Morituri (1965 film)

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Morituri (The Saboteur)
Original movie poster for the film Morituri.jpg
original movie poster
Directed by Bernhard Wicki
Produced by Aaron Rosenberg
Screenplay by Daniel Taradash
Based on Morituri
1958 novel
by Werner Jörg Lüddecke (in German)
Starring Marlon Brando
Yul Brynner
Janet Margolin
Trevor Howard
Wally Cox
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography Conrad L. Hall
Edited by Joseph Silver
Distributed by Twentieth Century-Fox
Release date
  • August 25, 1965 (1965-08-25)
Running time
123 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $6,290,000[1]
Box office $3,000,000[2]

Morituri (also known as The Saboteur: Code Name Morituri) is a 1965 film about the Allied sabotage during World War II of a German merchant ship carrying rubber, a critical product during the war. The film stars Marlon Brando, Yul Brynner, Trevor Howard, Janet Margolin, and Wally Cox. It was directed by Bernhard Wicki.


Robert Crain (Marlon Brando) is a German pacifist living in India during the Second World War. He is blackmailed by the Allies into using his engineering experience to disable the scuttling charges of a German merchant ship carrying rubber from Japan. The Allies hope to recover the ship before it is scuttled by the captain because rubber is in short supply and essential for various uses in the war effort.

On board the ship, Crain finds the captain (Yul Brynner) to be a patriotic German who despises the Nazis. His first officer, however, is a fanatical Party member. Several of the crew are political prisoners pressed into service because of labor shortages. Eventually Crain enlists them in a plan to give the ship to the Allies. Complications arise when several American prisoners and two suspicious Germany Naval officers are brought on board from a Japanese submarine. One prisoner, Esther (Janet Margolin), a young German Jewess, joins the plot.

About to be exposed, Crain organizes a mutiny which fails, after which he sets off demolition charges. The surviving crew abandons ship, leaving behind Crain and the captain. The lard being transported in the hold spills and acts as a temporary stopper, keeping them afloat. Crain convinces the captain to radio the Allies for rescue.



The film did not do well on its original release and was a financial disaster. In an attempt to increase its commercial appeal, the film was reissued in 1965 under a new title as Saboteur: Code Name Morituri. Critic Bosley Crowther of the New York Times criticized it for being "turgid." He praised Brando's performance, however, saying:

The title "Morituri", the plural of a Latin word meaning "about to die," is a reference to a phrase used by Suetonius, Ave Imperator, morituri te salutant. (Hail Emperor, they who are about to die salute you.)

Critic reviews of the time have not been collated on Rotten Tomatoes, but the film has a 71% approval rating by audience viewers.[4]


The film was nominated for two Oscars in the 39th Academy Awards (1966), for best black-and-white cinematography (Conrad L. Hall) and best black-and-white costume design (Moss Mabry).

Meet Marlon Brando[edit]

After having appeared in a series of box office disappointments, Brando agreed to promote Morituri for the studio by participating in a day-long press junket at the Hampshire Hotel in New York City.[5] This event was the subject of Meet Marlon Brando (1966), a 29-minute black-and-white documentary film directed by Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin.[6] Brando was praised by critic Howard Thompson for his performance in the documentary, who wrote, "The actor was never more appealing than in this candid-camera cameo, his best performance."[5]

The documentary premiered at the New York Film Festival in 1966. Since then, it has aired on French television but was not shown in its entirety in the United States until Fandor made it available on November 15, 2013.[7]


  1. ^ Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p254
  2. ^ Anticipated rentals accruing distributors in North America. See "Top Grossers of 1965", Variety, 5 January 1966 p 36
  3. ^ BOSLEY CROWTHER, "Seaborne Melodrama at Midtown Theaters", New York Times, 26 August 1965, accessed 17 April 2016
  4. ^ Morituri at Rotten Tomatoes
  5. ^ a b Meet Marlon Brando (1965) – Fandor.
  6. ^ Meet Marlon Brando – Maysles Films, Inc.
  7. ^ Bernstein, Paula. "Exclusive Clip from 'Meet Marlon Brando,' Maysles Brothers Doc, Available for the First Time", Indiewire, 14 November 2013

External links[edit]