FF124 - The Night of the Generals

Intro by Adam Pranica

One really interesting property of the war film genre is just how flexible it is as a place for storytelling. On Friendly Fire we have seen a large number of straight-ahead linear ”drive tank A to fort B” or ”shoot these guns from this trench at that trench over there” films, but some of our favorite films take ingredients from across genres and combine them into something really special. We have seen ”train escape” war film, we have seen ”break out of prison” war film, he have seen ”heist” war film and ”spy” war film and so many others, but Night of the Generals is a hell of a combination in this regard, a murder mystery in a war film.

It makes me wonder what other genre gems are waiting for us on our show. Romantic comedy war film? Horror war film? Summer camp coming of age film? The mind reels! And it isn't just a combination of genres that makes this film so astounding, it is the combination of actors involved. If you have only ever seen Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia, get ready to watch him order an entire Warsaw city block level by tanks and flamethrowers. And don’t get me started on Omar Sharif here, playing a totally understated investigator who spends decades chasing down the murderer of some prostitutes from a group of suspects, including O’Toole, Tom Courtenay and Donald Pleasence.

In addition to the film being a commingling of genres, it is also a weaving together of films about the same thing, as Night of the Generals joins Valkyrie in constructing the tapestry of Hitler's attempted assassination that elevates both stories. When a war film makes you focus on the characters instead of the sides of the conflict it is bound to force you to make some hard choices. For bennets! Why do I have to choose only one of these Nazis to root for? But that is the magic here: They are all bad guys and yet you want justice to be served. You want the worst Nazi to be punished by the good Nazi and then everyone to go to Nuremberg to stand trial and then be in prison there forever.

What does justice look like when it is dispensed by an imperfect adjudicator? What qualifies as murder during wartime? Who brings a gun to a dinner party? ”Patience is one of the few virtues I possess!”, as we answer all of these questions and more while discussing the 1967 Anatole Litvak murder mystery war film The Night of the Generals.

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