Operation Crossbow


1h 58m 1965
Operation Crossbow

Brief Synopsis

Allied agents go behind enemy lines to destroy a German missile base.

Photos & Videos

Film Details

Also Known As
Code Name: Operation Crossbow, Operazione Crossbow, The Great Spy Mission
Genre
Drama
Action
Adventure
Historical
War
Release Date
Jan 1965
Premiere Information
New York opening: 1 Apr 1965
Production Company
Carlo Ponti Productions; Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.
Country
United Kingdom

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 58m
Sound
70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints), Mono (35 mm prints)
Color
Color (Metrocolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

Allied Intelligence in London in December of 1942 receives reports that the Germans are developing long-range rockets. Though key advisers such as Professor Lindemann are skeptical of the reports, Prime Minister Churchill appoints Duncan Sandys, deputy supply minister, to head an investigation studying photographs for clues and pinpointing possible enemy launching sites. Then, when V-1 robot bombs begin to fall on London, three agents--Lieut. John Curtis, Phil Bradley, and Robert Henshaw--parachute into Holland and cross into Germany to infiltrate the underground plant at Peenemünde. They are posing as German agents known by the Allies to be deceased, but Henshaw is recognized by Gestapo agent Bamford and dies without giving any information. Curtis is confronted by the wife of the man he is impersonating. He locks her in his room and exacts her promise of secrecy; but she is ruthlessly killed by Frieda, an underground leader, to avoid any possible security leak. Bradley and Curtis get jobs at Peenemünde and transmit their findings to London. When London decides to bomb the site before long-range rockets can be launched, the agents are instructed to light the way for a squadron of Allied bombers. At the cost of their lives the two men make possible the total destruction of the Nazi installation.

Photo Collections

Operation Crossbow - Comic Book
Here are a few pages from Operation Crossbow, a comic book adaptation of the 1965 thriller, as published by Dell Comics.
Operation Crossbow - Publicity Stills
Here are a few Publicity Stills taken for Operation Crossbow (1965), starring Sophia Loren and George Peppard. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.

Videos

Movie Clip

Operation Crossbow (1965) - You'll Have To Lose The Handlebars Allied agents Henshaw and Curtis (Tom Courtenay, George Peppard) are dropping into occupied Holland having missed news that their identities are blown, so we cut to spy-master John Mills prepping Bradley (Jeremy Kemp) for a rescue, in the WWII espionage thriller Operation Crossbow, 1965.
Operation Crossbow (1965) - The Outcome Of The War Opening, the point being that this is a full-scale Carlo Ponti WWII espionage feature, starring his wife Sophia Loren, and lots of people got their names billed before the title; also Churchill (Patrick Wymark) himself is involved, visited by Richard Johnson as Duncan Sandys (a historical figure, actually Churchill’s son-in-law), from Operation Crossbow, 1965.
Operation Crossbow (1965) - No Bigger Than A Midget Just as the Brits conclude the Nazis may be testing rockets near the Baltic, we join a test pilot (David Hadda) overseen by big German generals (Paul Henreid, Helmut Dantine), Barbara Rutting as the famous German flier Hanna Reitsch, Michael Anderson directing, in Operation Crossbow, 1965.
Operation Crossbow (1965) - I Heard You Speaking English Top-billed Sophia Loren finally appears, at a boarding house in occupied Holland, where she catches undercover Allied agents George Peppard and Tom Courtenay, not knowing that her German engineer husband is dead or that Peppard is impersonating him, his landlady (Lili Palmer) saving the day, in Operation Crossbow, 1965.
Operation Crossbow (1965) - Buried The Roosters Thirty minutes in, we start meeting Allied officers who’ll undertake the WWII spy mission, first Anthony Quayle and Tom Courtenay waiting, then George Peppard as swaggering American (leading man) Curtis, and Jeremy Kemp as the bothered Brit Bradley, in Operation Crossbow, 1965.

Trailer

Hosted Intro

Film Details

Also Known As
Code Name: Operation Crossbow, Operazione Crossbow, The Great Spy Mission
Genre
Drama
Action
Adventure
Historical
War
Release Date
Jan 1965
Premiere Information
New York opening: 1 Apr 1965
Production Company
Carlo Ponti Productions; Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, Inc.
Distribution Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.
Country
United Kingdom

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 58m
Sound
70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints), Mono (35 mm prints)
Color
Color (Metrocolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Articles

Operation Crossbow


The 1960s saw a spate of big-budget, grand-scale international productions with large all-star casts of famed actors, many of them appearing only in brief cameos. A number of these pictures were political/spy thrillers or epics of World War II, and director-cinematographer team Michael Anderson and Erwin Hillier were responsible for at least three. Operation Crossbow (1965) was their first, followed by The Quiller Memorandum (1966) and The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968). The story follows the efforts of a team of mostly British operatives (and one American) to find and destroy the V1 and V2 rockets the Nazis had developed and begun to deploy near the end of the war. The action moves from the highest halls of British power (with actors playing Winston Churchill and his son-in-law, Tory government minister Duncan Sandys) to the rocket installations in Germany. The film, however, was shot entirely in England, with London's St. Pancras Power Station standing in for an underground rocket factory.

