The Heroes of Telemark

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The Heroes of Telemark
Directed by Anthony Mann
Produced by Benjamin Fisz
Written by Ben Barzman
Ivan Moffat
Based on Skis Against the Atom
1954 novel 
by Knut Haukelid
But for These Men
1962 novel by John Drummond
Starring Kirk Douglas
Richard Harris
Ulla Jacobsson
Michael Redgrave
Music by Malcolm Arnold
Cinematography Robert Krasker
Edited by Bert Bates
Distributed by Rank
Columbia Pictures
Release dates
Running time
131 minutes
Country UK
Language English, German, Norwegian
Box office $1,650,000 (est. US/ Canada rentals)[1]

The Heroes of Telemark is a British 1965 Eastman Color war film directed by Anthony Mann based on the true story of the Norwegian heavy water sabotage during World War II. It was filmed on location in Norway.


The Norwegian resistance sabotage the Vemork Norsk Hydro plant in the town of Rjukan in the county of Telemark, Norway, which the Nazis are using to produce heavy water, which could be used in the manufacture of an Atomic bomb.

Kirk Douglas plays Rolf Pedersen, a Norwegian physics professor, who, though originally content to wait out the war, is soon pulled into the struggle by local resistance leader Knut Straud (based on Knut Haukelid, portrayed by Richard Harris).

They are both smuggled to England to have microfilmed plans of the hydroelectric plant examined, and then return to Norway to plan a commando raid. When a force of Royal Engineers, who were to carry it out, are all killed, Pedersen and Straud lead a small force of saboteurs into the plant. The raid is successful, but the Germans quickly repair the equipment.

The Germans then plan to ship steel drums of heavy water to Germany. Pedersen and Straud sabotage a ferry carrying the drums, and it sinks in the deepest part of a fjord.

Besides this sequence, the raids (Operations Grouse, Freshman and Gunnerside) and the final attack are depicted in location filming, in which snowy Norwegian locations serve as a backdrop for the plot.



The film was amongst the 15 most popular movies at the British box office in 1966.[2]

Other versions[edit]

Ray Mears made a documentary called The Real Heroes of Telemark. Despite mainly sticking to the factual evidence, some scenes in the documentary, like the film, were partly dramatised, focusing more on the survival skills involved in the operation.

The same story was also covered in the 1948 Franco-Norwegian film Kampen om tungtvannet (La bataille de l'eau lourde — "The battle for heavy water"). Quite faithful to the real events, it even had many of the original Norwegian commandos starring as themselves.

In 2015 the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation showed a TV series called Kampen om tungtvannet based on the events.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Big Rental Pictures of 1966", Variety, 4 January 1967 p 8
  2. ^ "Most popular star for third time." Times [London, England] 31 Dec. 1966: 5. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 11 July 2012.

External links[edit]