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Fox Home Entertainment presents
"Certainly I have great appreciation for your noble effort and your interest to save thousands of lives, but excuse me if I seem to be concerned with my own life."
DVD ReviewMorituri originally went by a longer title The Saboteur, Code Name Morituri and that title made more sense to truncate as The Saboteur than simply Morituri. Even though the film begins in Asia and involves Germans, the title comes from the pledge that gladiators made to the emperor before fighting: We who are about to die, salute you. These confusions aside, Morituri is an off-beat little film that shows World War II from a German perspective, a viewpoint that was rare in that era, following, by a few years, The Young Lions, with its controversial and sympathetic portrayal of a German soldier by Brando. Here, even worse, the Americans soldiers who appear later in the film are portrayed very unsympathetically and participate in a brutal crime. It isn't surprising that Morituri failed to find a popular audience in an era in which American behavior in war was only always portrayed in a positive light.
The hero of this tale is Rovert Crain née Schroeder (Marlon Brando), a German demolition engineer who deserted and escaped to India at the call-up his military unit. Identified by British intelligence, Crain is blackmailed into performing a mission for the Allied cause, although he makes it clear that he cares only for his own life. He must impersonate an SS officer and go aboard a merchant ship bound for Europe from Japan, which contains a valuable shipment of rubber. His job is complicated by the fact that the British want him not to just destroy the vessel but prevent the scuttling of the ship so that its cargo can be captured. The captain of the S.S. Ingo is Rolf Mueller (Yul Brynner), who has his own troubles with the Nazis, and the ship itself is manned by a motley crew of career sailors and political prisoners pressed into duty by a lack of experienced seamen. Although the movie is long, often slow, and burdened by a little too much repetition and unmotivated behavior, there are moments of real interest in the interaction between the Brando and Brynner.
Brando made this film while in the midst of his legendary string of box office failures that spans the 1960s from Sayonara in 1957 to The Godfather in 1972. Reports differ on his level of cooperation on the film, his difficulties with the director, and so on. Ultimately, Brando's performance is satisfactory as he lends a depth to the reluctant agent desperate to respond to shifting situations and preserve his own life, and even battle against his own tendency toward heroism. Brynner is stolid and often very potent in his role as a man of integrity in an impossible situation and matches Brando's cynical agent scene for scene. Many other notable actors make up the international cast and add to the subtext of the film. Hans Christian Blech, who appeared as German soldiers in such classic war films as The Battle of the Bulge, The Bridge at Remagen and The Longest Day is one of the prisoners force to sail back to Germany. Trevor Howard makes a cameo appearance as a British intelligence officer early in the film for a long scene with Brando. Janet Margolin, who portrays a Holocaust survivor taken aboard the vessel, is very sympathetic in her difficult role. Longtime television star Eric Braeden, from The Rat Patrol of the '60s and daytime serial The Young and the Restless, makes one of his first film appearances in an uncredited role as a radio officer.
One interesting side note is the inclusion of Wally Cox in the cast as the ship's heroin-addicted doctor. A longtime friend of Brando from his New York stage days, Cox is most famous for his television series in the '50s, Mr. Peepers, countless television guest shots, and as the voice of the cartoon hero Underdog. In Morituri, Cox gives a good accounting of himself in a small part. Recently deceased Hollywood music legend Jerry Goldsmith contributes a very good dramatic score to the film.
Not a great film by any stretch, but certainly a good addition to a collection of off-beat war films. The Brando/Brynner face-off has interest and the plotline is reasonably complicated without being wholly unbelievable, although stretched a bit at points.
Rating for Style: C+
Rating for Substance: C
Image Transfer Review: Morituri appears in an extremely decent widescreen transfer that adds to the "documentary" style of director Wicki, who creates some interesting compositions in the cramped quarters of the merchant ship.
Image Transfer Grade: B
Audio Transfer Review: The music of Jerry Goldsmith is featured on the sound track, which suffers some from its age. the audio is average.
Audio Transfer Grade: C+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish
2 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Crash Dive, The Hunters, What Price Glory
Extras Review: Nice that Fox has included the original theatrical teaser and the theatrical trailer gives a vit of insight into how this film was marketed. "Morituri must mean something unusual..." No other extras are found and it would seem this would have been a good choice for some biographical material, but then again this is not that big a film. The trailer ends with the original title of the film, The Saboteur, which still would have been a better choice.
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsOff-beat war film from the mid-1960s, Morituri pits Marlon Brando against Yul Brynner in a somewhat claustrophobic ship drama. Not great, but not bad.
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