Germany, World War II. Nazi engineers develop a rocket that could change the outcome of the war. Now, with the lives of millions and the fate of the free world in the balance, one spy ventures deep into enemy territory to find and destroy the massive rocket factory in a one-way mission codenamed: Operation Crossbow.George Peppard stars as Lieutenant John Curtis, the Allied espionage agent who infiltrates the secret Nazi weapons facility, and Sophia Loren stars as the wife of the scientist whose identity Curtis has assumed ... the one person who could reveal his cover to the Nazis, thwart the mission and decide the outcome of the war in this riveting espionage thriller.]]>
The tale begins around the midpoint of the war, with Hitler aspiring to hurl a second Blitz against London using "flying bombs" and rockets. The British War Office starts recruiting officers fluent in the necessary technical fields, as well as German, Dutch, and/or French--the languages of the Nazi-occupied countries from which the Germans are recruiting technical personnel. The screenplay follows two tracks: the Germans' progress with their new aerial weaponry, and the progress of the Allied infiltrators--chiefly Yank George Peppard, chirpy Englishman Jeremy Kemp, and Dutchman Tom Courtenay--sent to penetrate the V2 project.
Despite the resemblance between the Navarone caves and the underground V2 launch center, Crossbow is something of an anti-Navarone. Its heroes are resolutely small-scale, and the mission is fraught with more opportunities for horrible miscues and moral-ethical murkiness than commando derring-do. The most memorable, indeed disturbing, part of the film involves Sophia Loren as the apolitical wife of a collaborator she doesn't know has been killed (and his identity assumed by Peppard). John Mills and Trevor Howard are deliciously deadpan trading war-council flapdoodle at the highest echelon, and Anthony Quayle (the spiritual leader of the Navarone mission) does yeoman service in a tricky role. Time--or rather, the transfer to video--has also been kind to the film's thin, overlit Metrocolor and last-reel special effects, which looked feebler on theater screens. The writers include Michael Powell's longtime partner Emeric Pressburger (under the pseudonym Richard Imrie). --Richard T. Jameson