does not get the opportunity to investigate further because he is transferred to Paris, where the story continues two years later. Tanz, Seidlitz-Gabler, Kahlenberge and the remaining Generals and Commanders are now in the French capital too, with Kahlenberge and others involved in plans for 'Operation Valkyrie' under the direction of Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg (Gérard Buhr). Suffice to say, General Tanz continues to show absolute loyalty to the Führer. He has also hired the shy corporal Kurt Hartmann (Tom Courtney), who is in fact an opponent of the war, as an assistant and chauffeur. Hartmann isn’t too happy about his new assignment, not least at it means his romance with Ulrike (Joanna Pettet) will need to be compromised though that’s good news for Ulrike’s domineering mother Eleonore (Coral Brown): she has ambitions for her daughter to one day marry a high-ranking German General, or at the very least an Officer! Hartmann realizes quickly that there is something very wrong with the psychopathic Tanz, and when he brutally murders another prostitute again, he cleverly manages to make it look as if Hartmann is the killer - but gives him the opportunity to disappear as a 'deserter'.
Major Grau, who had suspected Tanz all along, finally gets the opportunity to resume with his investigations but on the very day when he plans to bring Tanz to justice, the assassination attempt on Hitler goes pear-shaped and Tanz uses the ensuing mayhem to kill Grau as a supposed conspirator of the failed Valkyrie plot ... and so Tanz escapes the law again!
The story then jumps to 1965 where it continues in Hamburg. Another prostitute has been found butchered and the crime bears all the hallmarks of the murders from 1942 and 1944. In particular Interpol Inspector Morand (Phillipe Noiret) is interested in this latest outrage, not least because he feels he owes a big deal of gratitude to the murdered Major Grau who, during the war, never revealed Morand’s connection to the French Resistance. Morand too suspects Tanz to be the killer but doesn’t have the necessary proof, which he only can get if he’s able to track down Hartmann who – since his forced desertion in 1944 – has taken on a new identity. Even Ulrike, who is now married to another man and lives on a farm, claims not to know as to what became of Hartmann. But things finally begin to work in Morand’s favour and he gets the chance to confront Tanz, who had been serving a 20-year prison sentence as a war criminal, during a reunion celebration for Tanz’s former panzer division…
Outstanding performances and a big budget lift this thriller way above average! Extras consist of Trailer, Audio commentary as well as limited edition info booklet.