Please Note: Contains Plot Lines & Spoilers.
Stars Legendary Rock Hudson (Major Craig); with general cast including George Peppard (Captain Bergman), Nigel Green (Colonel Harker), Jack Watson (Major Tyne), Guy Stockwell (Lieutenant Mohnfeld), Percy Herbert (Dolan).
Released in 1967 by Universal and in Colour.
I really enjoy this movie each and every-time I see it; definitely one of my favourite post 1950’s war movies. Although Rock Hudson’s earlier well-known classics like Pillow Talk, Man’s Favourite Sport, Lover Come Back and Send Me No Flowers are under the romantic comedy genre; his appearance and performance in Tobruk is sure to be enjoyed by fans of those movies also.
Tobruk is about a group of elite British soldiers including the Special Identification Group – SIG (who are German speaking Jewish volunteers under British Command), who are sent to Tobruk to blow up and destroy Rommel’s fuel supplies. But before attacking Rommel’s fuel dumps, they must first destroy the huge beach cannons which will wipe out the allied ships due to deploy a beach landing planned in several days’ time. Once accomplished they make their way back home via ship; this must be accomplished all within 8 days!
Major Craig (played by Rock Hudson) had earlier submitted a plan to staff headquarters detailing a proposed raid on the fuel bunkers in Tobruk. With his knowledge of the Sahara desert and detailed plans for this mission, he is selected by Staff to be a part. But there is one problem; Major Craig has been recently captured and interned by the Vichy French.
Tobruk begins with the rescue of Major Craig by Captain Bergman (played by George Peppard) and some of his men. What Craig doesn’t realize in these tense few moments, is that Bergman is on his side. But for the raid to be done under secrecy, Craig and his captures are made to believe that they are German soldiers pulling off this rescue. This misunderstanding is soon cleared up once in the air and on the way to safety. Craig is taken to Kufra to meet Colonel Harker (played by Nigel Green). Major Craig and Colonel Harker are not real close for most of this movie and have different views on the war. Major Craig is in the war because he has to be, for no other reason. Colonel Harker is a professional ‘old school’ soldier.
George Peppard starred in the 1961 well known movie ‘A Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ with Audrey Hepburn. Although appearing in numerous movies from that point on; he is best known as Hannibal Smith from the hit 1980’s TV series ‘The A-Team’. To a lesser extent his pre-A-Team TV series was called ‘Banacek’. This series is not well known to George Peppard fans; and wasn’t nearly as popular as ‘The A-Team’ – nor unfortunately has been shown too often (or at all in some cases) on TV. It is now on DVD though! I have always enjoyed movies with George Peppard and believe he didn’t get the recognition as a Hollywood leading man as he deserved. In part I think this was due to his late entry at the early 1960’s movie making, when the ‘old Hollywood’ star days had passed. Never the less, a great actor in both movie and TV shows.
Major Craig and Colonel Harker are introduced. Harker explains to Craig the mission details and the strict time frame that must be adhered to for the mission to succeed. Due to the territory they need to cross (800 miles of the Sahara desert), which is also under German occupation; they need a plan that will allow them to cross unseen and not captured by either the Italian or German forces. So, just in case they do run into either, the plan is set for the British to be disguised as captured POWs. This is accomplished with the help of the SIG (under control of Captain Bergman) who all speak fluent German and will act as their German captures (dressed in Afrika Korps uniforms). Although the SIG are volunteers and proven Allies, they are not trusted by Colonel Harker or the other British members who believe otherwise. Along with the help of some props (German uniforms, and Afrika Corps vehicle’s etc.), they are now the perfect combination to get past any German road blocks and scrutiny along the way. Major Craig’s main role in this mission is to map out the safest and most reliable route to Tobruk based on his extensive knowledge. Once the desert is conquered and safe passage is made to the destination, the real mission begins.
Two familiar faces that appear Tobruk are Jack Watson (plays Sgt-Major Tyne) & Percy Herbert (plays Dolan). Jack Watson was a regular face in many war films. One well known movie was ‘The Hill’ with Sean Connery; where he was a fellow inmate at a military Prison. The other was ‘The Devils Brigade’ with William Holden.
