The film follows a group of Allied soldiers infilitrating Fascist-held Rhodes in 1941. Their mission is to simultaneously disable two Luftwaffe airbases on the island, to prevent the Nazi airmen coming to the aid of Rommel in the forthcoming conflict in North Africa. From the moment they are dropped off on the island under cover of darkness, they have four days to carry out their orders and return to the designated rendezvous point to get away on a submarine. To ensure they do not lose their way, they take along with them several Greeks who know the island’s geography well, companions who have the added bonus that, should they encounter any locals, will ensure they are welcomed and not handed over to the enemy.
Their leader in this risky venture is one Lt Graham, an uninspiring commander if ever there was one. From the moment he moves in and smugly steals a girl away from the more sympathetic Lt Poole, to the point near the end where he refuses to even try and warn fellow officers they are walking into a trap, he is a man who endears himself neither to his men nor the viewers. He’s also a bit of a rotten leader, seeming to spend most of his time throwing his hands up in the air and proclaiming things like “the whole thing’s a flop”, which is not the most encouraging thing to hear when you’re deep in enemy country. He seems to have no idea how to lead men, a trait most graphically illustrated in the scene where the two parties are about to split up, each heading for their own target and not knowing whether they’ll ever see the other group again. In situations like this you would expect a commanding officer to come out with something stirring and heart-warming, an inspirational speech designed to encourage you to do the best you can or, if he’s not the wordiest sort of guy, at least a “Good luck chaps, you can do it,” followed by a round of firm handshakes and stiff upper lips. Not Lt Graham though. His rallying cry, and this is it in its entirety, consists of: “What I want to say I don’t know how to say,” after which he tails off uncomfortably. Therein follows an embarrassed silence before rescue comes from a mad sergeant who starts singing about Confucius. I suppose you could forgive poor man management skills if he was an expert soldier in the field – sadly, once again he comes up short. How short I won’t say as the raid is, after all, what the film builds up to, but suffice to say that the viewer comes away with the feeling that frankly they would have been better off with one of the Greek’s mothers leading the assault.. The man is, as one of his subordinates might have put it, a bit of an ass, and frustratingly the movie seems quite happy to make this point without developing it or offering any kind of resolution. Near the end Sgt Corcoran lets Graham know exactly what he thinks of him, but there is no follow up to it, no progression to the character at all. —Thedigitalfix.com
Lewis Milestone (born Lewis Milstein in the Ukraine) came to the U.S. as a teenager, and while in the Army during World War I was an assistant director on training films. In Hollywood, he began working as an editor, and after writing and assistant directing in the early 1920s, he helmed his first feature for producer Howard Hughes, Seven Sinners (1925). Milestone’s comedy Two Arabian Knights (1927) was widely admired, but the director didn’t hit his stride until 1930 with All Quiet on the Western Front, his landmark adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s war novel. In the ‘30s Milestone scored major achievements in several genres, including comedy (The Front Page), musical (Hallelujah, I’m a Bum), and espionage (The General Died at Dawn); he capped the decade with his classic drama Of Mice And Men (1939), adaptated from John Steinbeck’s novella. Notable among his work of the 1940s and ‘50s are the war films Edge of Darkness (1943), The Purple Heart (1944), A Walk in the Sun (1946), and… read more