The Desert Fox

( 1 )

Overview

The Desert Fox is a superb filmed biography of German general Erwin Rommel, concentrating on the period between his retreat from North Africa and his government-decreed death. A brilliant tactician, Rommel earns the respect not only of his own men but of the enemy. Unfortunately, Adolph Hitler (Luther Adler), laboring under the delusion that he too is a military genius, demands more of Rommel than he's able to provide. Ordered to stand his ground in Africa to the last man, Rommel realizes that it's more ...
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Overview

The Desert Fox is a superb filmed biography of German general Erwin Rommel, concentrating on the period between his retreat from North Africa and his government-decreed death. A brilliant tactician, Rommel earns the respect not only of his own men but of the enemy. Unfortunately, Adolph Hitler (Luther Adler), laboring under the delusion that he too is a military genius, demands more of Rommel than he's able to provide. Ordered to stand his ground in Africa to the last man, Rommel realizes that it's more intelligent in the long run to retreat; this incurs Hitler's wrath, but Rommel is a war hero, and as such is virtually "untouchable." Increasingly disgusted by Hitler's behavior, Rommel joins in a plot to assassinate the Fuhrer. The attempt fails, and Rommel's complicity is discovered. He is given a choice: either face a horrible death by torture, or commit suicide, thereby saving his family and his reputation. Rommel opts for the latter; the official story given to the press is that Rommel died heroically of his war wounds. Also appearing in The Desert Fox are Jessica Tandy as Rommel's wife and Leo G. Carroll as an insufferably aristocratic Von Ruhnstedt. The film caused a critical stir in 1951 by providing a tense ten-minute dramatic sequence before the opening credits--a technique that is all but de rigueur today. The Desert Fox was based on the book by Brigadier Desmond Young, who narrates the film and appears as himself in the early scenes. Bonus Features on the DVD include the original and Spanish theatrical trailers, along with a section dedicated to Fox War Classics.
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Special Features

Closed Caption; [None specified]
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Mike Cummings
This 1951 production was among the first post-World War II motion pictures to portray a German officer sympathetically -- in this case, Erwin Rommel, dubbed "the Desert Fox" for his wily tactics as a tank commander in the sands of North Africa. To fashion its portrait of him, the film uses a variety of devices: narration that presents him, dialogue that praises him, archival battle scenes that attest to his military genius, and staged episodes that demonstrate his mystique as a seemingly invulnerable combatant both feared and revered by the enemy. The opening of the film establishes Rommel as an Ubermensch. British submarine commandos sneak ashore at night and attack Rommel's North African headquarters, stabbing and shooting their way through sentries. After the skirmish, a dying British soldier looks up at a German and says, "Did we get him?" The German replies, "Are you serious, Englishman?" In one of his most acclaimed roles, James Mason plays Rommel with conviction, demonstrating to English-speaking audiences that Germans could be heroes, too. However, the film downplays Rommel's gigantic ego and his penchant for posing for cameras. Otherwise, the film generally follows historical accounts, including the fuzzy details surrounding his tacit support of the plot to overthrow the Fuehrer. Luther Adler brilliantly portrays a demonstrative, raging Hitler who upbraids Rommel, and Everett Sloane and Leo G. Carroll ooze venom as Nazi officers. The final scene -- when Rommel must choose between a vial of instant death or a public trial jeopardizing the welfare of his wife and son -- is poignant and memorable.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 5/20/2003
  • UPC: 024543071990
  • Original Release: 1951
  • Rating:

  • Source: 20th Century Fox
  • Region Code: 1
  • Aspect Ratio: Pre-1954 Standard (1.33.1)
  • Presentation: Black & White
  • Sound: Dolby Digital Mono
  • Language: English, EspaƱol
  • Time: 1:28:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 9,432