Percy Herbert was another very familiar faced British War film actor. Some of his better known roles were ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ with William Holden, and ‘The Guns of Navarone’ with Gregory Peck.
We next meet Lieutenant Mohnfeld (played Guy Stockwell), a member of the SIG. Along with Bergman and the other SIG, he doubles as German Soldiers in control of their of the British POWs throughout their journey to Tobruk.
Guy Stockwell (his younger brother Dean Stockwell also an actor) later appeared in guest roles in many well-known TV shows like Magnum PI, Combat! & Bonanza.
Their journey begins and along the along we see the British have set up camp for the night when they see an Italian armoured patrol in the distance heading close to their position. With the size of the Sahara desert, any patrol passing so close to their position is very unlucky indeed. They have one advantage in that they have stopped and taken refuge in an incline in the desert (ditch). So they are below the eye level of the tanks/patrol above. Normally this would just be enough to stay unseen from any passing patrols at night; however their luck worsens and a German armoured patrol appears from the opposite direction and threatens their position.
With very quick thinking by Harker; mortars are set up and aimed at the Italian armoured convoy; which will make it appear as if the fire is coming from the Germans off in the distance. This must be done before both the German and Italians see each other. (Remember, the British are in an incline, so can’t be seen across the desert). So once this mortar fire commences, the Italians believe this artillery fire is from the enemy (the Germans are too far away to be identified). The Italians think the Germans are the enemy, and the Germans think the Italians are the enemy and this ‘created’’ battle continues while the British sneak away along the ditch in the desert.
Major Craig (who is heading the first part of this mission) decides to lead the convoy off the pre-planned route. He realizes once the Italians and Germans finish their fire fight and realize what has happened, they will begin sending out patrols to hunt them down. He explains to an unconvinced Colonel Harker that without this deviation is the pre-planned journey, it is very likely that they may wind up as POWs or dead; regardless of the SIG. The problem with using this new route to Tobruk, is that it is also full of minefields. Luckily Major Craig has an ingenious plan to detonate all the mines at once, leaving a clear path for the mission to continue.
The journey continues and their next obstacle comes in the form of a RAF spitfire who mistakes them for Germans (due to their vehicles etc.). After some major damage is done including several wounded and dead, the plane is shot down by the British. This was not something they wanted to do; he was on their side, but the pilot saw them as German soldiers and would continue to fire so they had no other option. During this fight they also lost their radio for communication. Although Bergman stresses the need to move on immediately (now they have several vehicles and a spitfire on fire billowing smoke for every enemy spotter to see for miles), Craig insists they stay and bury the dead. Its the right thing to do.
Further along the journey they are met with some desert tribesmen who have captured prisoners they want to swap for weapons. The deal is done, but the two prisoners are German Nazis. This makes it difficult.
They must now keep up the fake front at all times.
What makes matter worse in this instance; is one of the SIG isn’t who he seems. So which one is it? Unfortunately for the group, this isn’t known until more men die and the mission is at its peak. Like all movies when we the audience know the ‘killer’ but the movie cast do not, it does add to the suspense. To make matters worse you have to endure watching the wrong people being accused while the real traitor continues on! if only we could talk to the TV!
Finally the group reach their destination, and with more than one mission the group is split. In these final battle scenes you see SIG members and the British soldiers get closer, realizing they are all fighting for the same cause, maybe the SIG more so. All the earlier dis-trust between the men is now gone. During these final scenes of battle we see an incredible scene with a flame thrower. One of the most dreaded weapons of any war. Flame Throwers and their users were the first person the enemy would pick off. No-one wants to go that way.
We see Major Craig (Rock Hudson) in a captured tank destroying German fuel bunkers and a final showdown between Harker and the traitor?
Every time I watch a Rock Hudson movie, I enjoy it. It doesn’t get simpler than that. Of course there are more or less enjoyable movies from his career depending on your preference; but he was a great actor, who wasn’t/isn’t given full credit for his achievements.
Who Else Do I Think Could Have Played That Part?
I could see Australian Actor Rod Taylor in that part! But Rock was excellent!
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