Cast & Crew
Toward the beginning of World War II, a British tank battalion is captured in the Libyan desert and taken to a prison camp run jointly by the Italians and Germans. As the trucks carrying the prisoners rumble through the desert, one becomes mired in the sand. Sgt. David Thatcher, an American fighting with the British forces, seizes the opportunity to jump out of the truck and flee his captors. When the Germans catch up to him, Thatcher tries to hide his identity by burying his tags in the sand, but the Germans uncover the tags and take him back to camp. There German Captain Ritter asks Thatcher why he was trying to conceal his identity and why he was fighting with a British squad. When Ritter threatens to coerce the uncooperative Thatcher into talking, Thatcher thrusts out his hand, revealing that his fingernails had been ripped out during a previous attempt at coercion. As Kendall, a by-the-book British sergeant, tries to keep order in camp and organize a clandestine escape committee, Thatcher, who is desperate to escape before the Nazis discover that he is a wanted fugitive, and the Pole, a Polish prisoner with homicidal tendencies, plan their own escape. Thatcher tells the Pole that, after the Nazis killed his Jewish wife, he threw a bomb at Joseph Goebbels, and the resulting explosion sent the Nazi Propaganda Minister to the hospital. After Thatcher was captured by the Germans, they tried to force him into signing a document confessing that the Americans paid him to assassinate Goebbels, but he escaped first and has been hunted by the Germans ever since. As the Pole and Thatcher talk, Kendall convenes the official escape committee to organize a mass escape for later that evening. Johnson, a German spy who has infiltrated the committee by posing as a British soldier, sits in on the meeting then reports back to Ritter. Later, Kendall asks Noakes, a young, naïve soldier, to create a diversion by stealing an ambulance and driving it through the main gate. When Noakes tells Thatcher about the plan, the sergeant decides to appropriate the ambulance for himself. Meanwhile, the Pole, who has become suspicious of Johnson, tricks him into speaking English, then stabs him in the back. In the middle of a sandstorm that night, Thatcher and the Pole hide in the back of the ambulance as Noakes prepares to crash it through the prison gate. When an S.S. colonel unexpectedly arrives to take custody of Thatcher, the commandant holds a roll call of the prisoners. Realizing that the roll call will prevent their escape, Kendall decides to execute his plan early and jumps into the ambulance with Bartlett, an Australian prisoner. When they come upon a German soldier in the desert, they take him prisoner and Thatcher dons his uniform to deceive a convoy of approaching Italians. The ambulance then continues to the town of Benghazi, where Thatcher's friend Carola runs a nightclub for Italian officers. Before reaching the club, the Pole stabs their prisoner in the back. When Thatcher enters the club dressed in a German uniform, Alberto, one of the Italians, becomes suspicious. After the Italians depart, Carola feeds the hungry fugitives. Just as they are about to leave, a jumpy Alberto returns to investigate, and when Carola unexpectedly swings open the door, he panics and shoots her. After the prisoners kill Alberto, Thatcher lovingly cradles Carola's lifeless body in his arms. Upon continuing their journey, they come across a German soldier whose jeep has broken down and decide to take him along. Meanwhile, the S.S. colonel meets with an Arab sheik and offers to return the sheik's British-occupied land in exchange for his help in capturing Thatcher. When the fugitives are forced to stop during a sandstorm, the Pole, who has pocketed one of the German's guns, shoots the German they have just found in cold blood. Outraged, Kendall vows to make sure the Pole is court-martialed and assigns Bartlett to guard him. After Bartlett falls asleep, the Pole observes the sheik's men advancing on the camp and turns his back as an Arab slashes Bartlett's throat. Captured by the Arabs, the prisoners are brought to the sheik's camp, and soon after Ritter and the colonel arrive and the colonel demands that Thatcher sign the confession. When Thatcher refuses, the sheik orders him tortured, but even though his tormentors mangle his hand, Thatcher refuses to sign. After Thatcher is taken away, Ritter, disgusted by his superior's lack of morality, gives the prisoners a map and a gun to escape, then commits suicide. When Kendall takes the sheik and the colonel hostage, Thatcher holds a live grenade to the colonel's back and orders him to tell his men to disarm. After the Pole unexpectedly shoots the sheik, Thatcher hurls the grenade at the Germans. In the ensuing shootout, the Pole is wounded and the fugitives steal a truck and escape. When the truck runs out of gas, a tribe of friendly Arabs appear on horseback and warn them that three German tanks are parked on the other side of the dunes. As Kendall, Thatcher and Noakes sneak up on the tanks, the Germans begin to fire at them. Firing back in return, the Pole is killed while walking into a hail of enemy bullets. Although Kendall is badly wounded, the prisoners manage to seize one of the tanks and drive off with the Germans in pursuit. After their tank is disabled, Noakes and Thatcher carry the gravely wounded Kendall to the ground, where he dies. Just then, a British tank battalion appears and destroys the two German tanks. Against the background of the burning tanks, Noakes and Thatcher bury Kendall and then salute their departed colleague.
Albert R. Broccoli
Major K. P. Harris M. C.
Kenneth V. Jones
Phil C. Samuel
The working title of this film, No Time to Die!, was the title of the British version as well as the Ronald Kemp novel on which, according to a 1955 Los Angeles Times news item, the film was initially to be based. According to the Los Angeles Times news item, Warwick Productions bought Kemp's novel hoping that Montgomery Clift would star and that Sy Barlett would write the screenplay. The novel was described as "a dramatic study of the reactions of a sensitive young man to his first battle experience during the African campaign in World War II." The released film, however, has a different focus on the war and onscreen credits contain no reference to Kemp or his novel.
The opening and closing cast credits differ slightly in order. The film opens with the onscreen written acknowledgment: "To the War Office, The Royal Armoured Corps and The Queen's Bays (2nd Dragoon Guards) Who made possible the tank sequences we extend our grateful thanks." The running times of the English and American versions differ in length. The American version ran 83 minutes, while the British version ran 103 minutes. According to the Variety review, director Terence Young served as an officer in the Royal Armored Corps during World War II. Hollywood Reporter production charts note that the film was partially shot on location in Libya.