The story, while dramatized, is based on fact, right down to the fate of the operatives who infiltrated the rocket program. The operation had a stateside component as well; mock bunkers and launch sites were built on Eglin Air Force Base in North Florida in order to test the best means of destroying them. The results caused much debate within Allied command, since the Americans favored lower-level bombing raids, while the high-altitude British approach proved less effective. The bunker area is now an officially designated National Historic Site.

An ironic historical footnote to the story: Sandys, portrayed as one of the prime movers behind the heroic operation, had by the time of this film been vilified as the man who destroyed the British aircraft industry for his insistence (as Minister of Defense in the late 50s) that missiles had made airplanes obsolete as military weapons.

The screenplay credits bear the name "Richard Imrie," a pseudonym, in fact, for Emeric Pressburger. The co-creator (with Michael Powell) of such British film classics as The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), I Know Where I'm Going! (1945), Black Narcissus (1947) and The Red Shoes (1948) had fallen on hard times by the 1960s. His financial situation, aggravated by extravagant spending, was rocky, and he found himself in the position of having to take on any film work he could get. He was brought in to doctor Derry Quinn and Ray Rigby's script for Operation Crossbow only a few weeks before shooting began in June 1964. He frantically re-wrote scenes and dictated new ones and dialogue to his assistant, who then rushed them to the studio, often only a few hours ahead of the camera. He received screen credit as Imrie, a name he chose not so much to protect his reputation but to re-launch his career when he was no longer much in demand. In a diary entry around that time, he mused on the dual natures of Pressburger and Imrie: "While one retires at the age of 65, tired and forgotten, the other is an unknown but talented youngster just starting a glittering career." He used the name again on his next project, They're a Weird Mob (1966), which reunited him with Powell.

There's also a bit of deception going on in the casting. Top-billed Sophia Loren, although key to one particular sequence, appears in what is basically a cameo role. But she was at this time a major box office draw and Academy Award® winner- and her husband Carlo Ponti was the producer. Second only to Doctor Zhivago (1965) as the most expensive production Ponti had undertaken to that time, most of the $12 million budget went into special effects, including a climactic explosion that was one of the most colossal ever filmed. Because the production was filmed in bits and pieces and later assembled into the correct order, Loren never got to work with or even see much of the huge cast. Co-star Tom Courtenay later recalled a scene in which George Peppard says goodbye to Courtenay, then turns to greet Loren. "But all three of us were never on set together," he remarked. " In fact, I finished my scenes before Sophia started hers. I never met her at all."

When the picture got a lukewarm reception on its U.S. release, distributors briefly changed the title to The Great Spy Mission, believing the original title would lead people to believe it was a medical film, a genre that was not doing well in the mid 60s.

Director: Michael Anderson
Producer: Carlo Ponti
Screenplay: Derry Quinn, Ray Rigby, Richard Imrie (pseudonym for Emeric Pressburger)
Cinematography: Erwin Hillier
Editing: Ernest Walter
Art Direction: Elliot Scott
Original Music: Ron Goodwin
Cast: George Peppard (Lt. John Curtis), Sophia Loren (Nora), Trevor Howard (Prof. Lindemann), John Mills (General Boyd), Richard Johnson (Duncan Sandys), Tom Courtnay (Robert Henshaw), Jeremy Kemp (Phil Bradley), Anthony Quayle (Bamford), Lili Palmer (Frieda), Paul Henreid (General Ziemann), Sylvia Syms (Constance Babington Smith), Helmut Dantine (General Linz).
C-117m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.

