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Inspired by the real-life rescue of Hitler's ally Benito Mussolini by Otto Skorzeny, a similar idea is considered by Hitler, with the support of Himmler. Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of the Abwehr (German military intelligence), is ordered to make a feasibility study of the seemingly impossible task of capturing Prime Minister Winston Churchill and returning him to the Reich. Canaris considers the idea a joke, but realizes that although Hitler will soon forget the matter, Himmler will not. Fearing Himmler may try to discredit him, Canaris orders one of his officers, Oberst Radl to undertake the study, despite feeling that it is a waste of time. An Unteroffizier on Radl's staff finds that one of their spies, code named Starling, has provided tantalizing intelligence. "At any other time, in any other place, this information would be useless", Radl said. "And then synchronicity rears its ugly head." Winston Churchill is to visit an airfield near the village of Studley Constable, where Joanna Grey, a South African and German spy, lives. Radl comes up with a scheme that could work. Himmler meets secretly with Radl and unofficially tells him to proceed, without notifying Canaris. An agent, a member of the IRA named Liam Devlin is dispatched to contact Mrs Grey. Radl recruits commandos to carry out the operation, commanded by a German Fallschirmjäger officer, Oberst Kurt Steiner. While returning from the Eastern Front, Steiner intervened when SS soldiers rounded up Jews at a railway station in Poland, and attempted to save the life of a teenage girl who was shot while trying to escape. For this, he was court-martialled, along with a platoon of his men. Rather than the firing squad, the men were allowed to transfer to a punishment unit in the Channel Islands, where they made suicidal attacks with manned torpedoes against British channel convoys.

Radl travels to Alderney and, with the help of Devlin, recruits Steiner and his surviving men. The team will fly into the UK in a captured C-47 with Allied markings. The commandos outfit themselves as Polish troops, as few of them speak English. The plan is to infiltrate Studley Constable, complete their mission, rendezvous with an E-boat on the nearby coast and escape. The plan is foiled when a German paratrooper rescues a local girl from a water wheel. He is killed in the process and his German uniform (worn under the Polish uniforms as protection against being executed as spies; in the film this is done by Steiner's request, while in the book it is by Himmler's order) revealed to the village people. The locals are rounded up, but Pamela Vereker, the sister of Father Vereker, a priest, escapes to alert United States Army Rangers. Inexperienced, glory-seeking Colonel Pitt is killed trying to shoot Joanna in her house, while his poorly-planned assault on the church fails. Captain Clark then organizes a second, successful attack. Steiner's men sacrifice themselves to delay the Americans while Devlin, Steiner, and his wounded second-in-command escape, with the aid of local girl Molly Prior, who was romantically involved with Devlin. Instead of boarding the E-boat, Steiner makes one last attempt at Churchill. Steiner succeeds in killing Churchill before being shot himself. However, when Captain Clark appears on the scene, he is informed that "Churchill" was actually an impersonator - the real Prime Minister is at the Tehran Conference. With the failure of the operation, Radl is executed by firing squad under the pretext that he was "Giving orders beyond his control to a point of treason". In this way Himmler distances himself from the failed mission.

Starring ... Michael Caine, Donald Sutherland, Robert Duvall, Jenny Agutter,
Donald Pleasence, Anthony Quayle, Larry Hagman, Treat Williams,
Judy Geeson, John Standing, Jean Marsh.

Director: John Sturges
Producer: David Niven, Jr. & Jack Wiener


Year Released - April 1977

Length - 118 minutes

Music Composer: John Williams

Movie Distributed by ITC Entertainment



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