01 December 2010

A Man's Movie: The McKenzie Break

It's not Hogan's Heroes

Cpt Jack Connor - Fun loving - sex loving piranha

Major Perry- A steady Eddie


Cpt Willi Schlueter- Hitler Youth honor grad


Good with a Sten gun


"Willi, looks like we're both in the shithouse."


William Norton wrote the screenplay for The McKenzie Break and said about his movies, "I don't think your I.Q. is low enough." Mine is. Released in 1970, I caught this on TV in 1973 and loved it. 37 years later it holds up well and is screaming to be remade. Based on an actual German POW break, the film is about three very different men.

Brian Keith does a passable Irish accent and a deadly accurate flask tilt as Cpt Jack Connor. A born risk taker, a reporter before the war and no time to play by the rules during the war. He rolls the dice on allowing a POW break with the hope of nabbing the big fish.

This doesn't sit well with camp commander, Major Perry. In over his head, cowardly and perfectly suited to a long career in government, Perry is replaced by Connor and can only bitch and snitch. It's a lousy part nailed by Ian Hendry who also nailed the bad guy in Michael Caine's, Get Carter, a beautiful film from 1971 where Caine compares Hendry's eyes to, "piss holes in the snow."

Cpt Willie Schlueter comes off with a natural charm but you soon realize he'd kill his own mother to move up a rank. Helmut Griem (Max in Cabaret) reminds me of Nazis in Hans Fallada's, "Every Man Dies Alone." Charming and erudite but nothing more than a thug, but in evening clothes.

Griem, Hendry and Keith are all dead and Mr Norton just passed away. But I see these three men every day. In others and in myself. Actually, I see all three in me. I'm a risk taker but I'm also a coward and can be a thug. When I saw this film for the first time I was 15 and all I saw were the turtleneck sweaters.

21 comments:

Giuseppe said...

Channel 56 on Sunday afternoons. We'd come home from church, have a big dinner, then head to the "t.v. room" in my grandmother's apartment. After a few hours of pro wrestling, something like this always came on at 4:00. I've seen 'em all.

My I.Q. must also be well below the legal limit.

Flo said...

"screaming to be remade"

w/ 80,000 uniques per mo, someone up there's bound to hear what you just said. My head aches at the thought of who'd get cast in a remake of this gem. Maybe you could specify who you'd accept...

Gregorius Mercator said...

Looks like the flip side of the Great Escape, one of my favorite movies of all time. I'll definitely have to watch this (though I'm not expecting another Great Escape).

I loved the original Get Carter - Michael Caine was amazing in that one. I started to watch the original Alfie, but he's downright brutal in that one versus the more light-hearted-but-misguided Jude Law in the 2004 version. I can't remember if I ever finished the '66 version.

LPC said...

Completely love this post. Growing up to be a man is a complex task. Turtlenecks and all.

Alice Olive said...

I love that all you saw were the turtleneck sweaters.

In the same vein, I didn't realise Holly Golightly was a prostitute, either. All I saw was a fabulous LBD.

Patsy said...

When I look at Brian Keith, all I see is Uncle Bill.

tintin said...

Giu- Great image. I can see your grandfather screaming at the TV, "What? It wouldn't kill you to wear a suit!"

When we lived near Charlotte, NC my Sundays were spent watching movies in the public domain.

Usually the low budget African safari films from the '30s where the smarmy bad guy with the English accent is eaten by a lion or by the tribe they paid to haul their shit around on their heads.

Flo- What? I look like a casting agent? Kenneth Branagh for Jack Connor. Daniel Day Lewis for Maj Perry and Daniel Bruhl for Schluter.

Gregorius- I like this better than Great Escape. It's different and more interesting. If for no other reason than Escape was hi concept -big budget and looks like every other WWII escape movie. McKenzie is something that'll surprise you.

LPC- I'm not talking to you. Come to NYC and I don't get so much as a cup of coffee with you. Instead you party with that Kebler elf, ADG, who can't spell picture much less take one.

Still like the look of your new site and turtle necks are coming back huge. Mark my words.

Alice- What's an LBD?

