I've always wanted to see this movie, but never could track it down. I mean Gregory Peck, David Niven, Roger Moore, Trevor Howard, Patrick Macnee in a WWII movie filmed on location in India and directed by Andrew V. McLaglen? I'm there! And it turns out it was an enjoyable movie, though really, how can you go wrong with that cast?
The film is based on a true story. A German U-Boat has been sinking Allied shipping with uncanny precision. Gregory Peck and Roger Moore, as two British Intelligence officers, are tasked with finding out how its being done and putting a stop to it. Turns out the Germans are transmitting the info from a freighter harbored in the neutral harbor of Goa. Nothing can be done officially to stop them because of Portugal's neutrality in the war. So, they bring in the veterans of the Calcutta Light Horse, all civilians now, and they stage a daring attack on the German freighter.
It's a nice combo of spy movie -- Gregory Peck and Roger Moore pose as tea merchants while they root out the spies in Goa -- and war movie -- the attack on the ship. Roger Moore's is very Bond-like, romancing the German spy, taking out bad guys, wearing a tuxedo. David Niven plays the retired colonel of the Calcutta Light Horse (who as a group last saw active service in the Boer War). Gregory Peck is solid as the leader.
Things I particularly liked:
1. The veterans of the Calcutta Light Horse are awesome. Nowadays, they play polo at their club. All of them tried to get into WWII, but were turned down because of their age, etc. So when asked to volunteer for a dangerous unofficial mission (no info given on what that mission is), where no credit, pay, awards, acknowledgement, or honor will ever be given to any of them, they volunteer immediately, to a man. And proceed to acquit themselves admirably. Kenneth Griffith is particularly amusing as Charlie Wilton, trying to keep the decrepit engine running on the boat they steal. His reaction to being ordered to stay with the ship's engine rather than boarding the freighter is priceless. But all the men are great, all have their moments. I love the sequence before they head out, where each is working on getting back in shape -- doing pushups, lifting weights, etc. -- while their wives and secretaries look at them like they're nuts.
2. The spy, Mrs. Cromwell, played by the lovely Barbara Kellerman, is not to be trifled with. She carries a folding knife in her purse and kills anyone who gets in her way! I love that the movie doesn't hide the identity of the German spies from the audience. This is a suspense film, not a mystery. And knowing she's a fink while Roger Moore falls in love with her provides a lot of tension. I like also that she likes him too and has to struggle a bit with her own feelings in order to get her job done. It rounds her out, gives her dimension.
3. The attack on the German ship seems very realistic and not very "Hollywood." Characters make mistakes, get wounded, etc. all in a very natural way. It made the ending both exciting, tense, and still enjoyable.
I really enjoyed this one.