Raid on Rommel


1h 39m 1971

Brief Synopsis

Captain Foster plans on raiding German-occupied Tobruk with hand- picked commandos, but a mixup leaves him with a medical unit led by a Quaker conscientious objector. Despite all odds they succeed with their mission. On the way they pick up and drug the mistress of an Italian general, blow up the entire fuel supply for the Afrika Korps, and swap philatelic gossip with Field Marshal Erwin Rommel.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
Feb 1971
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Universal Pictures, Ltd.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures
Country
United States
Location
San Felipe,Mexico

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 39m
Sound
Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Synopsis

In 1942 Libya, Capt. Alex Foster of British Eighth Army Intelligence assumes the identity of a corporal lorry driver transporting wounded soldiers so that he can make contact with a German convoy escorting British prisoners from a field hospital to Tobruk. Upon being intercepted by the convoy, led by Hauptman Heinz Schroeder, Foster learns from British medical officer Maj. Hugh Tarkington that the bulk of the prisoners were transferred to Tunisia, leaving behind the ailing Sgt. Alan MacKenzie, Pvt. Peter Brown, Sgt. Joe Reilly and Dan Garth. Dismayed, Foster reveals that the transferred group of prisoners was the crack Fifth Army commando unit, with whom he was to liaison for a secret mission. That evening, after Schroeder questions Foster, the men hear American radio journalist Edward R. Murrow describe the recent fall of British-held Tobruk to German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel. MacKenzie tells Foster and Tarkington that the commando leader confided the unit's mission in which the men were to feign illness, then take over the convoy and continue to Tobruk where they were to destroy the harbor guns in coordination with an assault by the Royal Navy. When Foster suggests that he and the four remaining commandos, along with the British medical aides might still accomplish the mission, Tarkington is incredulous and refuses to allow his men to participate. The next morning as the convoy resumes its journey, Foster tells Tarkington that a fighter aircraft will strafe the group in order to cause a diversion to assist in the takeover. Promising the doctor that once the Germans are taken prisoner he will contact the intelligence base to call the mission off, Foster stealthily prepares the others for the distraction. The takeover is successful, although the Germans shoot down the fighter plane and destroy the radio. Because the destruction of the radio has rendered them incapable of contacting intelligence to cancel the mission, Foster insists that they must proceed so that they can back up the other troops involved in the mission and Tarkington reluctantly agrees to allow his men to help. After Foster takes Schroeder's written orders allowing the convoy to proceed into Tobruk, he, MacKenzie and Garth don the Germans' uniforms, but Tarkington demands that Schroeder and his men be spared. Foster agrees and the convoy resumes, leaving the Germans behind. As the trucks proceed through the desert, Foster and Reilly instruct the medical soldiers in loading and firing the mortar, operating the flame thrower and the use of repelling techniques. Late that afternoon, the group is stunned to come upon two panzer divisions and Foster and MacKenzie conclude that there is a secret fuel supply nearby. Foster enthusiastically advocates destroying the fuel dump and asks Tarkington if he can provide medicine that would imitate the symptoms of typhus in order to gain access to Rommel's camp, which they know to be nearby. Although Tarkington remains dubious, the ploy convinces the panzer guards that some of Foster's men are gravely ill and they receive radio approval to go to the field hospital in Rommel's camp. Once there, Tarkington pretends to tend the men feigning illness, which impresses Rommel, who is visiting wounded German troops. Tarkington surprises Foster by chatting to Rommel about stamp collecting, a favorite hobby of both men. When the field marshal invites Tarkington to his tent to continue the discussion, Foster protests, but the doctor privately encourages him to use this diversion to discover the location of the fuel supply. In the communications tent Foster, who speaks fluent German, overhears the location of the fuel dump and after Tarkington rejoins them, the convoy departs. Some miles from the panzer groups, Foster and the men find and capture a solitary scout tank. The commandos take the tank and head towards the fuel depot, unaware that Schroeder and his men have been picked up and are reporting Foster's undercover activities to Rommel. Arriving at the depot, the tank surprises the German guard and easily blows up the entire dump. Foster and the men escape their burning tank and return to the convoy, which departs hurriedly to cover the last few miles to Tobruk. The following day when the convoy is passed by a German military police column, Foster orders his drivers to follow them closely to give the appearance that they are an official escort. The procedure hastens the convoy through the security check-point at the edge of Tobruk. Upon receiving a report that the medical convoy has arrived in the city, Rommel orders Schroeder after them. Foster and the men arrive at the harbor without interference and Foster and MacKenzie cut all of the communication wires. MacKenzie and the other three commandos hurry away to place charges at the gun base while the medical aids under Foster provide them cover. Meanwhile, as dusk approaches, the Royal Navy, confident that the guns will be destroyed, closes in on the Libyan coast. Spotting the distant vessels, the harbor guns begin firing, but the British ships remain out of range. Foster leads several of the medical personnel on a defensive attack to draw German fire from MacKenzie's group. As the naval ships come within range they begin firing on the harbor and launch several landing craft. Foster is wounded in the leg but crawls to safety. Schroeder and a tank arrive at the height of the battle and, finding the remnants of the convoy, seek out Foster. British medical aide Merrihew, a conscientious objector, tends to Foster until he is killed by Schroeder, who is then shot down by Foster. At sea, when a cruiser is sunk by one of the harbor guns, the fleet's admiral calls for a course reversal. MacKenzie's men break into the gun pill box and kill the gunners, then set off the explosives which destroy the guns in a blaze of fire. As the Royal Navy resumes its course toward Tobruk, German forces close in on Foster and Tarkington while the survivors are rescued by the landing craft at the harbor's edge.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
Feb 1971
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Universal Pictures, Ltd.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures
Country
United States
Location
San Felipe,Mexico

