MORITURI – (Twilight Time Blu Ray) 3,000 Limited print run. Original Release 20th Century Fox ,1965 B&W 123 Minutes $29.95 Region Free (A/B/C) https://www.twilighttimemovies.com/morituri-blu-ray/
I am surprised that I never saw MORITURI before this Twilight Time Blu Ray release. While watching it, it made me think of an earlier Fox release, LIFEBOAT (1944). Both films isolate their characters at sea, and in a focused setting we engage the mindsets of the characters, both those who are fanatical Nazis, and those who oppose the ideals.
Japan -1942.Captain Mueller (Yul Brynner, MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, U.A.,1960) is the ship Captain of the Ingo who was disgraced when his last ship was torpedoed. The Nazi Command instruct him that he must take several political prisoners as crew out on his next voyage and return them to Germany , along with the cargo When he protests, they tell him that he must accept the consequences or his son serving in the North Sea will be the one to suffer the consequences .
Meanwhile, in India, Robert Crain (Marlon Brando, THE GODFATHER, Paramount,1972) is coerced by the British to go along on the Ingo, as it contains a valuable commodity, 7000 tons of raw rubber. During the war, the scarcity of the product as well as it’s invaluable use in the war effort ensured that the Allies had to ensure that the item not reach Germany. Crain has fled Germany when he received orders to report and use his skills as a Demolitions Expert. Instead, for the last three years, he has lived in the open on a forged passport in British territory. They do not wish for Crain though, to scuttle the ship but rather keep it from being scuttled, so that the British can get the rubber for their use. He is given a false identity as a Stand Leader SS Officer so he can board the vessel.
Making things more difficult is that the first Officer is a fanatical Nazi.
Along the way, a Japanese submarine brings several more prisoners to the Ingo, including Ester (Janet Margolin, DAVID & LISA, Continental ,1962) a German Jew, as well as two more German officers.
The suspense builds ,as to whether Crain will be able to carry out his mission ,and ,though a pacifist, Crain seems to relish playing the Nazis for fools .The German Officers suspect that he is not whom he claims to be but Captain Mueller at times steps in to “verify” that Crain is whom he claims to be ,but they do not take him at his word either.
The film was not a success when it first came out, which is a shame. Brando does not succumb to his lazy disinterested mannerisms of the 1960s that appear in his performances like MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY (MGM,1962) ,instead seeming to enjoy playing this clever character, using the soft German accent that had served him well in THE YOUNG LIONS (Fox,1958) . Brynner gives a strong performance as a German forced to go along with things that he finds abhorrent .Margolin does well ,though her speech about how she will be treated by the Nazis as a sexual object is allowed to go a bit over the top .
Great supporting performances are giving by Trevor Howard (later a superb Captain Bligh in the MGM remake of MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY ,opposite Brando) ,Martin Benrath ( later so marvelous again as a German Officer, this time a general, in the superlative German WWII film ,STALINGRAD, Senator Films/Strand,1993) ,Wally Cox (best known to American TV viewers as MR PEEPERS,NBC,1952-1955), Martin Kosleck (a German actor who had fled Nazi Germany and ironically made a career portraying them including Goebbels five times) and especially Hungarian born actor Oscar Beregi (JUDGEMENT AT NUREMBERG,U.A.,1961)as the German Admiral.
German born Director Bernhard Wicki had himself spent several months in a concentration camp, before moving to Vienna. After the war, he was a photographer and then performed in films, before switching to directing. He won an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film in 1959 for his Anti-War film DIE BRUKE. For Fox he directed the 1964 Ingrid Bergman- Anthony Quinn starrer THE VISIT, before taking on MORITURI.
The sharp black and white cinematography is by the great Conrad Hall (IN COLD BLOOD, Columbia,1967)
Composer Jerry Goldsmith had a very WWII themed year in 1965, composing for IN HARMS WAY (Paramount) and VON RYAN’S EXPRESS (Fox), as well as for MORITURI.
One of the extras on this disc is Goldsmith’s isolated music track, always a treat.
The only other extra is an original theatrical trailer.
This region free b&w print has been given a 1080p Hi Def clean up in screen ratio 1.85:1.
The audio is available in English 2.0 DTS-HD MA and English 1.0 DTS-HD MA. There are no noticeable pops or hisses, though at one time the music seemed to get a bit louder than the rest of the track. The dialogue is clear, though optional SDH subtitles (English only) are available.
By the way, for those questioning,” Morituri” is the plurality of the Latin word for “About to Die”. I am sure it confused many, thinking perhaps it would be the name of the vessel, only to discover it was Ingo. This could be why the film was later reissued under the title The Saboteur: Code Name Morituri.
Recommended for fans of WWII thrillers, Marlon Brando, Yul Brynner.
–Kevin G Shinnick