Operation Crossbow [VHS]
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Product Description

Operation Crossbow was one among many '60s films aiming, in the wake of The Guns of Navarone, to cash in on nostalgia for "the Good War" of 20 years earlier, plus snag a share of the spy-movie market stoked by James Bond. A decent-enough stiff-upper-lip thriller in its day, it's yet more enjoyable now. The nostalgia has deepened to include affectionate enjoyment of a fine, big cast now mostly departed, dependably hitting their marks in a jolly good yarn.

The tale begins around the midpoint of the war, with Hitler aspiring to hurl a second Blitz against London using "flying bombs" and rockets. The British War Office starts recruiting officers fluent in the necessary technical fields, as well as German, Dutch, and/or French--the languages of the Nazi-occupied countries from which the Germans are recruiting technical personnel. The screenplay follows two tracks: the Germans' progress with their new aerial weaponry, and the progress of the Allied infiltrators--chiefly Yank George Peppard, chirpy Englishman Jeremy Kemp, and Dutchman Tom Courtenay--sent to penetrate the V2 project.

Despite the resemblance between the Navarone caves and the underground V2 launch center, Crossbow is something of an anti-Navarone. Its heroes are resolutely small-scale, and the mission is fraught with more opportunities for horrible miscues and moral-ethical murkiness than commando derring-do. The most memorable, indeed disturbing, part of the film involves Sophia Loren as the apolitical wife of a collaborator she doesn't know has been killed (and his identity assumed by Peppard). John Mills and Trevor Howard are deliciously deadpan trading war-council flapdoodle at the highest echelon, and Anthony Quayle (the spiritual leader of the Navarone mission) does yeoman service in a tricky role. Time--or rather, the transfer to video--has also been kind to the film's thin, overlit Metrocolor and last-reel special effects, which looked feebler on theater screens. The writers include Michael Powell's longtime partner Emeric Pressburger (under the pseudonym Richard Imrie). --Richard T. Jameson

Customer Reviews:

  • Some Gave All...
    1965's "Operation Crossbow" was one of a series of 1960's British films celebrating World War II, most of which seem to have shared the same casting call. "Operation Crossbow" is a better than average dramatization of the British effort to find and shut down Nazi Germany's production of the deadly V1 and V2 revenge weapons that devastated London in 1944 and 1945.

    The story begins in mid-war, as the British receive intelligence of a secret rocket production effort in the Third Reich, and proceeds on parallel tracks. In London, scientists, politicians, and military personnel breathlessly shift the meager intelligence and plot their countermoves; on a more compelling track, Allied agents are dispatched into Germany to infiltrate the German rocket program. Three agents, an American, a Brit, and a Dutchman, are hastily selected, trained, and infiltrated into Germany. Two of the agents will make it to Peenemunde, site of rocket research and development, to execute a desperate attempt to stop the project.

    "Operation Crossbow" did indifferent business in the theaters but its story of wartime sacrifice holds up well with time. The movie accurately portrays the debate in London over the meaning of the limited intelligence available on the rocket program. The extended screen time given to the infiltration of the agents captures the tense atmosphere of deceit, betrayal, and ruthless security inside Germany and occupied Europe. The special effects may show their age, but the images of Peenemunde's tight security and slave labor may be eye-opening for modern audiences. George Peppard, Jeremy Kemp, and Tom Courtenay are especially effective as the agents sent on an incredibly dangerous mission into Germany. Sophia Loren has a small but compelling role as the wife of a Dutch scientist.

    "Operation Crossbow" is highly recommended as a tough-minded portrayal of wartime choices and sacrifices that will be appreciated by fans of the World War II movie genre. ...more info
  • A particularly impressive epic WW2 spy thriller
    Boasting a fairly incredible all-star cast, Operation Crossbow is a particularly impressive WW2 epic that won't win too many awards for realism but is a highly effective combination of spy thriller and men on a mission movie. The mission is for undercover agents George Peppard, Jeremy Kemp and Tom Courtney to masquerade as skilled labor to infiltrate and help destroy the Nazi V-2 rocket factories, but the film is as much concerned with the development of Hitler's `wonder weapons' and the Allies' initial disagreements as to whether they could ever be practical as it is with their destruction. Indeed, it manages the rather neat trick of acknowledging the German test pilots' courage as it traces the development of the V-bombs without resorting to the `good German' clich¨¦s - they may be brave, but they're also Nazis committed to taking over the world - though that also means the film's heroes aren't introduced until half an hour into the film. Similarly, while there are some big bangs along the way, most of the action is relegated to the spectacular finale (which ended up as stock footage 12 years later in Peppard's dismal sci-fi road movie Damnation Alley!), yet the film is constantly engaging.

