Conduct Unbecoming: “The Night of the Generals” (1967)


WHO LET THE BRITS OUT?: Despite his witty, energetic performance, the casting of Omar Sharif as a prominent German officer has often been criticized for a lack of authenticity, yet the predominance of British gentlemen and ladies filling the ranks of the Reich is accepted as casually as when they are just as frequently cast as equally despotic figures of a comparable period of civilized barbarism: the Roman Empire. Is there something in British classical theatrical training which suggests their artists are ideally suited to represent ignoble patrician authority regardless of national origin? Certainly the unmistakable Irish lilt of a Peter O’Toole is a greater burden to Aryan credibility than Sharif’s exotic ethnicity?

       “The Night of the Generals”   (1967)

    The makers of any film based on Hans Hellmut Kirst’s 1962 novel The Night of the Generals face a formidable task in that the author indulges in an sizeable amount of strategically inserted future declarations of inculpatorynightofthegeneralsOS evidence; time jumps which needlessly strain a concision of exposition already burdened with a fractured tandem narrative. Confounding a linear  recounting of events, these interruptions, not only impart information which proves irrelevant to the resolution of the film’s central mystery but also induce the grinding fatigue of redundancy in that these expositional asides merely redress what has been or will be doggedly dramatized at an already excessive length.

    Unwisely, while not profoundly tinkering with the novel’s initially awkward modus operendi, the filmmakers have injudiciously abbreviated the narrative threads bearing the weight of the historical event which which provides both versions of the material their title. Additionally, while preserving the most trivial of evidentiary insertions, the absence of the most important of the novelistic devices-  a thematically encapsulating epilogue encompassing a philosophical polemic  -extinguishes the very point of the film’s fidelity to Kirst’s dual narrative, rendering the entire story meaningless.

    In his kaleidoscopic storyline, Kirst introduces an almost Tolstoyan density of characters assembled over two decades in several major locales, with the primary focus split between the June 20, 1944 plot to kill Adolf Hitler and the investigation of a series brutal wartime sex crimes in which prostitutes are savagely stabbed with particular attention given by the killer in mutilating the victim’s genitalia. Given the lurid nature of the crimes and the inherent decadent nature of one particular character, the novel never submits to easy prurience, and the film, to its credit, happily honors this reticence toward the gratuitous.

To read the complete review, click the following link to:

About chandlerswainreviews

I've been a puppet, a pirate, a pauper, a poet, a pawn and a king, not necessarily in that order. My first major movie memory was being at the drive-in at about 1 1/2 yrs. old seeing "Sayonara" so I suppose an interest in film was inevitable. (For those scoring at home- good for you- I wasn't driving that evening, so no need to alert authorities.)Writer, critic and confessed spoiler of women, as I have a tendency to forget to put them back in the refrigerator. My apologies.
This entry was posted in books, crime, History, movie reviews, Movies, Mystery, Peter O'Toole, World War II, writing and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Conduct Unbecoming: “The Night of the Generals” (1967)

  1. beetleypete says:

    I have a lot of time for this film, primarily because of the distinguished cast. I wasn’t bothered by the casting when I saw it at the cinema, but like you, I was bothered by the pointless and boring relationship between Tom Courtenay and his love interest. It seemed to me to just slow down the pace of the story, and add nothing to it.
    But in the context of the time, I don’t think it was a bad film as such. I actually watched it again on TV, earlier this year.
    Best wishes, Pete.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.