Tuesday, January 1, 2013
THE MAN WHO NEVER WAS (1956-U.K.)
D: Ronald Neame. A compelling thriller based on a bizarre true story about an elaborate WWII British military plan known as Operation Mincemeat that involved a cadaver with a fake I.D. deployed to divert the Nazis in Sicily. This is a fascinating step-by-step procedural about how the corpse was selected, preserved, dressed, planted with fake documents and transported to deceive the nazis and save thousands of lives. Clifton Webb (LAURA, TITANIC) plays Lt. Commander Montagu,( the real life participant and author of the book) aided by Robert Flemyn (THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR, KAFKA), playing the fellow officer who concocts the plot.
Gloria Graham (THE BIG HEAT, IN A LONELY PLACE) plays a lovesick girl who’s lover leaves for battle and doesn’t return. At first, her part seems inconsequential but she gets inadvertently involved in the plot through her officer roommate Pam (Josephine Griffin) and has a great nerve-wracking scene where her overly talkative character is drunk and precariously holds the fate of the covert operation in her hands. The film’s somewhat abrupt ending is fictionalized and reportedly displeased the real author.
Stephen Boyd (BEN HUR, HANNIE CAULDER) is excellent as the Nazi spy who arrives in London to investigate the dead man’s identity to ascertain whether the documents are legit.
The film also features a stellar supporting cast of great British character actors including Andre Morrell (HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, SHE), Geoffrey Keene (TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA, THE SPY WHO LOVED ME), Robert Brown (ONE MILLION YEARS B.C., THE SPY WHO LOVED ME), Cyril Cusack (THE ITALIAN CONNECTION, FAHRENHEIT 451) and Miles Malleson (THEIF OF BAGDAD, HORROR OF DRACULA). Prime Minister Churchill who gives final approval to the controversial plan is only heard off screen and was supposedly voiced by an uncredited Peter Sellers!
These types of true-life British counter intelligence plots involved such real life characters as Dennis Wheatley, Ian Fleming and even Aleister Crowley, according to recent unclassified evidence. From the veteran cinematographer turned director of THE HORSE’S MOUTH (1958) and THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (1972). Neame passed away in 2010. Slightly grainy color scope image with crisp mono and stereo audio on DVD from MGM/20th Century Fox.