    Superbly directed by Michael Anderson (a sentence you don't see very often) with an excellent use of the scope frame incorporated into Elliott Scott's production design, there's a fair amount of dramatic license in the strong script co-written by Emeric Pressburger (under his pseudonym Richard Imrie), particularly in one development with a German spy (the Nazis never had an effective intelligence presence in Britain during the war), but its rather well-judged balance of heroism and cynicism (the Allies can be just as ruthless here as the Nazis) makes it hold up remarkably well. True, at times it feels like its trying perhaps a little too hard to shoehorn in another familiar face to up the marquee value - the narrative almost comes to a halt when Sophia Loren's character appears, though her subplot has a memorably shocking payoff - but the cast more than earn their keep here, with good turns from Anthony Quayle, Richard Johnson, Lilli Palmer and John Mills, solid ones from John Fraser, Sylvia Sims, Trevor Howard, Paul Henreid (Casablanca's Victor Lazlo on the Nazi side!) and Richard Todd as well as bit parts for familiar faces like Ferdy Mayne, Maurice Denham, Richard Wattis, John Alderton and Philip Madoc, starting his career as he went on as a menacing German policeman not a million miles away from his snide U-boat commander in Dad's Army.

    Warner Home Video's DVD is an improvement over MGM/UA's laser disc, offering a good 2.35:1 widescreen transfer with brief original making of featurette and trailer, though sadly the deleted scenes with Gordon Jackson, John Le Mesurier and Basil Dignam aren't included.
    ...more info
  • Just Off the Bullseye
    This is a guys-on-a-mission picture that curiously doesn't introduce the guys or the mission until half an hour into the movie. When things get going it's really good, in fact, the middle third is great and delivers some really shocking reversals. The climax is then diluted with more scenes of missiles over Britain that simply aren't as exciting.

    Everyone in the international cast is sensational. If there's a standout, it's Jeremy Kemp who perfectly pivots between British effeteness and German imperiousness. I wish his role had been larger.

    The DVD looks good, but hasn't been really restored.
    ...more info
  • Fascinating subject, but a flat film.
    I was disappointed by Operation Crossbow. It's not so much that it does not live up to its premise -- that of a big-budget WWII espionage thriller, but that the characters and performances are almost all uniformly flat and uninspiring.

    George Peppard is at the center of the film and there is one big problem. He is supposed to infiltrate the most top secret base in Germany, but he can hardly speak a word of German. It's embarrassing to watch this American actor who obviously was too lazy to study with a German coach and learn more vocabulary to make his performance believable. If he were in my base, I'd arrest him on the first day. This being the case, there is little gripping drama to be had with his story; see "Where Eagles Dare" for a film which pulls this off much better.

    Also, a near-pointless and lackluster performance by Sophia Loren adds nothing to the film.

