Cast & Crew
Wealthy Robert Crain, a deserter from the German Army posing as a Swiss national in India during World War II, is coerced by British Intelligence Colonel Statter into masquerading as a Gestapo officer. Installing himself as a passenger aboard a German blockade runner which is carrying a valuable cargo of rubber from the Orient, Crain, using the name Hans Keil, is to deactivate the scuttling charges by which the captain would destroy the ship if faced with capture. Captain Mueller, unsympathetic to the Nazi philosophy, regards the presence of the "Gestapo officer" on his ship with fear and suspicion. Mueller refuses to allow Crain the run of the ship, thus making it almost impossible for him to find and deactivate the explosives before the Allies intercept the vessel at a predetermined point. Two German submarine officers bring aboard the freighter a group of survivors of a sunken ship, among them some American refugees and Esther Levy, a German Jew who has been the victim of Nazi atrocities. Crain, aware that his identity is about to be exposed by the suspicious submarine officers, decides to lead the new arrivals and some of the crew members to mutiny. By the time the Germans learn that Crain is a fraud, mutiny has broken out and the ship is sinking. Crain and Mueller, left alone on the ship, discover that the vessel probably will not sink for a few hours. Crain convinces Mueller that he owes no allegiance to the Nazis, and Mueller radios a nearby Allied ship to save them and the cargo.
Hans Christian Blech
Charles De Vries
L. B. Abbott
Herman A. Blumenthal
Emil Kosa Jr.
Walter M. Scott
Jack Martin Smith
Best Costume Design
Based on a novel by Werner Jorg Luedecke, a former German naval attaché stationed in Tokyo, this World War II melodrama charts the journey of a German freighter, commandeered by Captain Mueller (Yul Brynner), from Tokyo to occupied France in 1942. On board is Robert Crain (Brando), a German army defector posing as a SS officer with a secret plan to deliver the ship's precious cargo of rubber to the British. The voyage becomes a battle of wits between the Captain and Crain and is complicated by the arrival of some American refugees and a German Jew (Janet Margolin), the survivors of a sunken ship. Bernhard Wicki, the German director of the acclaimed WWII drama, The Bridge (1959), was selected to helm the feature, working from a script by the Oscar®-winning screenwriter Daniel Taradash (From Here to Eternity (1953), Picnic (1955)).
Aaron Rosenberg, the producer of Morituri, approached Brando with an offer to star in the film despite his horrendous experience of working with the actor on Mutiny on the Bounty. One reason was that Brando had been on his best behavior during the filming of his two previous films, The Ugly American (1963) and Bedtime Story (1964) - an attempt to combat his image in Hollywood as "difficult." Brando was also building his case for a lawsuit against the Saturday Evening Post which had inferred that no British actor of any stature would work with him after the debacle of Mutiny. Without mentioning his motive, Brando enticed his former co-star Trevor Howard and two other Mutiny alumni - Gil Stuart and Keith McConnell - to appear in supporting roles in Morituri, even though they hadn't enjoyed working with Brando on Mutiny. Howard discovered the ploy only after he was already committed to the film and was not happy about it but Brando succeeded in winning his case.
Once production began on Morituri Brando returned to his old habits of waging creative battles with the director and screenwriter. Script conferences became torturous for Daniel Taradash who said Brando would often rewrite, discard or add new dialogue or scenes to the script. Often he would show up late for these conferences and "announce that he had been drinking all night and had a hangover," according to Taradash (who knew the actor was not a drinker and was merely using it as an excuse). Then, "Marlon would curl up in a large chair and we would at last start to go over the script, and either he wasn't paying attention at all, or if he did so he would suddenly say, 'I think my character would do so and so and so and so.' His idea of rewriting was how would Marlon Brando act in the situation." The actor would also reblock scenes or perform some action not previously discussed before the cameras began rolling. One such example was an important conversation between Brando and Janet Margolin, when the actor abruptly crossed the cabin for no reason to look out a porthole and then returned to his mark. It was "because his goddamned lines were on the idiot board outside the porthole!" Taradash later revealed.