by Rob Nixon
Operation Crossbow

Operation Crossbow

The 1960s saw a spate of big-budget, grand-scale international productions with large all-star casts of famed actors, many of them appearing only in brief cameos. A number of these pictures were political/spy thrillers or epics of World War II, and director-cinematographer team Michael Anderson and Erwin Hillier were responsible for at least three. Operation Crossbow (1965) was their first, followed by The Quiller Memorandum (1966) and The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968). The story follows the efforts of a team of mostly British operatives (and one American) to find and destroy the V1 and V2 rockets the Nazis had developed and begun to deploy near the end of the war. The action moves from the highest halls of British power (with actors playing Winston Churchill and his son-in-law, Tory government minister Duncan Sandys) to the rocket installations in Germany. The film, however, was shot entirely in England, with London's St. Pancras Power Station standing in for an underground rocket factory. The story, while dramatized, is based on fact, right down to the fate of the operatives who infiltrated the rocket program. The operation had a stateside component as well; mock bunkers and launch sites were built on Eglin Air Force Base in North Florida in order to test the best means of destroying them. The results caused much debate within Allied command, since the Americans favored lower-level bombing raids, while the high-altitude British approach proved less effective. The bunker area is now an officially designated National Historic Site. An ironic historical footnote to the story: Sandys, portrayed as one of the prime movers behind the heroic operation, had by the time of this film been vilified as the man who destroyed the British aircraft industry for his insistence (as Minister of Defense in the late 50s) that missiles had made airplanes obsolete as military weapons. The screenplay credits bear the name "Richard Imrie," a pseudonym, in fact, for Emeric Pressburger. The co-creator (with Michael Powell) of such British film classics as The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), I Know Where I'm Going! (1945), Black Narcissus (1947) and The Red Shoes (1948) had fallen on hard times by the 1960s. His financial situation, aggravated by extravagant spending, was rocky, and he found himself in the position of having to take on any film work he could get. He was brought in to doctor Derry Quinn and Ray Rigby's script for Operation Crossbow only a few weeks before shooting began in June 1964. He frantically re-wrote scenes and dictated new ones and dialogue to his assistant, who then rushed them to the studio, often only a few hours ahead of the camera. He received screen credit as Imrie, a name he chose not so much to protect his reputation but to re-launch his career when he was no longer much in demand. In a diary entry around that time, he mused on the dual natures of Pressburger and Imrie: "While one retires at the age of 65, tired and forgotten, the other is an unknown but talented youngster just starting a glittering career." He used the name again on his next project, They're a Weird Mob (1966), which reunited him with Powell. There's also a bit of deception going on in the casting. Top-billed Sophia Loren, although key to one particular sequence, appears in what is basically a cameo role. But she was at this time a major box office draw and Academy Award® winner- and her husband Carlo Ponti was the producer. Second only to Doctor Zhivago (1965) as the most expensive production Ponti had undertaken to that time, most of the $12 million budget went into special effects, including a climactic explosion that was one of the most colossal ever filmed. Because the production was filmed in bits and pieces and later assembled into the correct order, Loren never got to work with or even see much of the huge cast. Co-star Tom Courtenay later recalled a scene in which George Peppard says goodbye to Courtenay, then turns to greet Loren. "But all three of us were never on set together," he remarked. " In fact, I finished my scenes before Sophia started hers. I never met her at all." When the picture got a lukewarm reception on its U.S. release, distributors briefly changed the title to The Great Spy Mission, believing the original title would lead people to believe it was a medical film, a genre that was not doing well in the mid 60s. Director: Michael Anderson Producer: Carlo Ponti Screenplay: Derry Quinn, Ray Rigby, Richard Imrie (pseudonym for Emeric Pressburger) Cinematography: Erwin Hillier Editing: Ernest Walter Art Direction: Elliot Scott Original Music: Ron Goodwin Cast: George Peppard (Lt. John Curtis), Sophia Loren (Nora), Trevor Howard (Prof. Lindemann), John Mills (General Boyd), Richard Johnson (Duncan Sandys), Tom Courtnay (Robert Henshaw), Jeremy Kemp (Phil Bradley), Anthony Quayle (Bamford), Lili Palmer (Frieda), Paul Henreid (General Ziemann), Sylvia Syms (Constance Babington Smith), Helmut Dantine (General Linz). C-117m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning. by Rob Nixon

Operation Crossbow - George Peppard, Sophia Loren & Trevor Howard in the WWII Spy Drama OPERATION CROSSBOW on DVD


In 1957 Emeric Pressburger wrote a true-life spy film with his Archers partner Michael Powell called Ill Met By Moonlight. Two English agents penetrate German security on Crete, kidnap the top Nazi general and spirit him away to Cairo. The daring espionage caper became famous, yet during their adventure the spies never fired a shot nor met any sexy females. They spent most of their time living with goats.

Eight years later came the fantasies of the James Bond craze. In the tradition of Carl Foreman's The Guns of Navarone, Carlo Ponti's Operation Crossbow treats the allied effort to detect and forestall Germany's rocket program with a mix of patriotic fervor and 007-style exaggeration. The show isn't particularly good history, but it is exciting. Emeric Pressburger is one of the writers, using his alias Richard Imrie.

