Published on June 18th, 2007 | by Chris3
The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel (1951)
It’s not often that you see one of the highest ranking officers of a despicable and evil empire celebrated in such a overwhelmingly positive light. The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel does just that. It highlights the last days of German (but questionably Nazi) Field Marhsal Erwin Rommel, who is widely thought of as one of the more brilliant strategists and commanders of his era, and probably even today.
British actor James Mason stars as the troubled Rommel, and does an excellent job of it. However, his stellar performance is hampered somewhat by the rest of his players, and the overall tone of the picture.
The film starts with a British commando raid on a complex where Rommel is assumed to be staying, they fail miserably of course. From there we jump to North Africa, where Rommel is about to be defeated due to his lack of support from Berlin, and where he blatantly defies orders he believes to be incorrect. The tone of the picture starts to develop here, where he puts the lives of his men over the orders from der Fuerher.
Once back on the mainland, he battles a recurring illness, as he and a growing contingent of high-ranking German officers are becoming disillusioned with Hitler’s increasing megalomania, and they ultimately plot to overthrow him.
We get one of the few film glimpses of the assassination attempt by satchel charge on Hitler in his remote bunker, which only failed due to a bit of bad luck.
In the end he’s found out, and taken away to (we can only assume) commit suicide-by-black-capsule rather than risk Nazi retribution on his family.
I’m sorry but I guess I have a big problem with celebrating the life and career of such a man so positively. History proves his brilliance as a strategist and commander, no doubt. I don’t think anyone will dispute this. Whether or not he was such a noble character as he’s portrayed here is my main point of contention, and there are few who know, or ever knew for that matter, the full truth.
Was there this much dissention and rebellion within the ranks of the German military? Absolutely, history also proves this to be true, but again, the “nobility” and true intentions of it all seem overplayed. It’s no secret that *nobody* liked Hitler and his cronies, but really.
The British accents of the Germans were somewhat of a distraction throughout the picture as well. It was hard to take seriously high-ranking officers sporting Scottish and educated-English accents.
Apparently there are other historical inaccuracies throughout the picture, but I don’t think this detracts too much from the film. I’d give this one a watch just to get a little insight into one of the legends of World War II, but I wouldn’t put too much stock into the truth of it all.
The final blow to the picture comes at the end, with a direct snippet of audio from Churchill himself, praising the man in no uncertain terms. Western military honor at work? Quite possibly, but I have a hard time believing that this message would have gone over very well only a few short years after the war was over.
Summary: British actor James Mason stars as the troubled Rommel, and does an excellent job of it. However, his stellar performance is hampered somewhat by the rest of his players, and the overall tone of the picture.