    The special effects are relatively good, as is the basic narrative of the story. But it is dry, dry, dry and interesting characters from the beginning of the film (like the female German test pilot) remain caricatures or are killed off too easily. A subplot with Trevor Howard never really lives up to its promise either. Operation Crossbow is not a very good film, but is a decent addition to an WWII buff's collection....more info
  • Operation Crossbow
    Historically interesting movie for those interested in the German Rocket program during WW11 and the activities of the Royal Air Force and the use of slave labor by the German Reich during WW11.
    Interesting to all of us interested in flying things,airplanes and rockets...more info
  • Outstanding WWII Espionage Adventure Film
    OPERATION CROSBOW is an Outstanding WWII espionage adventure film. They don't make films like this any more. Made at the height of his career George Peppard stars as Lt. John Curtis a volunteer sent on a perilous mission to uncover the production site of Nazi Germany's V2 rocket site. This film is very suspenseful and cold blooded in its depiction of the Allies' resolve to eliminate Germany's weapon of terror. It truly is spectacular and is very interesting in its approach and vision of sacrifice willing or not. The cast is impressive and includes Sophia Loren, Richard Johnson, Jeremy Kemp, Tom Courtenay, Anthony Quayle, Richard Todd, Trevor Howard, John Mills and Lilli Palmer. Great score by Ron Goodwin.
    ...more info
  • Please release this entertaining WWII spy movie on DVD
    In the same vein as "The Guns of Navarone" and "Where Eagles Dare" comes the 1965 WWII espionage movie "Operation Crossbow," which ranks among my personal favorites and will hopefully arrive soon on my favorite format - DVD.
    With a stellar international cast this movie curiously gave Sophia Loren top-billing even though her role is little more than an extended cameo. It appears that the producer wanted to give the movie a greater appeal at the American box-office and so he asked his wife (Loren) to play the role of wife to the character which Peppard's character (an Allied agent) is impersonating. As such her appearance is unnecessary and feels tacked on (as it probably was).
    But never matter, this is a solid war movie and the cast all handle their roles well. As far as stars go it's a virtual embarrassment of riches with the likes of Sir John Mills, Trevor Howard and Anthony Quayle (this time as a German agent) all performing admirably.
    Taking as it's basis the development by Nazi Germany of the rocket technology that terrorized London in the closing days of the war this movie follows the initial British investigation into the possibility of a rocket threat (with Howard as the sceptic and Mills as the lead proponent), through the recruitment of German and Dutch speaking agents and on to the infiltration of the Germans underground bases.
    It's all handled very well and is in fact a very handsome production with some excellent sets and locations. The suspense is also ratcheted up nicely in the closing minutes as the bombers close in on the base, looking and looking for the agents on the ground to "light" the target.
    This movie comes recommended and here is hoping that Warner (who own the rights even though it was initially made by MGM) will finally release this movie on DVD.
    UPDATE - Yes! Finally this movie has made it onto my favorite home video format. Very glad to see it will be released in December. As soon as I saw this I immediately ordered a copy....more info
  • An epic War film!
    Measure by measure, from Guns of Navarone in 1961, the screen had not been ignited with such adrenaline and high caliber tension like in this movie, directed by Michael Anderson. The Nazis after unfruitful attempts, have developed a deadly rocket weapon, that being programmed miles away is able to destroy any special target.
    The Allies are informed about this new device and a command of brave men are sent to try to avoid a cataclysm on England, Europe and eventually the rest of the world in case this project would materialize. The script is simply brilliant and will generate a whole range of emotions, from the identification process made with real characters assumed dead. They will be exhaustively trained to surpass the inexpugnable circle of research and development around this death-dealing secret weapon and so to detain this dangerous objective.
    George Peppard is incandescent and credible in the film, Jeremy Kemp, Tom Couternay and Lili Palmer but to my mind Sophia Loren simply dazzled with her undeniable beauty but her high demanded role is far to be satisfied, possibly the only default in the film. She did not t get to assimilate the inner tension of this widow. And that aspect was a true mystery due she got with Two women only four years ago a superb acting with a much difficult character. It would seem she was extremely spoiled, pitifully. ...more info
  • Good for a while, but, geez, then George Peppard shows up!!
    The opening 30 minutes of this movie is pretty interesting. It reveals the Nazi struggle to launch the V-1 rocket and the British effort to figure out what the Germans are up to. The story of Hanna Reitsch, a top FEMALE Nazi test pilot is a movie in of itself. Her scenes are very good. Also Paul Henreid of 'Casablanca' fame (Victor Lazlo) plays a Nazi General. It is interesting to see him 23 years after Casablanca. But then, the great wooden actor George Peppard makes his appearance. You talk about a movie losing steam, it loses steam quicker than a tea kettle taken off a hot stove. The plot then becomes dreary and dreadful and predictable, and it becomes for me a '0' star film. The incredibly sexy Sophia Loren is in the movie, but they have her dressed in a dark blue TURTLENECK sweater!! You can't even see her beautiful body. What a waste. She was married to the Producer so I guess she worked cheap. At several points in this epic they use black & white WWII STOCK footage (its a color movie), its laughable, as is most of the acting. ...more info
  • An Excellent Unsung Movie about Unsung Heroes
    I've been a War movie fan for decades. One of the first I remember is seeing Hell is for Heroes when I was eight. Yet somehow, until recently, I was totally unaware of Operation Crossbow. I assumed it would be a low-budget affair of little consequence. To my delight, I was totally wrong and found it to be a rare gem of Mid-Sixties War Cinema.

    From what is said about the film, we learn it didn't do well at the box office. Some claim it was a lackluster script, some even blame the title (which I think is great). I won't talk about why I'm sure the movie didn't do well now, but I will save that for the last paragragh because if you haven't seen it, it will spoil the suspense. Rest assured it does not have a bad script! In fact, it is VERY well done in examining the un-uniformed secret men and women who fought with incredible distinction in WWII. I couldn't help but be reminded of the various escapades from the book, A Man Called Intrepid, and would recommend that for further reading for anyone who is interested in Operation Crossbow.

    Technically, OC is better than The Guns of Navarone. Yes, that's right and I stand by that statement! The program for Germany's V-1, V-2, and impending "New York Rocket" is convincingly portrayed. The sets are worthy of a top-notch 007 film and I have to admit, when the lady pilot rode the V-1 in a death-defying research flight, I was cheering her on until I came to my senses and thought, "Oh great, now they can kill thousands of innocent women and children!". George Peppard and cast are excellent, restraining melodramatic acting from penetrating their highly dramatic situation. Sophia Loren is an absolute knock-out, but is in a supporting role, which must have disappointed fans seeing her name on top in the cast list. Tom Courteney, Anthony Quayle, Lilli Palmer and Richard Johnson are marvelous in support. How can anyone claim this is a poor script when the entire cast, no matter how big their part, stands out and makes a memorable impression on the viewer? So why didn't the movie do better with the general public? I can tell you why, but watch the movie first before reading on.