Synopsis: Duncan Sandys (Richard Johnson) is assigned to determine if the Germans are building rocket weapons. Professor Lindemann (Trevor Howard) denies that such a thing is possible, but others such as General Boyd (John Mills) support the notion. In actuality, the German high command is working on three projects simultaneously: The V-1 'Buzz Bomb,' the V-2 rocket and a project called the V-10, an intercontinental ballistic missile. Spy volunteers John Curtis, Phil Bradley and Robert Henshaw (George Peppard, Jeremy Kemp and Tom Courtenay) pose as engineers from the occupied countries, conscripts working for the Nazis. Curtis runs into a sticky problem: The wife of the man he is impersonating (Sophia Loren) shows up at his hotel, wondering why Curtis is using her husband's name and passport.

"You've got to find out about those rockets," orders a stern Winston Churchill, and a succession of earnest British strategists take drastic counter-measures against the V-1 base in Peenemünde. Experts spout exposition and make sober decisions in the face of a terrible threat.

There obviously were numerous Allied efforts to learn more about secret German weapons programs, and Operation Crossbow shows the recruitment of a trio of dauntless young agents. George Peppard and Jeremy Kemp go about their business with a cavalier swagger while Tom Courtenay's meek Dutch sailor walks into danger with only good intentions on his side. The saboteurs don't know it, but a cunning German counter-spy is waiting to ferret them out.

Operation Crossbow is a Carlo Ponti production. That explains why George Peppard's character shares a night of intrigue with a sexy Italian played by Ponti's wife Sophia Loren. Loren's romantic close-ups are gorgeous but her anachronistic hairstyle and eye makeup are jarring; it's as if Grace Kelly wandered into The Spy Who Came In From the Cold. Not only that, espionage film veteran Lili Palmer (Cloak and Dagger, The Counterfeit Traitor) makes a stronger impression. Of the entire cast, only Peppard, Loren and Palmer are given a real dramatic opportunity. The rest of the film sticks to straight espionage thriller mechanics.

The episode dealing with the V-1 program can't help but flatter the Nazi rocket developers, who risk their lives working with cutting-edge technology. The Germans at Peenemünde kill several test pilots in the process of making their V-1 Buzz Bombs fly straight; director Michael Anderson uses dramatic angles for their funerals. We're treated to inspiring close-ups of Ace aviatrix Hannah Reitsch (Barbara Rütting) courageously riding the unpredictable rocket. Had the Germans won the war this amazing woman surely would have been the subject of many reverent biographies. Hannah Reitsch later flew into and out of Berlin when Hitler was pinned in his bunker, as seen in Hitler: The Last Ten Days and Downfall.

The tension takes on a contemporary relevance when Hitler's scientists bombard London with sinister V-1s. Scooting along at 400 mph, the Buzz Bombs are too fast for easy interception and carry enough explosive to blow up several houses. Although associated with 'Nazi Terror,' the V-1's are primitive versions of our own modern cruise missiles. The later V-2 missiles fall so quickly from sub-orbit that they're almost undetectable. A V2 hit can take out the better part of a city block.

For its finale the film swings into fantastic territory: The Germans have built a gigantic rocket lab and launching base deep below eighty feet of solid rock, a fortress that would be the envy of Ernst Stavro Blofeld. The historical V-10 is said to have advanced no farther than the planning stage, but Operation Crossbow pretends that the rocket is almost ready to launch ...to strike New York City!

The last minute chaos and gunplay in the Nazi fortress resolves Operation Crossbow as a SuperSpy fantasy like Dr. No or the now obscure WW2 spy picture Sabotage Agent (The Adventures of Tartu). In that 1943 English film, Robert Donat single-handedly blows up a vast underground Nazi installation bigger than anything in Metropolis. The idea of grim storm troopers overseeing captive technicians in a secret factory is reminiscent also of 1957's Quatermass 2, right down to the machine gun battle finale. Fans partial to explosions will be pleased with George Peppard's last stand, even though some of the special effects are on the flimsy side.

In keeping with the 60s trend in escapist war thrillers, Crossbow celebrates elite warriors accomplishing the impossible and 'turning the course of the war.' Civilians like Sophia Loren's unfortunate character matter little in this cold equation. In Sabotage Agent Loren's place is taken by a very young Glynis Johns, a downtrodden forced laborer. Sabotage emphasizes that the war is being fought to save unfortunate Europeans from tyranny. Crossbow is more concerned with glory and cool weaponry; even its heroes are expendable.

