Cast & Crew
On the south China coast in the early months of 1945, U. S. Marine Capt. Matt Reardon receives confirmation that a transport plane carrying Japanese Admiral Amara has been shot down. The gravely injured Amara is in the hands of a local Chinese guerrilla warlord high in the mountains. Upon reporting to his superiors, Matt is ordered to meet with submarine Capt. Dryden, who introduces him to Commander Bert Thompson of Naval Intelligence. Matt and a small escort are assigned to take Bert and a medical unit into the mountain jungles to locate and rescue Amara, considered a valuable intelligence asset. Matt balks when he discovers the medical unit includes Lt. Ellen Wilkins, but Bert and Dr. Masterson insist that as a top surgical nurse, she is crucial to saving Amara. Upon returning to Matt's small camp, the group discovers the native guide missing, the radio engineer murdered and the communications hut sabotaged with explosives. A Japanese sniper fires on the group until Matt shoots him. Although without the first of their three expected jungle guides, Matt starts the mission the next morning at Bert's urging. Each member of the unit is forced to carry several pounds of medical equipment, which slows their progress and irritates Matt. As they push into the jungle, a strong storm causes a river runoff that forces the group off their path. When a falling tree injures one of the soldiers, Bert insists they stop and rest, despite Matt's determination to reach their designated rendezvous point with the second guide. The next morning as the weather clears, Sgt. Hank Janowicz spots a Japanese army party also heading to the mountains, and Matt realizes they are also searching for Amara. When Matt and the group arrive at the next guide meeting point, there are a number of elderly Chinese and children but no guide. Matt asks their translator, Ensign Wong, to inquire if the Japanese have already come through, but all refuse to give information. When Matt finds an empty Japanese cigarette pack, however, he realizes they are now trailing the Japanese. The unit hastens through the mountains and late in the afternoon spot a fire. Taking Matt aside, Bert confides that the purpose of rescuing Amara is that, aware that the war is lost, the admiral had shown a willingness to discuss ways to hasten the war's end with American officials. Bert explains that even if he cannot get the vital information from Amara, it is Matt's duty to complete the mission and return him to the States. Rankled, Matt nevertheless agrees, and later makes a short reconnaissance trip with Hank and Wong. They discover the Japanese unit by the fire, waiting for the Chinese guide to lead them to the guerrilla warlord. As night falls, Matt sends Wong back to Bert with orders to attack the Japanese flank while he and Hank attack from the front. The attack is successful, although Wong and another soldier are killed and Masterson receives a slight wrist wound. While tending to their injured, the unit is approached by a number of Chinese led by Chang Sung, the representative of warlord Wu King. Chang indicates that Wu is indifferent to whether he leads the Japanese or the Americans to Amara, as long as he is paid in American dollars, which Bert has authority to pay. After agreeing on a fee, Chang and his men lead the unit to the site of Amara's plane crash and the admiral, who lies inside with a critical spinal injury. Chang insists Bert pay before Masterson begins surgery. During the operation, Masterson's wound keeps him from proceeding, and he talks Ellen successfully through the delicate procedure. The next day Bert tells Matt that Amara revealed that his countrymen would fight until the death and that it is imperative he reach America. Meanwhile, drums announce the arrival of Wu, who demands additional money before he will allow Amara's departure. Bert is forced to contact Dryden for authorization, and later Dryden advises that the money will be available at the coast, but Wu refuses to leave the mountains. Even after Bert promises that a runner will return with the money, Wu refuses until Matt convinces him to hold one of the Americans hostage to ensure the money's delivery. Bert and Ellen worry that without Matt the group will never be able to find their way through the jungle, so Bert devises a plan to remain behind as the hostage. The next day, a reluctant Matt and the others carry Amara off toward the coast. Shortly afterward, Japanese parachuters arrive at Wu's camp and Bert is suddenly made a prisoner whom Wu plans to sell to the Japanese. Bert kills Wu with the warlord's own gun and manages to radio ahead and alert Matt to the presence of the Japanese, before they kill him. Matt then gets Amara to the submarine and eventually he arrives safely in America. A few months later, when the decision to use the atomic bomb is made, Matt realizes the magnitude of their mission and of Bert's sacrifice.
Kei T. Chung
Walter N. G.
