The Night of the Generals
|The Night of the Generals|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Anatole Litvak|
|Produced by||Sam Spiegel|
|Screenplay by||Joseph Kessel
by James Hadley Chase
|Music by||Maurice Jarre|
|Editing by||Alan Osbiston|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Running time||145 minutes|
|Box office||$2,400,000 (US/ Canada rentals)|
The Night of the Generals is a 1967 Franco-British World War II crime mystery film directed by Anatole Litvak and produced by Sam Spiegel. It stars Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, Tom Courtenay, Donald Pleasence, Joanna Pettet and Philippe Noiret. The screenplay by Joseph Kessel and Paul Dehn was loosely based on the beginning of the novel of the same name by German author Hans Hellmut Kirst. The writing credits also include the line "based on an incident written by James Hadley Chase". Gore Vidal is said to have contributed to the screenplay, but wasn't credited.
The murder of a prostitute in German-occupied Warsaw in 1942 causes Abwehr Major Grau (Omar Sharif) to start an investigation, as she was also a German agent. His evidence soon points to the killer being one of three German general officers: General von Seydlitz-Gabler (Charles Gray), General Kahlenberg (Donald Pleasence), his chief of staff, and General Tanz (Peter O'Toole), but Grau's investigation is cut short by his summary transfer to Paris at the instigation of these officers.
Many years after the war, the murder of a prostitute in Hamburg in 1965 draws the attention of Interpol Inspector Morand (Philippe Noiret), who owes a debt of gratitude to Grau for not revealing his connection to the French Resistance during the war. Almost certain there is a connection to Grau's case, Morand reopens the cold case and the movie begins to shift between the Europe of the 1960s and the Europe of the 1940s.
The case in Warsaw remains closed until all three officers meet in Paris in July 1944. Paris is then a hotbed of intrigue, with senior Wehrmacht officers plotting to assassinate Adolf Hitler. Kahlenberg is deeply involved in the plot, while von Seydlitz-Gabler is aware of its existence but is sitting on the fence, awaiting the outcome. Tanz is unaware of the plot and remains totally loyal to the Führer.
On the night of 19 July 1944, Tanz orders his driver, Kurt Hartmann (Tom Courtenay), to procure a prostitute; Tanz butchers her so as to implicate Hartmann, but offers Hartmann the chance to desert, which he accepts. When Grau, who is now a Lieutenant Colonel, learns of the murder, committed in the same manner as the first, he resumes his investigation and concludes that Tanz is the killer. However, his timing is unfortunate, because the very next day, the assassination attempt against Hitler takes place. So when Grau accuses Tanz face to face, the general kills Grau and labels him as one of the plot conspirators to cover his tracks.
Years later, Morand begins to tie up the loose ends: he finds no criminal activity from Kahlenberg or Seydlitz-Gabler, but learns of one man who knew which man is the real killer. Morand confronts Tanz at a reunion dinner for Tanz's former panzer division. When Morand produces Hartmann as his witness, Tanz goes into a vacant room and shoots himself.
- Peter O'Toole as General Tanz
- Omar Sharif as Major Grau
- Tom Courtenay as Private Kurt Hartmann
- Donald Pleasence as General Kahlenberg
- Joanna Pettet as Ulrike von Seydlitz-Gabler
- Philippe Noiret as Inspector Morand
- Charles Gray as General von Seydlitz-Gabler
- Coral Browne as Eleonore von Seydlitz-Gabler
- John Gregson as Colonel Sandauer
- Nigel Stock as Sergeant Otto Köpke
- Christopher Plummer as Field Marshal Erwin Rommel
- Juliette Gréco as Juliette
- Yves Brainville as Liesowski
- Sacha Pitoëff as Doctor
- Charles Millot as Wionczek
- Raymond Gerome as Colonel in War Room
- Véronique Vendell as Monique
- Pierre Mondy as Kopatski
- Eléonore Hirt as Melanie
- Nicole Courcel as Raymonde
- Jenny Orleans as Otto's wife
- Gérard Buhr as Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg
- Michael Goodliffe as Hauser
- Gordon Jackson as Captain Engel
- Patrick Allen as Colonel Mannheim
- Harry Andrews as General Karl-Heinrich von Stülpnagel
On 29 March 1968, The Night of the Generals, John Boorman's Point Blank, and the local box office hit Coração de Luto ("Grieving Heart") with singer-songwriter Teixeirinha, were being shown by cinemas in "Cinelândia square" in Rio de Janeiro when a protest march against the murder of 18-year-old student Edson Luís de Lima Souto by the Military Police passed by, and slogans such as "Do bullets kill hunger?", "Old people in power, young people in coffin", and "They killed a student... what if it was your son?" were written by protesters on the cinema posters. This was one of the first major protests against the Brazilian military dictatorship.
The film was acclaimed for its cautionary view of Nazi Germany and accurate elements, but one aspect was partially fictitious: in the film's second half, Tanz is allowed to turn his division into an SS division. He, in turn, becomes an SS General. In reality, although German Army personnel might transfer to the SS, no division-sized units were ever transferred from the Army to the Waffen-SS. Also, in the movie Rommel's death was caused from aircraft fire hitting his car as he returned to Berlin. In reality, most sources claim he committed suicide (coerced by Hitler) by cyanide.
The film also differs from the novel. After approx. 10-15 minutes the film leaves the novel's storyline.
- "Big Rental Films of 1967", Variety, 3 January 1968 p 25. Please note these figures refer to rentals accruing to the distributors.
- (Portuguese) "Brasil 1968: "Mataram um estudante. Podia ser seu filho", Esquerda.Net, 12 May 2008 (originally published in O Globo on 2 March 2008).
- The Night of the Generals in the British Film Institute's "Explore film..." database
- The Night of the Generals at the British Board of Film Classification
- The Night of the Generals at the Internet Movie Database
- The Night of the Generals at the TCM Movie Database
- The Night of the Generals at allmovie