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Bitter Victory
     

Bitter Victory

Director: Nicholas Ray

Cast: Richard Burton, Curd Jurgens, Ruth Roman

 
In Nicholas Ray's WWII drama, two British officers, Captain Leith (Richard Burton) and Major Brand (German character actor Curd Jürgens, who would later play Bond foe Karl Stromberg in The Spy Who Loved Me), a South African, are being considered to lead a daring raid to steal crucial documents from a Nazi stronghold in Libya. The two don't seem particularly

Overview

In Nicholas Ray's WWII drama, two British officers, Captain Leith (Richard Burton) and Major Brand (German character actor Curd Jürgens, who would later play Bond foe Karl Stromberg in The Spy Who Loved Me), a South African, are being considered to lead a daring raid to steal crucial documents from a Nazi stronghold in Libya. The two don't seem particularly fond of each other. Brand's wife, Jane (Ruth Roman of Strangers on a Train), arrives on the base. There's an odd awkwardness when Brand introduces her to Leith at the officers' club. It turns out the two already know each other, intimately. They were romantically involved long ago, until Leith broke it off without warning. Jane later met Brand. Leith and Jane keep their relationship a secret from Brand, but he realizes something's up when he goes out for a bit and comes back to find them dancing together. He later gets angry when his wife slips up and refers to Leith as "Jimmy." Brand and Leith are chosen to lead the mission together. Jane says goodbye to Leith, and Wilkins (Nigel Green of The Ipcress File) and some other soldiers see them together. The raid goes fairly smoothly, until Brand can't bring himself to kill a German sentry, and Leith feels compelled to step in and do it for him. Brand's resentment of Leith grows. The team steals the documents and heads out across the desert to make their escape. They're attacked by a German patrol, and after the melee, Brand arouses suspicious when he orders Leith to stay with three badly wounded soldiers while the rest of the group leaves for the rendezvous point. Bitter Victory is based on the novel by René Hardy. Jean-Luc Godard famously said of the film in his review, "Nicholas Ray is cinema."

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Josh Ralske
"I kill the living, and I save the dead," says Captain Leith (Richard Burton), with a sardonic laugh. This line of dialogue, in which a seemingly heroic character laments the impossibility of true heroism, is a signature moment in Nicholas Ray's powerfully ambiguous take on the war drama, Bitter Victory. In the hands of countless other filmmakers, Leith would have become an unassailably noble figure, with Major Brand (Curd Jürgens), his craven counterpart, as a hateful villain. But Ray and his actors manage to bring out the humanity -- for better or worse -- in each of these characters. Ray's career-long interest in the torments of strong men divided against themselves can't help but transcend Hollywood clichés of honor and cowardice on the field of battle. The dispute between Leith and Jürgens is preordained. It's a part of who they are as individuals to such an extent that the love triangle with Jane (Ruth Roman) that makes their conflict explicitly inevitable seems extraneous. Cinematographer Michel Kelber (who also shot Jean Renoir's French Cancan) provides gorgeous black-and-white Cinemascope images of the harsh desert. But the real power and grace of Bitter Victory is that through Ray's vision -- vigorous in its moral and emotional honesty -- and Jürgens' surprisingly layered performance, Brand becomes recognizably human in his anguish, and sympathetic despite the destructive outcome of his actions. This aspect is what raises Bitter Victory to the level of the director's most memorable films.

Product Details

Release Date:
02/22/2005
UPC:
0043396106703
Original Release:
1957
Rating:
NR
Source:
Sony Pictures
Region Code:
1
Time:
1:42:00

Special Features

Closed Caption; [None specified]

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Richard Burton Capt. Leith
Curd Jurgens Maj. Brand
Ruth Roman Jane Brand
Raymond Pellegrin Mekrane
Anthony Bushell Gen. Paterson
Sean Kelly Lieutenant Barton
Christopher Lee Sgt. Barney
Alfred Burke Lt. Col. Callander
Ramon de Larrocha Lt. Sanders
Andrew Crawford Roberts
Nigel Green Private Wilkins
Sumner Williams Pvt. Anderson
Raoul Delfosse Lt Kassel
Harry Landis Pvt. Berowining
Ronan O'Casey Sgt. Dunnigan

Technical Credits
Nicholas Ray Director,Screenwriter
Leonide Azar Editor
Jean D'Eaubonne Production Designer
René Daudin Makeup
Joseph DeBretagne Sound/Sound Designer
Christian Ferry Asst. Director
Paul Graetz Producer
rene Hardy Screenwriter
Vladimir Ivanov Camera Operator
Paul Joly Production Manager
Michel Kelber Cinematographer
Robert Laffont Producer
Gavin Lambert Screenwriter
Maurice LeRoux Score Composer
Vladimir Pozner Screenwriter
Jean Zay Costumes/Costume Designer

Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Start [:12]
2. Jane Brand [7:02]
3. Mission Commander [11:12]
4. Libyan Strike [7:37]
5. Splitting Up [10:46]
6. The Wounded [8:54]
7. Walk to the Camels [8:47]
8. The Water Problem [7:19]
9. Professional Coward [8:29]
10. The Courage to Kill [9:25]
11. Sandstorm [8:10]
12. Return to Cairo [4:30]

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