on January 9, 2013
Anyone interested in an absorbing wartime spy story, particularly devotees of 1950s British cinema, should not miss the digitally remastered version of "The Man Who Never Was" on blu-ray. The excellent restoration, in original 2.35.1 aspect ratio and with decent LPCM audio, constitutes the best presentation of this minor classic for home entertainment.
Based on a real military operation, the plot concerns the ingenious use of a dead man, given the identity of a Royal Marines officer, to deceive the Germans about allied intentions before the invasion of Sicily in 1943. So is created Major William Martin and his story goes on from there. The actual operation, codenamed "Mincemeat," was conceived from an idea suggested by a young naval intelligence lieutenant named Ian Fleming, who went on later to write the James Bond novels.
Clifton Webb, as Lt. Commander Montagu, leads a strong cast of British character actors along with a coldly smooth Stephen Boyd as an Irish enemy agent and Gloria Graeme, the love interest. A taut, suspenseful screenplay by Nigel Balchin is expertly directed by Ronald Neame. Watch for some great views of post-war London.
on December 29, 2001
My son asked me to purchase some WWII DVD's for him this past Christmas. Sadly, I wasn't able to include the best NAVAL WWII movies which were made by the British. Two of the best of them were The Man Who Never Was and Sink The Bismark. Sadly neither of these titles are available on DVD. Both are better than just about any of the American WWII movies (yes, I'm an American). Both of these movies are based on TRUE stories (Unlike Disney's latest Pearl Harbor movie!!), only the minor characters are fictional. If you ever see the Man who Never Was you will never forget it. The story is about a true scheme which the Brits used to make the Germans believe the southern European landings were going to be in a different location than the real one. They discuss how to do this and come up with the idea of obtaining a body of a young man, which they are going to dress up as an officer with invasion plans for another location than the one intended. The movie spends a lot of time explaining how they got the body, what they had to do to fake all this, including figuring out on which European beach they should have the body wash ashore. Unlike most American movies, you really get an excellent view of what it's really like to plan CIA type operations. Wonderful movie. You will love all the characters, even the villains!! Lots of naval action from the highest to the lowest commands. Buy it.
---UNFORTUNATELY IT IS NOT AVAILABLE ON DVD YET!!!----
Neither is "Sink the Bismark", which I remember seeing in college back in the early '60's. I remember it vividly because the auditorium in which it was shown allowed the audience to "attack and sink" the Bismark using paper airplanes!! This movie is also terrific. It too is VERY British. It too explains why the British Navy was so awesome in WWII. It also has great actors in great roles. Super movie. Both of these movies are the best in WWII movies. Now if I could just remember the name of the British naval movie which tells the story of the naval war off the coast of South America!! Yet another wonderful British Naval movie!!
The Man Who Never Was has scenes which should bring tears to your eyes, if you are the least bit sensitive!! Good movie to get your gal into crying on your shoulder!! (And that actually happened as well ;-)
on December 27, 2002
Although the film was a ostensibly a 20th Century Fox production, THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS was filmed in England using primarily English crew and cast (though American leads). It belongs to a tradition of English war films in which aspects of the war are treated slowly, deliberately, and with great precision. While in the US war films tended to feature John Wayne leading Marines into combat, the British tended to focus much more on the preparation and plans of operations. For instance, the very fine film THE DAM BUSTERS features very little in the way of actual combat. And THE MAN WHO NEVER WAY has no combat whatsoever.
The movie is based on a book by the same name about Operation Mincemeat, in which the British attempted to mislead the Germans about the intended invasion spot for D-Day by planting a corpse with fake papers on a beach in Spain, knowing that the Spanish would pass the papers onto the Germans. The entire movie is involved with the formation of the plan, and then creating the man who never was, creating his papers and personal effects. On one level, not much happens in the film, but on another it is one of the most fascinating films ever made about the war, because of the practical problems they deal with in the executing of the operation. Knowing that it was all based upon real events greatly adds to the appeal of the film.