Brando was equally hard on Wicki whom he considered impersonal and mechanical due to his meticulous attention to technical details. His slow production methods so frustrated the actor at one point that Brando ordered the director off the set. Despite this, Yul Brynner, whose ego was as great as Brando's, matched his co-star in terms of expecting and receiving special treatment. According to Michelangelo Capua's biography of Yul Brynner, the actor "demanded in his contract that a landing pad be built on the ship so he could get a private helicopter to take him ashore after each day's shoot. Brando requested the same service. Every day at 6 p.m., even if in the middle of a scene, Yul and Brando left the set to get in their helicopter. The crew was very annoyed because suddenly they were forced to stop filming even if the light was right." Yet, though the press predicted a clash of egos between the two actors, Brando and Brynner got along well and Brynner admitted years later that Brando was his favorite actor: "He touches me the most and he makes some of the most obvious mistakes. I have a kind of sacred spot in me that is important to me, entailing purity of intention. I think Marlon has that too."
In his autobiography, Brando would give credit to Brynner as well, noting "...Yul did something in that picture that impressed me. In one scene I thought his acting was very stagy and artificial, but when I saw the scene on film it succeeded because the lighting was effective, and I learned he had suggested to the lighting man how to light the scene. I had never paid much attention to lighting, and it made me realize that the man who sets it up can do a lot for your performance or break your neck if he wants to. With lights, he can add drama to your face, make it dull, or put you in darkness. From then on, I began checking with the lighting man before doing a scene, using a mirror to see what effect different lighting gave my appearance and performance."
The shooting schedule for Morituri was set for five weeks but ran over schedule a week due to bad weather. The movie was filmed off the shore of Catalina Island and some of the scenes were physically grueling for the cast, particularly those actors who appear in the engine room scenes where the temperature rose over 100 degrees. During production, Brando gave an interview in which he bemoaned the entire filmmaking process: "It's like pushing a prune pit with my nose from here to Cucamonga...and now I find myself in Azusa. Of course if this picture is good, all the grief will be forgotten. But when a picture is bad, all you can do is stick a lampshade on your head and stand real still and hope nobody notices you."
Brando was too big a star for the lampshade tactic to work though and most critics were not kind to Morituri; moviegoers avoided it as well. Critic Pauline Kael wrote, "Like many another great actor who has become fortune's fool, he (Brando) plays the great ham. He seems as pleased with the lines as if he'd just thought them up. He gives the best ones a carefully timed double take so that we, too, can savor his cleverness and the delight of his German accent." Bosley Crowther of The New York Times also noted that Brando played the role with evident enjoyment but added, "the melodrama is as turgid as that title they have given the film, and anxiety over the fate of Mr. Brando is dissipated in a vastly cluttered plot...Some stunning shots from a helicopter partly compensate, but not enough to wash out a dark sense of claustrophobia...the whole thing has pretty well floundered long before the explosions are touched off."
At the last minute, 20th Century Fox panicked and retitled the movie The Saboteur: Code Name - Morituri in hopes that the film's subject matter and genre would be more obvious to moviegoers but it didn't help. Nevertheless, Morituri managed to garner two justly deserved Oscar® nominations for Best Black and White Cinematography (by Conrad L. Hall) and Best Costume Design (by Moss Mabry).
Producer: Aaron Rosenberg
Director: Bernhard Wicki
Screenplay: Daniel Taradash; Werner Joerg Luedecke (novel)
Cinematography: Conrad Hall
Art Direction: Herman A. Blumenthal, Jack Martin Smith
Music: Jerry Goldsmith
Film Editing: Joseph Silver
Cast: Marlon Brando (Robert Crain), Yul Brynner (Captain Mueller), Janet Margolin (Esther), Trevor Howard (Colonel Statter), Martin Benrath (Kruse), Hans Christian Blech (Donkeyman), Wally Cox (Dr. Ambach), Max Haufler (Branner), Rainer Penkert (Milkereit), William Redfield (Baldwin), Oscar Beregi (Admiral), Martin Brandt (Nissen), Charles De Vries (Kurz), Carl Esmond (Busch), Martin Kosleck (Wilke).
by Jeff Stafford
Brando: Songs My Mother Taught Me by Marlon Brando with Robert Lindsey (Random House)
Marlon: Portrait of the Rebel as an Artist by Bob Thomas (Random House)
Marlon Brando: A Portrait by Paul Ryan (Carroll & Graf Publishers)
Brando: The Unauthorized Biography by Charles Higham (Nal Books)
Trevor Howard: A Gentleman and a Player by Vivienne Knight (Beaufort Books)
Trevor Howard: The Man and His Films by Michael Munn (Scarborough House)
Yul Brynner: A Biography by Michelangelo Capua (McFarland)
Released in United States August 4, 1965
Released in United States on Video March 1988
Released in United States Summer July 14, 1965
Released in United States on Video March 1988
Released in United States Summer July 14, 1965
Released in United States August 4, 1965 (Santa Catalina, California)