John Sturges’ entertaining adaptation of the Jack Higgins novel starts from a similar premise to that of Alberto Cavalcanti‘s Went the Day Well?
Michael Caine (pictured at right) is Colonel Kurt Steiner, a rebellious German soldier imprisoned and awaiting sentence for striking a fellow Officer, when Nazi colonel Max Radl (Robert Duvall) offers him the chance to save both his own life and that of his men.
Steiner is offered the opportunity to lead his men on what appears to be a daring, yet suicidal mission to kidnap Winston Churchill.
They are parachuted into a small English village dressed as Polish soldiers, misleading the locals into believing they are Allies on military exercises.
While the commandos await the arrival of the Prime Minister at a nearby country house in Norfolk, one of Steiner’s men rescues a young boy who has fallen in the river.
The young boy is rescued but the soldier is killed on a water-wheel and his Nazi uniform revealed to the watching villagers.
Steiner and his men decide to retreat to the safety of the village church and await the arrival of both Churchill and the now informed local allied forces.
The first to arrive on the scene is the amateurish Colonel Pitts, but it isn’t long before a more experienced officer appears to contest Steiner’s men’s resistance.
This is a boys-own adventure story, full of war-movie clichés, but there are plenty of colourful character turns.
Donald Pleasence is a gimlet-eyed, psychotic Heinrich Himmler, Donald Sutherland is the shifty Brit-hating IRA man. Larry Hagman is a US colonel, drawling out his one-liners, sounding as if he has just wandered off the set of Dallas.
Colonel Kurt Steiner
Colonel Max Radl