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The Desert Fox

The Desert Fox(1951)

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In Nov 1941, a British commando unit lands in Libya, behind German lines, and attempts to assassinate Erwin Rommel, the German field marshal whose cunning and ability to elude the Allies have earned him the nickname "The Desert Fox." The assassination attempt fails, and later, in Jun 1942, Rommel enforces prisoner of war protocol when a group of British soldiers, including Lt. Col. Desmond Young, are captured by the Germans in North Africa. Young is impressed by Rommel's gentlemanly demeanor, and Rommel's reputation as a principled soldier unconcerned with politics grows. Two years and four months later, Rommel is dead, allegedly having died in battle. Rumors that the Nazis have lied about Rommel's death prompt Young to investigate, and he meets with Rommel's widow Lucie and his son Manfred, and searches for official documents. Young discovers that Rommel's downfall began on 23 Oct 1942: Due to a chronic health problem, Rommel is invalided to Germany, while in El Alamein, the German forces are under attack by the Allies. Rommel is summoned back to the desert, where he is outraged to learn that none of the desperately needed supplies and reinforcements have been sent. After ten days of fighting the British, who are now led by Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, Rommel realizes that he must retreat to save his troops from annihilation. When Rommel appeals to Adolf Hitler for permission to retreat, however, he is ordered to hold his position to the last man. Infuriated by Hitler's stupidity, Rommel disobeys his orders. Later, Rommel falls ill again and returns to Germany, after which the Axis forces are conquered by the Allies in Tunis. In Germany, Rommel is visited by an old friend, Dr. Karl Strolin, the mayor of Stuttgart, who is a member of a secret movement to eliminate Hitler before his unwise military decisions result in Germany's destruction. Although Rommel is bitter over Hitler's refusal to support the Afrika Korps, he cannot bring himself to join Strolin's cause. In November 1943, it has become clear that Germany will be invaded by the Allies eventually, and Rommel is assigned to inspect the Atlantic fortifications. A month later, Rommel reports to Field Marshal von Rundstedt outside Paris, and declares that the German defenses are clearly inadequate. Von Rundstedt warns Rommel that all military decisions are now being made by Hitler, who is under the influence of astrologers, and that Rommel will be closely watched, like the other military leaders. In February 1944, Strolin visits Rommel at home, but despite Strolin's insistence that many other prominent men support his plan, Rommel maintains that the plot to dispose of Hitler smacks of Communism. Rommel also declares that as a soldier, he has no business interfering with politics. Strolin finally gets Rommel to confess his hatred of Hitler, however, and later, when the Allies storm the beaches of France on D-Day, von Rundstedt and Rommel lament Hitler's consistently bad strategy. Von Rundstedt, who is aware of the plot against Hitler, encourages Rommel, but states that he himself is too old to rebel. Soon after, Rommel attempts to talk to Hitler one last time, but the "Bohemian colonel's" refusal to listen prompts Rommel to join Strolin's movement. Rommel is seriously injured when his car is bombed by Allied planes, however, and is unconscious when an attempt to kill Hitler fails. Over the next three months, Rommel recovers and is mystified by the lack of press coverage on him, as he is enormously popular with the German people. Finally, in Oct 1944, Generals Burgdorf and Maisel visit Rommel and inform him that he has been charged with treason in connection with the plot to assassinate Hitler. Rommel asserts that he will defend himself in court, but Burgdorf states that he has already been found guilty, and that if he commits suicide, Lucie and Manfred's safety will be guaranteed. Determined to save his family, Rommel agrees to leave with Burgdorf. Rommel bids farewell to Lucie, who promises to tell Manfred the truth later, then says goodbye to his son, and asks his old friend, Capt. Aldinger, to look after them. Rommel then enters the car with Burgdorf, and Lucie cries as her husband disappears into the distance.