The Man Who Never Was DVD
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Directed by Ronald Neame
Produced in 1956
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - British Film
World War II: British officers Clifton Webb and Robert Flemyng hatch a plan to weaken the Germans’ North African campaign by having a dead Englishman wash up on the shores of southern Spain, armed with ‘top secret’ papers detailing bogus Allied activities. The ruse meets some internal resistance but eventually gets the green light from Winston Churchill himself (voiced, reverently, by an unseen Peter Sellers).
The first challenge for Webb is procuring a suitable dead body, harder than you might think at the height of wartime London. Second is equipping it not just with said secret papers but an entire back story, right down to a receipt for a poplin shirt from Gieves of Piccadilly and a tear-stained love letter, so heart-wrenching as to set even Nazi lower lips trembling, from a conveniently bereft Gloria Grahame.
The heroic corpse, renamed Major Willie Martin, is then packed in dry ice and dispatched to the Spanish coast. The plan goes swimmingly - pun intended - until the suspicious Germans send an Irish spy to London to find out if the late Major Martin is really who his papers say he is.
This is a superior ripping yarn, all the more remarkable for being true. But director Ronald Neame keeps a tight and assured hold on the proceedings and ensures they are never less than deferential. Ensemble playing, a taut script and elegant CinemaScoped visuals are all at the dutiful service of the narrative. Webb is particularly effective as a no-nonsense but nobly sensitive naval officer; Grahame — nicely recovered from her encounter with Lee Marvin and a pot of boiling coffee in The Big Heat — injects some necessary femininity and emotion. But, as the IRA spy, Stephen Boyd almost steals the movie; he’s so relentless in pursuit of his ‘bounty’ he’d give No Country for Old Men’s Anton Chigurh a run for his money.
The Man Who Never Was is a great example of the Boy’s Own-type British war film, and it deserves to be celebrated as a minor classic of the genre.
Julian Upton on 20th August 2012
Author of 150 reviews
Clifton Webb, Robert Flemying and Oscar-winner Gloria Grahame star in this highly acclaimed 1956 British war film, based on an incredible true story.
In 1943, two intelligence officers from the Royal Navy (Clifton Webb and Robert Flemying) attempt to pull off the most daring espionage mission of the Second World War. The Allies are about to invade Sicily – but the Germans must be convinced that their real target is Greece.
A briefcase containing plans for the fake invasion is attached to a body dressed as a British major and given an elaborate false identity. The 'man who never was' is then left at sea for the Germans to find. However, Nazi intelligence believes that the find may be just too good to be true - and a desperate cat-and-mouse game begins in the heart of war-torn London.
Directed by Ronald Neame, based on the best-selling book by Ewen Montagu and featuring a superb supporting cast that includes Stephen Boyd, Michael Hordern, Andre Morrell and Cyril Cusack, The Man Who Never Was won the 1957 BAFTA for Best Screenplay and was nominated for Best Picture.
Publisher: Odeon Entertainment
Length: 99 mins
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1 widescreen
Cat No: ODNF396
Format: DVD Colour
- Digitally restored and remastered
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