    Where The Guns of Navarone succeeds is that it was made for entertainment. It is a high-adventure story made for the screen. There is war and death, but there is also survival. Imagine The Magnificent Seven where the villagers win, but ALL the Seven die. In Operation Crossbow, they all die. They succeed, but for the audience, the price seems too high to yield "entertainment". This kind of a bummer is not good for box office. Tom Courtney's death is tough to deal with. Even though Anthony Quayle is a Nazi, his pleading with Courtney to avoid execution is heart-breaking. Courtney dies heroically, yielding nothing to his captors, but in the end is he nothing more than another body in a ditch? This provokes uncomfortable thoughts in a moviegoer who might have come in looking for a good Alistair MacLean type plot. The real nail in the coffin at the box office is Sophia Loren's role. Her death is a slap in the face by the reality of war and leaves the audience with a very poignant, painful witnessing of seeing children orphaned from their mother who was only trying to bring them home. From that point, the viewer has passed what I call, the point of redemption. Nothing, no matter how good, just, or heroic will overcome the bad that has transpired. The villains, in this case just the conditions of war, have done something so barbaric, that the audience cannot get past that, no matter what the heroes accomplish. This by no means makes Operation Crossbow a bad movie, because it is just realistically portraying war. And as we all know, the truth sometimes hurts....more info
  • Not the "Guns of Navarone," But Still Pretty Good
    The eminently watchable "Operation Crossbow" will remind you of other World War II caper films-"The Guns of Navarone" being the most obvious (helped, in part, by the presence of Anthony Quayle, though a bad guy this time). And while that film does the trick better, "Operation Crossbow" is no slouch, featuring impressive production values and a solid cast of familiar faces that includes Jeremy Kemp, Richard Johnson, and Trevor Howard. George Peppard leads a spy team posing as engineers, whose job is to gather intelligence on the burgeoning Nazi rocket program. Along the way, they face several close calls, including running into the wife of one of the dead men that provides their cover (the luscious Sophia Loren in what amounts to barely more than a tragic cameo). Director Michael Anderson chooses a documentary approach to the first third of the film, showing both the Nazi scientists developing their rockets and the British Intelligence agents trying to uncover it. But once the team is dropped into enemy territory, the film shifts into a more traditional narrative mode, including Ron Goodwin's bombastic score and the inevitable countdown to avert disaster. What is most striking about "Operation Crossbow" is its lack of moral judgment-both the Allies and the Axis are shown to be capable of great compassion and great villainy, their methodology no different in their common goal of winning the war. And though we are expected to root for the Allies, the hard-edged manner in which the team executes its plan sometimes gives us pause, making "Operation Crossbow," perhaps, disconcerting for someone expecting a standard "good guys versus bad guys" film. Nonetheless, despite some slow moments-getting to the German lair seems to take a long time-its worth viewing, both as an action film and as a commentary on the nature of war....more info
  • Operation Crossbow
    This engrossing war drama places stars George Peppard and John Mills as trained sabatuers in an underground factory where V-1 and V-2 "Buzz-bomb" rockets were being manufactured in Germany during world war II. This gripping drama is as suspensefull as it is realistic. Their mission is to destroy Hitler's ability to manfacture those terrible incendiary rockets which were terrorizing London during the latter stages of the war. Sophia Loren, thinking her husband already dead, discovers George Peppard impersonating him, and the action accelerates from there. This movie has it all, romance, great suspense and special effects as well as a thrilling climax. Several scenes are in German with English subtitles, and as a high school German teacher, I found this a pleasant addition to the film. This movie has aged well since its release in 1965. Give it a try....more info
  • Best film about Nazi sabotage of its era I've ever seen
    I loved this film when it first came out in 1965 (keep in mind the war was over for fewer than 20 years at that point, so the public's collective memory of the V-1 and V-2 weapons was much crisper then). The movie is superbly cast, despite producer Carlo Ponti's insistence that wife Sophia Loren get top billing. Paul Henreid (Casablanca) has a minor, but important role as the general in charge of testing the flying bombs. Lili Palmer plays her usual anti-Nazi resistance role with great believability. George Peppard, young at this point, plays the role as the central allied saboteur -- ably assisted by Jeremy Kemp and Tom Courtenay. The Loren character (a mother of two looking for her Nazi-loving husband) is superimposed over the mission to penetrate the underground Nazi missile factory and destroy it. The photography is spectacular, with thoughtfully conceived dissolves and segues that look just as good today as they did in 1965. For anyone who remembers London during the blitz, this is a must-see. No doubt, it will produce chills. Buy this movie, before some dope in Hollywood decides to cut it out. They should only transfer it to DVD. It's a real treasure. Take the phone off the hook when you watch, so you're not distracted....more info