Clifton Webb, who was in fact far too old for the part, turns in a convincing performance as Lieutenant Commander Montagu. In most of his films he comes across as arrogant, but in this one he instead communicates competence and intelligence. Gloria Grahame is excellent as the primary female presence in the film. If you look carefully, you can spot Stephen Boyd in a small role, a few years before he would portray Messala in BEH-HUR.
on July 1, 2001
This is the story of a British plot to trick the Germans during WWII into believing that, despite all appearances and obvious logic, they were going to invade Greece rather than Sicily. Clifton Webb stars as the officer that cooks up the plan, which essentially involves having a body wash up on shore in Spain with planted information that will do the misleading. A shiny Gloria Grahame co-stars as the woman who seems to be engaged to the man who never was, since they must create an identity for him. Sound confusing? It's not really as it unfolds in the film. The plot is quite interesting, especially given the fact that we know it's mostly true, although things happen quite quickly and it seems that this operation was much easier than I suspect it was. It's certainly not the greatest war/spy film ever made, but it is fun to watch the plot unfold and come together. It was definitely a brilliant, risky plan.
on July 4, 2005
As the North African campaign of WWII drew to a close it became obvious that the Allies next move would be to invade Sicily. A deception was therefore needed to try to lure away some of the German defences. Inter-services "XX Committee" (XX for double-cross) members Lieutenant Commander Ewen Montagu, and Squadron Leader Sir Archibald Cholmondley hatched the then unheard of plan of planting a body in the sea off Spain where prevailing currents would surely carry it inshore to the Huelva region, known to be the territory of one of the Nazis' best Spanish agents. The body, dressed as a major in the Royal Marines and apparently killed in a plane crash at sea, would be carrying supposedly top secret documents aimed at convincing any reader that the invasion target was not Sicily at all, but Greece. Montagu himself plays a cameo role in the film as an Air Marshall.
The film takes us through the planning and execution of what its creators hoped would become one of the most successful and unusual deceptions in the history of warfare. The leading role of Montagu is played by Clifton Webb, utterly credible as a British naval officer, while Robert Flemyng, who had himself served conspicuously in WWII and was awarded the Military Cross and Order of The British Empire, takes on the role of Montagu's junior assistant, a composite role based partly on Cholmondley's real-life character. Together they must procure a body that will pass a medical examination to determine the cause of death and they must also create a personality and a past life and history for this man.
This is a true-story that avoids battle scenes and big bangs. There are no special effects. It describes a war of stealth and cunning and the cat and mouse game of espionage. It is an atmospheric suspense thriller with Stephen Boyd effective as the determined Axis agent, Patrick O'Reilly, sent in from Ireland to verify the existence and past life of this man who never was. While the soundtrack works well and is one of Alan Rawsthorne's (The Cruel Sea) better scores, it is nevertheless immediately recognizable as being in his highly distinctive style, unfortunately sounding so very much like all his others. It is ably directed by the great and sometimes under-rated Ronald Neame and is beautifully filmed, as are all of former-cameraman Neame's pictures. The voice of Churchill is provided by the young Peter Sellers who, at that time in 1956, was establishing his versatility and making a name for himself in the BBC radio comedy, "The Goon Show".
20th Century Fox's DVD video and sound transfer quality are excellent, as would be expected in the studio release of one of their own productions, although taken from an unrestored print that shows just a little of its 50 years. A few slightly shaky moments in the original print do not detract from the overall enjoyment of the DVD. The two sided disc offers the double helping of seeing the movie in both a full screen 4:3 version on one side and the original Cinemascope presentation on the other. The widescreen, which I usually prefer, is extremely wide in this case and makes for somewhat difficult viewing on a standard TV. The full screen option is therefore a very welcome addition. The Canadian release also offers French sub-titles and a bilingual English-French case insert. The cover is illustrated with a rather strange composite picture that appears nowhere in the film ... a shot of Clifton Webb, in civvies, gazing longingly at the sky above the English countryside while a flight of American Thunderbolt fighters flies overhead. I wonder if the artist ever actually saw this movie?
Nevertheless, this is a worthy and entertaining addition to any WWII film collection and if it gives you an appetite for a more in-depth version of the true story, Ewen Montagu's 1953 book is still available in both the hardback and paperback editions.