George Worthing Yates
Leon Askin (1907-2005)
Born in Vienna, Austria as Leo Aschkenasy on September 18, 1907, Askin developed a taste for theater through his mother's love of cabaret, and as a youngster, often accompanied his mother to weekend productions.
He made a go of acting as a profession in 1925, when he took drama classes from Hans Thimig, a noted Austrian stage actor at the time. The following year, he made his Vienna stage debut in Rolf Lauckner's "Schrei aus der Strasse."
For the next six year (1927-33), he was a popular stage actor in both Vienna and Berlin before he was prevented to work on the stage by Hitler's SA for being a Jew. He left for Paris in 1935 to escape anti-semetic persecution, but returned to Vienna in 1935, to find work (albeit a much lower profile to escape scrutiny), but after a few years, the writing was on the wall, and he escaped to New York City in 1939, just at the outbreak of World War II. His luck in the Big Apple wasn't really happening, and in 1941, he relocated to Washington D.C. and briefly held the position of managing director of the Civic Theatre, a popular city venue of the day. Unfortunately, after the tragic events of Pearl Harbor in December of that year, the United States became involved in the war that had already engulfed Europe for two years, and seeing a possibility to expediate his application for American citizenship, he enlisted in the U.S. Army.
After the war, Leon indeed became a U.S. citizen and changed his name from Leon Aschkenasy to Leon Askin. He returned to New York and found work as a drama teacher, and more importantly, landed his first gig on Broadway, as director and actor in Goethe's Faust in 1947, which starred Askin in the title character opposite the legendary Albert Bassermann who played Mephisto. The production was a huge success. Askin followed this up with another director/actor stint with Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice and co-starred with Jose Ferrer in Ben Hecht's 20th Century. They were all Broadway hits, and Askin had finally achieved the success he had worked so hard to seek and merit.
It wasn't long before Hollywood came calling, and soon Askin, with his rich German accent and massive physical presence, made a very effective villian in a number of Hollywood films: the Hope-Crosby comedy Road to Bali (1952); Richard Burton's first hit film The Robe; and the Danny Kaye vehicle Knock on Wood (1954).
Askin's roles throughout the 50's were pretty much in this "menacing figure" vein, so little did anyone suspect that around the corner, Billy Wilder would be offering him his most memorable screen role - that of the Russian commissar Peripetschikof who gleefully embraces Amercian Capitalism in the scintillating politcal satire, One, Two, Three (1961). Who can forget this wonderfully exchange between Peripetschikof and Coca Cola executive C.R. MacNamara (James Cagney):
Peripetschikof: I have a great idea to make money. I have a storage full of saurkraut and I'll sell it as Christmas tree tinsil!
MacNamara: You're a cinch!
His performance for Wilder was wonderfully comedic and wholly memorable, and after One, Two, Three the film roles for Askin got noticable better, especially in Lulu and The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (both 1962); but he began to find prominent guest shots on hit television shows too: My Favorite Martian and The Outer Limits to name a few; yet his big break came in 1965, when for six seasons he played General Albert Burkhalter, the Nazi general who was forever taking Col. Kilink's ineptitude to task in Hogan's Heroes (1965-71).
Roles dried up for Askin after the run of Hogan's Heroes, save for the occassional guest spot on television: Diff'rent Strokes, Three's Company, Happy Days; and parts in forgettable comedies: Going Ape! (1981), Airplane II: The Sequel (1982). After years of seclusion, Askin relocated to his birthplace of Vienna in 1994, and he began taking parts in numerous stage productions almost to his death. In 2002, he received the highest national award for an Austrian citizen when he was bestowed with the Austrian Cross of Honor, First Class, for Science and Art. He is survived by his third wife of three years, Anita Wicher.
by Michael T. Toole
Leon Askin (1907-2005)
The working title for this film was Operation 16-Z. A long written foreword before the opening titles begins, "Although official Washington will probably neither confirm nor deny this, the central event upon which this film is based actually occurred." The foreword notes in conclusion that the action was officially known as "Operation 16-Z." No other information on an actual case similar to this has been located. China Venture marked the motion picture debut of actress Jocelyn Brando (1919-2005), sister of Marlon Brando.
Released in United States Fall September 1953
Released in United States Fall September 1953