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A World War II commander jeopardizes his mission to endanger a colleague involved with his wife.
At a British outpost in Libya during World War II, commandoes train to raid General Rommel's headquarters in Benghazi and steal the German general's secret documents. Two officers vie to lead the mission: Maj. David Brand, a South-African-born British career officer who hopes to win a promotion if the mission succeeds, and Capt. James Leith, a former archeologist who volunteered to fight in Africa because of his knowledge of Arabic and familiarity with the land. Brand's wife Jane has joined the army to be near her husband, and when she unexpectedly arrives on the base, he takes her to the officers' club. When Brand introduces her to Leith, Leith cryptically mentions falling in love with a woman before the war. After Brand leaves to confer with Gen. Paterson, the head of the base, Jane and Leith drop their formality toward each other and she chides him for leaving her. When Leith replies that he was "afraid to stay with her," she calls him a coward and declares that she married Brand because "he did not run away." Upon returning to the club, Brand observes Jane and Leith dancing in an intimate fashion and later jealousy interrogates Jane about her relationship with Leith. Soon after, Brand and Leith are summoned to headquarters, where Brand is assigned to lead the mission to steal German intelligence documents. Leith is to be second-in-command, and they are to be accompanied by Mokrane, an Arab friend of Leith who worked with him in the desert. Paterson explains that Lt. Barton will lead a diversionary attack while Brand and his men raid German headquarters. Once their mission is completed, they are to rendezvous with Barton at a fortress in the desert where Sgt. Evans will be waiting with a camel to lead them back to the base. Upon learning that the two men she loves are being dispatched on a dangerous mission, Jane experiences concern and confusion. Arriving in Benghazi disguised as Arabs, Brand and his men penetrate the German compound. When Brand hesitates killing a sentry, Leith glares at him in contempt and stabs the German. After taking the compound by force, they unlock the safe, steal the documents and flee. Soon after, a group of German soldiers arrives and, finding their compatriots massacred and their compound in shambles, drives out into the desert in pursuit of Brand and his men. Upon reaching the desert, Leith asks Brand why he hesitated killing the sentry and implies that he is a coward. As the commandoes near their rendezvous with Barton's troops, the Germans appear. In the ensuing battle, two soldiers are wounded and all the Germans are killed, except for one officer whom they take prisoner. When Brand orders Leith to stay behind with the wounded men, Leith wonders if Brand is trying to kill him because he witnessed the major's cowardice. At dawn the next morning, a mortally wounded German soldier begs Leith to shoot him. After Leith grants the man's wish, a wounded British soldier begs for the same fate, but Leith discovers that he is out of bullets. Hoisting the man onto his shoulders, Leith trudges into the desert where he comes upon Mokrane. When Mokrane informs him that the soldier is dead, Leith observes that he kills the living and saves the dead. Meanwhile, Barton mercilessly leads his exhausted, parched troops to the fortress where they are to meet Evans. Forging ahead, despite the wind, they reach the deserted, ruined fortress and find Evans and his men dead inside. Soon after, Mokrane and Leith arrive at the fortress and Brand chastises Leith for allowing the wounded to die. After Mokrane locates Evans' camel, they load the documents and water onto the animal and continue their trek through the desert. When they come upon a well, the men fear the water may be poisoned and refuse to drink until Brand takes the first swallow. The party stops to rest, and when Brand sees a scorpion crawling though the barren sands, he says nothing. Soon after, the scorpion crawls up Leith's leg and bites him. To save Leith's life, Mokrane kills the camel and uses its blood as an antidote to the venom. That night, Mokrane, certain that Brand tried to kill his friend Leith, tries to stab the major, but Brand shoots and kills him first. After Leith's leg becomes gangrenous Brand declares that he is leaving Leith behind because his orders state that that he is "not obliged to save the wounded if it jeopardizes the mission." Horrified, Barton offers to stay with Leith, but Brand refuses and sends Barton ahead with the men so that he can have a last word with Leith. After Barton and the others depart, Brand accuses Leith of goading him into murder. When Brand asks Leith if he has any last words, Leith removes his ID tags and hands them to Brand, asking him to give them to Jane, along with his apologies. Just then, a blinding sandstorm strikes, paralyzing the men and burying Leith. Once the storm abates, the men spot a British truck and jeep in the distance and run to greet them, leaving behind the German prisoner of war and Leith's lifeless body. Staring after them in contempt, the German sets fire to the bag containing the documents, but Brand manages to extinguish the flames. Back at the base, word comes that two officers have survived the mission, but have not been identified. When the troops return, Jane realizes that Leith is not among them and breaks into tears when Brand gives her Leith's ID tags. When Paterson assembles the troops to award Brand the Distinguished Service Medal, Jane turns her back and walks away. After the general dismisses the men, they glare at Brand and leave. Now completely alone, Brand pins the medal on the chest of one of the training targets.
Cast & Crew
|MPAA Ratings:||Premiere Info:||not available|
|Release Date:||1958||Production Date:||
EBX; UCLA has this on 1" video; AFI
|Color/B&W:||Black and White||Distributions Co:||Columbia Pictures Corp.|
|Sound:||Mono||Production Co:||Transcontinental Films, S. A., Robert Laffont Productions|
|Duration(mins):||83, 97 or 101||Country:||France and United States|
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Scorpion Star Born
R. Mills 2012-05-30
Boring, miscast film in which the ultimate stars are the scorpion that kills the Capt. and the dummy that gets the DistinguishedCross. A black and white...
Despite Ray's Discontent, A Fine Movie
John Burleigh 2010-02-25
Despite the stories (from Ray's POV, of course) that Bitter Victory was an unhappy shoot, with Ray's screenwriter fired, the...
Fatally miscast, with an incoherent screenplay; only the fine cinematography and interesting locations merit attention. For Ray completists only.