The Night of the Generals

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The Night of the Generals
Night Generals.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Anatole Litvak
Produced by Sam Spiegel
Screenplay by Joseph Kessel
Paul Dehn
Based on

The Night of the Generals 
by Hans Hellmut Kirst

and an incident written 
by James Hadley Chase
Starring Peter O'Toole
Omar Sharif
Tom Courtenay
Donald Pleasence
Joanna Pettet
Philippe Noiret
Music by Maurice Jarre
Cinematography Henri Decaë
Edited by Alan Osbiston
Production
  company
Horizon Pictures
Filmsonor
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s)
  • 29 January 1967 (1967-01-29) (UK)
Running time 145 minutes
Country United Kingdom
France
Language English
Box office $2,400,000 (US/ Canada rentals)[1]

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 musical score was composed by Maurice Jarre. Much of the film was shot in Warsaw, which was exceptionally rare for a major Western film at the height of the Cold War.

Plot[edit]

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.

Cast[edit]

Cultural impact[edit]

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.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1967", Variety, 3 January 1968 p 25. Please note these figures refer to rentals accruing to the distributors.
  2. ^ (Portuguese) "Brasil 1968: "Mataram um estudante. Podia ser seu filho", Esquerda.Net, 12 May 2008 (originally published in O Globo on 2 March 2008).

External links[edit]