Patsy - Funny, all I see is Buckshot Roberts. Wonder why? Oh, yeah... Now I remember.

tintin said...

By the way, does anyone know who did the voice over on the trailer? He's the best.

Benedict said...

This was recently on telly in Australia. A film where the heroes are less clear-cut. The picture quality seemed pretty poor and had a clearly late 60s early 70s feel about it. But a great film anyway.

Alice Olive said...

Okay, I'll take the bait but, I know you know.

LBD = Little Black Dress

The first dress Audrey wears in that movie (on her visit to Sing Sing) is damn amazing. Sleeveless, simple, elegant.

I think the whole reason that most of my dresses are sleeveless is because of Givenchy's Holly.

Tish Jett said...

As usual, or should I say, "as always," I'm off subject, even though I did love this post, but obviously that's not why I'm writing.

(Skye also came to Paris btw, without so much as a coupe with me.)

OK, I'm getting to the point. Would you please e-mail me at tishjett@yahoo.com, I have a decent proposal for you.

Merci par avance.

Warm regards,
Tish

Brummagem Joe said...

Griem was also in the Visconti movie The Damned as the textbook Nazi. That movie was full of German stereotypes although one of them was played by Dirk Bogarde. The patriarch of the family (a small part) was played by some guy who was the epitome of the old style German aristocrat. Caine in Get Carter was one of the formative movies of my mispent young manhood.

Dallas said...

A man's movie topic could encompass an entire blog.

Jean-Pierre Melville's Army of Shadows is the best WWII movie I've seen.

The Counterfeiters being a close second.

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LPC said...

You are right. I am an ill-mannered harridan. All I can say is cozy up to Reggie over at Reggie Darling. He organized the shindig, and shindiggity it was.

Jordan said...

Good point- we are always watching ourselves in a way as we see every chacarter in a movie... as they say we are each person that appears in our dream...ill check if my just barely hanging on loval vid store has it...
By the way... been a big fan for years... keep it up, it's the part of my work day i really look forward to. (and i have a great job)

tintin said...

Benedict- New DVD here in the states. Looks beautiful. Check out the 10:00 min intro on You Tube for a sampling.

Alice- I pride myself on not knowing slang for women's attire. But thanks for making the assumption I did know.

Tish- Great meeting you. I look forward to working on the project.

Joe- I never saw The Damned but did check out the trailer when I researched Griem. It looks damned good. And I'm a big Bogarde fan. Carter was formative in your youth? Good lord, what were you doing?

Dallas- No kidding. It's my back up when I get tired of clothes. I'll check your two out.

LPC- Not surprisingly, the cool kids never invited me to join in.

Brummagem Joe said...

"Jean-Pierre Melville's Army of Shadows is the best WWII movie I've seen."

Dallas:The two best WW 2 Movies I believe are both about U boats (or at least the battle of the Atlantic). The Cruel Sea and Das Boot but I'll check out Army of Shadows.

tintin:" Good lord, what were you doing?"

I saw myself as the cool hardman. Laughable of course. The damned is a great movie and they get the sets, costumes, characterisations perfectly. The Italians I find attach a lot of importance to costumes and sets, The Leopard is a classic example, it must be their obsession with fashion.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. I've not seen this one! By 1970 this genre had all but exhausted itself. No near-adult, anti-war boomer worth his or her salt would ever have payed attention to it. It must have slipped under the theater and TV radar.

You and me on the whole turtleneck thing. I have a snug fitting black navy issue "watch" sweater. I spend hours in it on the deck of the submarine of my mind searching the skies for bogies...

-DB

Oyster Guy said...

Ms. Olive, I know you are Tintin's girl and all that but your comment about your sleeveless dresses is totally useless without a picture.

wstroby said...

During WWII, Fort Monmouth here at the N.J. Shore was used to house Italian POWs. If they had families/relatives in the area, the prisoners were sometimes allowed to leave the base on weekends. My mother remembers her father hosting a distant cousin, who didn't speak a word of English. They'd put him up for the weekend, cook him meals and take him down to the boardwalk to go on rides. Then on Monday, back to the POW camp.