Customer Review

69 of 70 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine account of elaborate wartime hoax... Good DVD from Fox, July 19, 2005
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This review is from: The Man Who Never Was (DVD)
This is a fine movie of wartime espionage, disinformation and deception. Based on the book by Lt. Cmdr. Ewen Montagu, it tells of British Naval Intelligence's attempt to deceive the Germans about the planned 1943 invasion of Sicily. Trying to draw as many German troops away from Sicily as possible, they concocted a plan to have a dead body wash ashore in Spain, with papers purportedly from Allied High Command indicating that the invasion would go by way of Greece or Sardinia instead of Sicily. The subterfuge succeeded. The Germans embarked on a massive build up of defences around Sardinia and the Greek Peloponnesus, thinning out their defences on Sicily. The hoax affected not only the Sicilian offensive but had effects across the entire European theater. Hitler swallowed it whole. Field Marshall Erwin Rommel was sent to personally supervise the defence of Greece. The 1st Panzer Division was withdrawn from France. Two other Panzer divisions were withdrawn from the Russian front just when they were needed at the crucial Battle of Kursk. Operation Mincemeat, as it was called, was one of the most ingenious and successful hoaxes perpertrated by the Allies during the Second World War.

This is a war movie with little battlefront action. It concentrates on the quiet background work of the Intelligence Service. The first half of the movie deals with the hatching of the plan, the procurement of the dead body, the faking of the dead man's history and the drawing up of his elaborate cover story. The fictional officer is christened "Major William Martin" of The Royal Marines. The second half starts when the Germans fall for the ruse and send a spy over to England to check out its veracity. There follows a cat and mouse game as the British try to tie up loose ends and fill in the fake history they have put together for the dead man, including his purported girlfriend. The movie is always absorbing, often rivetingly so. It is one of the few WW2 espionage films that have stood the test of time. The fact that it was a true story makes it doubly interesting.

Fox have released a barebones edition of the film on DVD. It contains both the widescreen version in its original 2.55:1 Cinemascope (enhanced for widescreen TV) and a fullscreen pan-&-scan version. The widescreen version strangely is placed on the unmarked flipside of the double-sided DVD. Picture quality is fine, very good in fact if you consider this film dates from 1955. There is very little dirt, speckling or any print damage. Colors are strong and bright. Skintones look natural. Black levels are well rendered. The pan-&-scan version version looks terrible in comparison, with a claustrophobic, darker image, heavier grain and a softer picture overall. Sound is available in the original English 2.0 mono, a 4.0 Surround remix as well as alternate Spanish and French 2.0 mono tracks. A single theatrical trailer is all that's included. A fine memento of wartime subterfuge and deception with solid acting and direction from a time when there was still a viable British Film Industry.

Note: The grave at Huelva, on the southern coast of Spain still bears the name "Major William Martin". The real identity of the dead man was kept secret for over 50 years. It was only in 1996 that he was finally identified as a homeless alcoholic Welshman. Today, across the bottom of the white marble tombstone is an added epitaph, finally revealing his identity, "Glyndwr Michael served as Major William Martin".
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 17, 2007 4:24:47 PM PST
Old Buff Joe says:
Nice informative erudite review!

Posted on Feb 14, 2010 6:11:39 PM PST
It was the invasion os Sicily, NOT Normandy abd D-Day !

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 18, 2010 1:19:31 AM PDT
FWAJMB says:
Spell Check!

Posted on Sep 5, 2012 11:47:15 PM PDT
Blair says:
Excellent review with attention to detail. I have seen the film twice and read the book "Operation Mincemeat" by Ben MacIntyre which tells the story in great detail. Great movie and wonderful book!
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