Operation Crossbow shapes up as a commercial cut-and-paste job, with ample helpings of flag-waving, grim spy intrigue, fantastic action and a beautiful star for the poster. Every plot turn is underlined with bombastic musical chords from Ron Goodwin's retro score. Elliot Scott's elaborate sets are definitely meant to compete with Ken Adams' work for the James Bond films.

Fans of British acting talent will enjoy the enormous cast. On view are Anthony Quayle (a formidable spymaster), an underused Richard Todd (a photo expert), Sylvia Syms and John Fraser (more photo experts), and Maurice Denham, Richard Wattis, Allan Cuthbertson and Charles Lloyd Pack (more boffins & officers). Patrick Wymark's Winston Churchill seems to be conducting the entire war while chain-smoking in dramatic light. Richard Johnson is the dry hero who relays information to the Prime Minister. The German characters speak subtitled German and are played by continentals: Helmut Dantine, Paul Henreid, Karel Stepanek, Anton Diffring -- and our old favorite Ferdy Mayne (Where Eagles Dare, The Fearless Vampire Killers).

Warners' DVD of Operation Crossbow it's a perennially popular 'guy' film, like Ice Station Zebra. The enhanced 2.35:1 transfer is sharp and colorful and the lively 5.1 sound mix may have been derived from a six-track stereo original. A featurette from the time of release presents the wild story happenings as historic fact, and the trailer sells the tale with a non-stop montage of action scenes. The amusing original ad copy assures us that our fearless saboteurs possess 'licenses to kill.' Trevor Howard's annoying professor character becomes a man of mystery among the cluster of stars in the exaggerated key art painting, which also makes Lili Palmer look like an automobile hood ornament.

For more information about Operation Crossbow, visit Warner Video. To order Operation Crossbow, go to TCM Shopping.

by Glenn Erickson

Operation Crossbow - George Peppard, Sophia Loren & Trevor Howard in the WWII Spy Drama OPERATION CROSSBOW on DVD