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
James Mason Erwin Rommel
Cedric Hardwicke Dr. Karl Strolin
Jessica Tandy Frau Rommel
Luther Adler Adolf Hitler
Everett Sloane Gen. Wilhelm Burgdorf
Leo G. Carroll Field Marshal Von Rundstedt
George Macready Gen. Fritz Bayerlein
Richard Boone Capt. Hermann Aldinger
Eduard Franz Col. Klaus Von Stauffenberg
Desmond Young Himself
Charles Evans Gen. Schultz
Walter Kingsford Admiral Friedrich Ruge
John Hoyt Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel
Don de Leo Gen. Ernst Maisel
Richard Elmore Rommel's Driver in Africa
John Vosper Maj. Walker
Dan O'Herlihy Commando Captain
Scott Forbes Commando Colonel
Victor Wood British medic
Lester Matthews British officer
Mary Carroll Maid
Paul Cavanagh Col. Caesar von Hofacker
Jack Baston Gen. Alfred Jodl
Carleton Young German Major
Freeman Lusk German surgeon
Robert Coote British Medical Officer
John W. Goldsworthy Gen. Heinrich von Stulpnagel
Lumsden Hare Doctor
Sean McClory Jock
Michael Rennie Voice Only
William Reynolds Manfred Rommel
Ivan Triesault German Major
Peter Van Eyck German officer
Philip Van Zandt
Trevor Ward
Technical Credits
Henry Hathaway Director
Daniele Amfitheatrof Score Composer
Norbert F. Brodin Cinematographer
James B. Clark Editor
Eugene Grossman Sound/Sound Designer
Roger Heman Sound/Sound Designer
Nunnally Johnson Producer, Screenwriter
Ray Kellogg Special Effects
Thomas K. Little Set Decoration/Design
Ben Nye Sr. Makeup
Maurice Ransford Art Director
Stuart A. Reiss Set Decoration/Design
Fred Sersen Special Effects
Edward Stevenson Costumes/Costume Designer
Lyle Wheeler Art Director
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Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Credits/Night Raid
2. One Man's Quest
3. Tactical Genius
4. Victory or Death
5. Whispers of Discontent
6. Weakened Defense
7. The Conspiracy Grows
8. Tender Good-byes
9. D-Day
10. Too Old to Revolt
11. Reasoning With a Madman
12. Brush With Death
13. Two Choices
14. Final Farewell
15. A Soldier of Renown
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Menu

Side #1 --
   Play
   Language Selection
      Languages
         English Mono
         Spanish Mono
      Subtitles
         English
         Spanish
         None
   Scene Selection
   Special Features
      Theatrical Trailer
      Spanish Theatrical Trailer
      Fox War Classics
         13 Rue Madeleine
         The Blue Max
         The Enemy Below
         Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison
         Sink the Bismarck!
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 1, 2010

    A Proper Tribute To The Desert Fox

    Henry Hathaway's 1951 film on Erwin Rommel, NAZI Germany's most brilliant tactician whose indirect involvement in a failed plot to assassinate Hitler resulted in his untimely death. The film is a character study and focuses more on Rommel's relationship with Hitler and the German High Command as opposed to his achievements as a military tactician. Because the nature of his death wasn't very well known at that time, the film focuses on Rommel's deteriorating relationship with Hitler and his eventual participation in the assassination plot. This is normal since, with the film being made only 6 years after the end of WWII, audiences would have been quite unreceptive to a film glorifying a German general's military exploits against allied forces. All in all, James Mason delivers a brilliant performance as a man who is struggling with his conscience. Is his duty as a general to just obey Hitler or to protect Germany from destruction? What should he do when Hitler's megalomania is a greater threat to Germany than the Allies themselves? How can he be a good soldier and live with himself by committing treason: even if treason is the only logical alternative? Although the film isn't entirely accurate in its history, it succeeds in capturing all of the internal conflicts Rommel must have suffered in deciding what to do. The film is also accurate in portraying the impossible dilemma faced by Von Runstedt and others in the German High Command with Hitler's incessant meddling in military planning and execution. As the movie shows, by 1944 Hitler assumed direct control of virtually all military operations in the major theaters with disastrous results (i.e. insisting that most heavy guns and panzer divisions remain in Calais even when the D-Day invasion was well underway). This dilemma was dealt with humor in the movie when Von Runsted sarcastically tells Rommel about how corporals (i.e. Hitler) are such brilliant strategists and tacticians who clearly know far more about waging war than your run-of-the-mill Field Marshalls: 'You know how rigid those corporals can be.' Altogether a great film that sheds light on the character of one of the greatest military tacticians of the 20th Century. A film not to be missed.

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