The highlights of the book are here. However different people are get credit the different actions and thoughts than in the book.
The first half of the movie is about solving a problem of how to make the Germans in 1943 think that the invasion will take place in Portugal instead of in Sicily. If they can move just one gun or a troop they can save lives. The solution is described as barbaric and unique.
The second half of the movie is to keep the Germans from finding out the deception. They have gone trough elaborate efforts to manufacture a false identity for a currier. The Germans are interested if him and send in a spy (Steven Boyd) to find out his past.
One of the most telling scenes is while there are preparing the deception and are in a bunker you hear the bombs and screams that remind you of the urgency and purpose of the movie.
Clifton Webb is Lieutenant Commander Ewen Montagu, the person that the movie evolves around. Gloria Grahame plays Lucy Sherwood, an alleged girlfriend. The reason she shines is that they put a lot of grease on her face and it shines in the dark.
If you saw Ben-Hur then you may recognize Messala (Steven Boyd) as the spy sent to be sure that Martin is genuine.
And if you are an Agatha Christie Miss Marple fan you will see that Joan Hickson is the apartment owner.
It is a great story and well told. It makes you want to find shirts with separate collars.
Spy Who Came in from the Cold - Criterion Collection
on March 30, 2002
I rate "The Man Who Never Was" as an excellent and exciting World War II movie. Why can't movies be made like this anymore? Recent World War II movies are not accurate and place too much emphasis on effects. In my opinion, the more "special effects" a movie has, the more fake it is. Anyhow, "The Man Who Never Was" describes the true events of the British trying to confuse the Germans as to where the Allies will invade - Sicily or Greece. By arranging to have a dead body wash ashore in Spain with top-secret documents, the British cause the Germans to alter their defenses, thus saving the Allies from suffering even more casualties. How the British found a body, the details that they had to come up with to make the Germans believe the body was for real, and the subsequent German effort to determine whether or not the information found on the body was accurate, all make for an exciting story which moves at a swift pace. This is really a great World War II movie.
on September 24, 1999
Clifton Webb is perfectly cast as the British Naval Officer who devises the plan to decieve German Intelligence, as to the whereabouts of the Allied landings in Sicily during World War 2. As with most British films of its kind, "The Man Who Never Was" relies upon the facts to maintain interest throughout,tampering with history just enough to provide tension and drama where it is needed. Webb's performance is both intelligent and touching, while Stephen Boyd as the German agent sent to investigate the situation,exudes just the right amount of charm and malevolence. Gloria Graham is probably the only downside to this highly effective film,but the others well and truly make up for her somewhat overcooked effort. Made in 1956, in colour, "The Man Who Never Was" has not "dated" at all and stands as a fine example of the British cinema's ability to tell a good story well.
This is a British story about a deception pulled off during world war 2. It is supposed to be a true story. I read the book when I was a teenager, and I loved it. The book had pictures of maps and documents and all kinds of things of great interest to young boys. Sadly, the movie has none of this, not even a mention of how to make a phony document to fool Germans.
I found the movie lacking in detail, and it kind of plods along. Certainly not much in the way of action. But the story is entertaining, and if you can read the book first, you might enjoy it more!
The end is somewhat thrilling, in a very slow kind of way! I found it dragging on and on a bit too much. You might be on the edge of your seat for a bit, but you might also be a bit frustrated. They need to cut a half hour from the end, and put it into details at the beginning!
on October 6, 2015
The British were looking for a way to make the Germans believe that their eventual landing point in an attempt to fight back against the Axis Powers was to be in a particular place, in order to draw them away from where the allies actually had in mind to land. In order to do this, they had to find a plausible way to let their supposed plans fall into the hands of the Germans, by accident.
In addition, they had to find a way to provide evidence of the authenticity of the landing point, etc., to the German spies, they knew to exist in the UK, without making it obvious that they were spoon feeding them false information. To this end they set out to fool the German spies with a letter that effectively accompanied the plans.
This was a true story, and it's probably the best true movie of the second world war.