In 1957 Emeric Pressburger wrote a true-life spy film with his Archers partner Michael Powell called Ill Met By Moonlight. Two English agents penetrate German security on Crete, kidnap the top Nazi general and spirit him away to Cairo. The daring espionage caper became famous, yet during their adventure the spies never fired a shot nor met any sexy females. They spent most of their time living with goats. Eight years later came the fantasies of the James Bond craze. In the tradition of Carl Foreman's The Guns of Navarone, Carlo Ponti's Operation Crossbow treats the allied effort to detect and forestall Germany's rocket program with a mix of patriotic fervor and 007-style exaggeration. The show isn't particularly good history, but it is exciting. Emeric Pressburger is one of the writers, using his alias Richard Imrie. Synopsis: Duncan Sandys (Richard Johnson) is assigned to determine if the Germans are building rocket weapons. Professor Lindemann (Trevor Howard) denies that such a thing is possible, but others such as General Boyd (John Mills) support the notion. In actuality, the German high command is working on three projects simultaneously: The V-1 'Buzz Bomb,' the V-2 rocket and a project called the V-10, an intercontinental ballistic missile. Spy volunteers John Curtis, Phil Bradley and Robert Henshaw (George Peppard, Jeremy Kemp and Tom Courtenay) pose as engineers from the occupied countries, conscripts working for the Nazis. Curtis runs into a sticky problem: The wife of the man he is impersonating (Sophia Loren) shows up at his hotel, wondering why Curtis is using her husband's name and passport. "You've got to find out about those rockets," orders a stern Winston Churchill, and a succession of earnest British strategists take drastic counter-measures against the V-1 base in Peenemünde. Experts spout exposition and make sober decisions in the face of a terrible threat. There obviously were numerous Allied efforts to learn more about secret German weapons programs, and Operation Crossbow shows the recruitment of a trio of dauntless young agents. George Peppard and Jeremy Kemp go about their business with a cavalier swagger while Tom Courtenay's meek Dutch sailor walks into danger with only good intentions on his side. The saboteurs don't know it, but a cunning German counter-spy is waiting to ferret them out. Operation Crossbow is a Carlo Ponti production. That explains why George Peppard's character shares a night of intrigue with a sexy Italian played by Ponti's wife Sophia Loren. Loren's romantic close-ups are gorgeous but her anachronistic hairstyle and eye makeup are jarring; it's as if Grace Kelly wandered into The Spy Who Came In From the Cold. Not only that, espionage film veteran Lili Palmer (Cloak and Dagger, The Counterfeit Traitor) makes a stronger impression. Of the entire cast, only Peppard, Loren and Palmer are given a real dramatic opportunity. The rest of the film sticks to straight espionage thriller mechanics. The episode dealing with the V-1 program can't help but flatter the Nazi rocket developers, who risk their lives working with cutting-edge technology. The Germans at Peenemünde kill several test pilots in the process of making their V-1 Buzz Bombs fly straight; director Michael Anderson uses dramatic angles for their funerals. We're treated to inspiring close-ups of Ace aviatrix Hannah Reitsch (Barbara Rütting) courageously riding the unpredictable rocket. Had the Germans won the war this amazing woman surely would have been the subject of many reverent biographies. Hannah Reitsch later flew into and out of Berlin when Hitler was pinned in his bunker, as seen in Hitler: The Last Ten Days and Downfall. The tension takes on a contemporary relevance when Hitler's scientists bombard London with sinister V-1s. Scooting along at 400 mph, the Buzz Bombs are too fast for easy interception and carry enough explosive to blow up several houses. Although associated with 'Nazi Terror,' the V-1's are primitive versions of our own modern cruise missiles. The later V-2 missiles fall so quickly from sub-orbit that they're almost undetectable. A V2 hit can take out the better part of a city block. For its finale the film swings into fantastic territory: The Germans have built a gigantic rocket lab and launching base deep below eighty feet of solid rock, a fortress that would be the envy of Ernst Stavro Blofeld. The historical V-10 is said to have advanced no farther than the planning stage, but Operation Crossbow pretends that the rocket is almost ready to launch ...to strike New York City! The last minute chaos and gunplay in the Nazi fortress resolves Operation Crossbow as a SuperSpy fantasy like Dr. No or the now obscure WW2 spy picture Sabotage Agent (The Adventures of Tartu). In that 1943 English film, Robert Donat single-handedly blows up a vast underground Nazi installation bigger than anything in Metropolis. The idea of grim storm troopers overseeing captive technicians in a secret factory is reminiscent also of 1957's Quatermass 2, right down to the machine gun battle finale. Fans partial to explosions will be pleased with George Peppard's last stand, even though some of the special effects are on the flimsy side. In keeping with the 60s trend in escapist war thrillers, Crossbow celebrates elite warriors accomplishing the impossible and 'turning the course of the war.' Civilians like Sophia Loren's unfortunate character matter little in this cold equation. In Sabotage Agent Loren's place is taken by a very young Glynis Johns, a downtrodden forced laborer. Sabotage emphasizes that the war is being fought to save unfortunate Europeans from tyranny. Crossbow is more concerned with glory and cool weaponry; even its heroes are expendable. Operation Crossbow shapes up as a commercial cut-and-paste job, with ample helpings of flag-waving, grim spy intrigue, fantastic action and a beautiful star for the poster. Every plot turn is underlined with bombastic musical chords from Ron Goodwin's retro score. Elliot Scott's elaborate sets are definitely meant to compete with Ken Adams' work for the James Bond films. Fans of British acting talent will enjoy the enormous cast. On view are Anthony Quayle (a formidable spymaster), an underused Richard Todd (a photo expert), Sylvia Syms and John Fraser (more photo experts), and Maurice Denham, Richard Wattis, Allan Cuthbertson and Charles Lloyd Pack (more boffins & officers). Patrick Wymark's Winston Churchill seems to be conducting the entire war while chain-smoking in dramatic light. Richard Johnson is the dry hero who relays information to the Prime Minister. The German characters speak subtitled German and are played by continentals: Helmut Dantine, Paul Henreid, Karel Stepanek, Anton Diffring -- and our old favorite Ferdy Mayne (Where Eagles Dare, The Fearless Vampire Killers). Warners' DVD of Operation Crossbow it's a perennially popular 'guy' film, like Ice Station Zebra. The enhanced 2.35:1 transfer is sharp and colorful and the lively 5.1 sound mix may have been derived from a six-track stereo original. A featurette from the time of release presents the wild story happenings as historic fact, and the trailer sells the tale with a non-stop montage of action scenes. The amusing original ad copy assures us that our fearless saboteurs possess 'licenses to kill.' Trevor Howard's annoying professor character becomes a man of mystery among the cluster of stars in the exaggerated key art painting, which also makes Lili Palmer look like an automobile hood ornament. For more information about Operation Crossbow, visit Warner Video. To order Operation Crossbow, go to TCM Shopping. by Glenn Erickson

Sir John Mills (1908-2005)


He was arguably the most refined, and versatile of all English film stars in the history of British cinema. Sir John Mills, the Oscar®-winning actor whose film career spanned over 70 years, died on April 23 of natural causes in London. He was 97.

Born Lewis Ernest Watts Mills in Norfolk, England on February 22, 1908. His father was a headmaster of a village school in Suffolk, where Mills was raised. After secondary school, he worked as a clerk in a corn merchant's office while acting in amateur dramatic societies. Ever ambitious, he relocated to London in 1928 to find more work as an actor.