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 39m
Sound
Mono (Westrex Recording System)
Color
Color (Technicolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
2.35 : 1

Quotes

Trivia

Nearly all the action scenes was footage taken from Tobruk (1967).

Notes

The following written prologue appears in the onscreen credits: "After almost three years of bitter desert warfare, Rommel's brilliant use of his Panzer divisions has driven the British into a position of desperation. The fate of the Mediterranean hangs in the balance." Raid on Rommel features portions of two actual radio broadcasts made by American radio journalist Edward R. Murrow (1908-1965), whose ground-breaking World War II program CBS World News Roundup was broadcast every night from England with the trademark opening phrase "This is London." The small role of "Cpl. Bill Wembley" was played by Michael Sevareid, the son of Murrow's fellow CBS radio journalist, Eric Sevareid. Raid on Rommel was the younger Sevareid's only feature film appearance. The CBCS lists Jim Poe as screenwriter. The Filmfacts review states that prior Richard Bluel's screenplay, scripts for Raid on Rommel was also written by James Poe and Philip Dunne.
       According to several reviews of Raid on Rommel, much of the battle footage in the film was taken from the 1967 Universal production Tobruk (see below), which was also about the North Africa campaign, and received an Academy Award for special effects. Most of the reviews stated that these sequences were the only noteworthy portions of Raid on Rommel. A June 24, 1970 Hollywood Reporter news item indicated that the film was shot on location in San Felipe, Mexico. Modern sources add Ron Berkeley and Mike Kulscar to the cast and Bob Herron as stuntman.
       As indicated in the film, the Libyan port city of Tobruk was the center of major conflict between the Allied and Axis powers during the North African Campaign in the first half of World War II. At the beginning of the war, Libya was an Italian colony, but was captured by British and Australian forces in January 1941. In April 1941, upon advancing through Northern Africa in several stunning battles that overturned British gains to that point, Field Marshall Erwin Rommel (1891-1944) and the German Afrikakorp panzer divisions attacked Tobruk, which resulted in a siege that continued through November 1941 and led to Rommel's first major loss. Rommel launched an offensive on Tobruk in early 1942 and succeeded in forcing a surrender of the city in June 1942. By November 1942, British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery's victory at El Alamein, Egypt forced an Italian and German withdrawal from Libya to Tunisia, which fell to the Allies in May 1943.
       For more information on the life of Rommel, see the entry for Twentieth Century-Fox's 1951 production The Desert Fox, which starred James Mason as Rommel, directed by Raid on Rommel director Henry Hathaway. In addition to The Desert Fox, Rommel was portrayed in the 1953 film The Desert Rats, starring Richard Burton as a Scottish officer with Mason repeating his role as Rommel, directed by Robert Wise (see below).

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States March 1971

Released in United States on Video May 5, 1988

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1971

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1971

Released in United States March 1971

Released in United States on Video May 5, 1988