He took tap-dancing lessons and made his stage debut as a chorus boy in The Five O'Clock Girl at the London Hippodrome in 1929. Later that year, he joined an acting troupe that toured India and the Far East with a repertory of modern plays, musical comedies and Shakespeare. It was during this tour when he scored his big break - he was spotted by Noel Coward while in Singapore and promptly taken under the playwright's wing when he returned to London in 1931.

On his return, he starred on the West End (London's Broadway), in Coward's Cavalcade and earned the lead in a production of Charley's Aunt. His song and dance talents came in handy for his film debut, an early British musical-comedy The Midshipmaid (1932). His biggest hits over the next few years would all fall into the genre of light comic-musicals: Britannia of Billingsgate (1933), Royal Cavalcade (1935), and Four Dark Hours(1937). He scored a his first big part as Robert Donat's student in the MGM backed production Mills went on to play Robert Donat's Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939). He developed some more heft to his acting credentials that same year when he made his debut at the celebrated Old Vic Theatre as Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

He served briefly in the Navy, 1940-41, during World War II before receiving a medical discharge. When Mills returned to the screen, he began a great turn as the atypical sturdy, dignified Englishman ("English without tears" went the popular phrase of the day). He starred as a stalwart lead in a amazing string of hit films: In Which We Serve (1942), We Dive at Dawn (1943), This Happy Breed (1944), The Way to the Stars (1945), and Waterloo Road (1945). Although Mills was ever dependable, they did not show his breakout talents until he starred as Pip in David Lean's gorgeous adaptation of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations (1946). As the young orphan who morphs into a man of wealth and stature, Mills showed the depth as an actor by offering a finely modulated performance.

By the late '40s, Mills was a bona fide star of British films, and over the next decade the strong roles kept coming: as the ill-fated Robert Falcon Scott in Scott of the Antarctic (1948); Bassett, the handy man who tries to help a troubled child (the brilliant John Howard Davies) of greedy, neglectful parents in the superb domestic drama The Rocking Horse Winner (1950); an overprotective father who gets trapped in a murder yarn in Mr. Denning Drives North (1952); a fine Willie Mossop in David Lean's Hobson's Choice (1954); an impressive "against-type" performance as a Russian peasant in War and Peace (1956); a sympathetic police inspector coaxing the trust of a juvenile (his daughter Hayley) who knows the facts of a murder case in the underappreciated Tiger Bay (1959); a rowdy Australian sheep shearer in Summer of the Seventeenth Doll (also 1959); and arguably his finest performance - a Best Actor award at the Venice Film Festival for a hard-as-nails army colonel who fears the loss of control over his regiment in Tunes of Glory (1960).

The mid-60s saw an isolated effort as a film director: Gypsy Girl (which starred his other daughter Juliet - who would later find fame on US television in Nanny and the Professor (1970-72); and showed the development of Mills into a charming character actor: the working-class patriarch in the modest comedy The Family Way (starring Hayley as his daughter); and a terrific comic bit as a murderous Lord who tries to kill off his kin for the family inheritance in Bryan Forbes The Wrong Box (all 1966).

By the '70s, his film work slowed considerably, but he was always worth watching: an Oscar winning performance as a mute villager in David Lean¿s study of the Irish troubles Ryan's Daughter (1970); as the influential General Herbert Kitchener Young Winston (1972); and as a driven oil driller in Oklahoma Crude (1973). With the exception of a small role in Sir Richard Attenborough's Ghandi (1982 - where he was credited as Sir John Mills after his knighthood in 1976), and a regrettable cameo in the deplorable Madonna comedy Who's That Girl (1987).

Very little was seen of Mills until recent years, where the most memorable of his appearances included: Old Norway in Hamlet (1996); as the stern chairman opposite Rowan Atkinson in the hit comedy Bean (1997); and - in a daring final role for his proud career - a nonagenarian partygoing cocaine user in Stephen Fry's bawdy social satire Bright Young Things (2003)! Mills is survived by his wife of 64 years, the novelist and playwright Mary Hayley Bell; his daughters, Juliet and Hayley; son, John; and several grandchildren.

by Michael T. Toole

Sir John Mills (1908-2005)

He was arguably the most refined, and versatile of all English film stars in the history of British cinema. Sir John Mills, the Oscar®-winning actor whose film career spanned over 70 years, died on April 23 of natural causes in London. He was 97. Born Lewis Ernest Watts Mills in Norfolk, England on February 22, 1908. His father was a headmaster of a village school in Suffolk, where Mills was raised. After secondary school, he worked as a clerk in a corn merchant's office while acting in amateur dramatic societies. Ever ambitious, he relocated to London in 1928 to find more work as an actor. He took tap-dancing lessons and made his stage debut as a chorus boy in The Five O'Clock Girl at the London Hippodrome in 1929. Later that year, he joined an acting troupe that toured India and the Far East with a repertory of modern plays, musical comedies and Shakespeare. It was during this tour when he scored his big break - he was spotted by Noel Coward while in Singapore and promptly taken under the playwright's wing when he returned to London in 1931. On his return, he starred on the West End (London's Broadway), in Coward's Cavalcade and earned the lead in a production of Charley's Aunt. His song and dance talents came in handy for his film debut, an early British musical-comedy The Midshipmaid (1932). His biggest hits over the next few years would all fall into the genre of light comic-musicals: Britannia of Billingsgate (1933), Royal Cavalcade (1935), and Four Dark Hours(1937). He scored a his first big part as Robert Donat's student in the MGM backed production Mills went on to play Robert Donat's Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939). He developed some more heft to his acting credentials that same year when he made his debut at the celebrated Old Vic Theatre as Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream. He served briefly in the Navy, 1940-41, during World War II before receiving a medical discharge. When Mills returned to the screen, he began a great turn as the atypical sturdy, dignified Englishman ("English without tears" went the popular phrase of the day). He starred as a stalwart lead in a amazing string of hit films: In Which We Serve (1942), We Dive at Dawn (1943), This Happy Breed (1944), The Way to the Stars (1945), and Waterloo Road (1945). Although Mills was ever dependable, they did not show his breakout talents until he starred as Pip in David Lean's gorgeous adaptation of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations (1946). As the young orphan who morphs into a man of wealth and stature, Mills showed the depth as an actor by offering a finely modulated performance. By the late '40s, Mills was a bona fide star of British films, and over the next decade the strong roles kept coming: as the ill-fated Robert Falcon Scott in Scott of the Antarctic (1948); Bassett, the handy man who tries to help a troubled child (the brilliant John Howard Davies) of greedy, neglectful parents in the superb domestic drama The Rocking Horse Winner (1950); an overprotective father who gets trapped in a murder yarn in Mr. Denning Drives North (1952); a fine Willie Mossop in David Lean's Hobson's Choice (1954); an impressive "against-type" performance as a Russian peasant in War and Peace (1956); a sympathetic police inspector coaxing the trust of a juvenile (his daughter Hayley) who knows the facts of a murder case in the underappreciated Tiger Bay (1959); a rowdy Australian sheep shearer in Summer of the Seventeenth Doll (also 1959); and arguably his finest performance - a Best Actor award at the Venice Film Festival for a hard-as-nails army colonel who fears the loss of control over his regiment in Tunes of Glory (1960). The mid-60s saw an isolated effort as a film director: Gypsy Girl (which starred his other daughter Juliet - who would later find fame on US television in Nanny and the Professor (1970-72); and showed the development of Mills into a charming character actor: the working-class patriarch in the modest comedy The Family Way (starring Hayley as his daughter); and a terrific comic bit as a murderous Lord who tries to kill off his kin for the family inheritance in Bryan Forbes The Wrong Box (all 1966). By the '70s, his film work slowed considerably, but he was always worth watching: an Oscar winning performance as a mute villager in David Lean¿s study of the Irish troubles Ryan's Daughter (1970); as the influential General Herbert Kitchener Young Winston (1972); and as a driven oil driller in Oklahoma Crude (1973). With the exception of a small role in Sir Richard Attenborough's Ghandi (1982 - where he was credited as Sir John Mills after his knighthood in 1976), and a regrettable cameo in the deplorable Madonna comedy Who's That Girl (1987). Very little was seen of Mills until recent years, where the most memorable of his appearances included: Old Norway in Hamlet (1996); as the stern chairman opposite Rowan Atkinson in the hit comedy Bean (1997); and - in a daring final role for his proud career - a nonagenarian partygoing cocaine user in Stephen Fry's bawdy social satire Bright Young Things (2003)! Mills is survived by his wife of 64 years, the novelist and playwright Mary Hayley Bell; his daughters, Juliet and Hayley; son, John; and several grandchildren. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

Trivia

The title was (briefly) changed by MGM for the US release to The Great Spy Mission because they thought that having the word "operation" in the title might make people think it was a medical film, a genre that wasn't doing well at the box office at the time.

Notes

Opened in London in August 1965; in Rome in October 1965 as Operazione Crossbow; running time: 110 min. Also shown as The Great Spy Mission and Code Name: Operation Crossbow.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1965

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1965