It's simply too bad that this movie was ever made. Okay, "Raid on Rommel" isn't the worst WII movie ever produced. Browse through some of my other reviews, and you'll soon learn that. The sad thing is, any middle-aged American man is liable to pick this one up off of the DVD rack at Suncoast like I did a few years ago and be shocked by how such a promising-looking movie turned into such a big letdown.
Made in 1971, "Raid on Rommel" was originally planned as a made-for-TV special to make some more money off of the special effects sequences in "Tobruk", far too many of which were incorporated into this film. The far-fetched plot revolves around a British commando unit who have to sneak behind the German lines and blow up the shore batteries at Tobruk, allowing the British Navy to sail into the harbor unmolested and begin an attack. There's a lot more going to complicate matters, including the presence of a conscientous objector (Christopher Cary), an Italian prostitute (Danielle de Metz), Field Marshall Rommel (Wolfgang Preiss), and a zealous Nazi Captain (Karl Otto-Alberty). Non of these supporting characters are developed in the least, which is quite unfortunate - especially considering that the latter two are among the best "Nazi" character-actors to have ever graced the screen.
Long on action and short on intelligence or flair, "Raid on Rommel" proves to be one immense bore from start to finish. The action sequences revolve almost completely around footage lifted from "Tobruk". This is probably because "Raid on Rommel" was shot on a shoestring budget. This shows up in that even actors from our film are substituted for by actors from "Tobruk" (there's a sequence where Burton's character is taking on a German tank, and whenever there is a cut to the "Tobruk" footage, it becomes jarringly obvious that the actor in the other shots is George Peppard rather than Richard Burton). Whole scenes, plot points and character traits seemed to lifted from "Tobruk", too, which was a real shame.
Another deadly flaw in the film's execution is the poor choice of casting Richard Burton in the lead. I've never been a fan of Burton. His work in "Where Eagles Dare" was entertaining and fun, but nothing to stand up and applaud for. Here, he doesn't even put an effort into making his role convincing. He sleepwalks through most of his scenes; there are a few points where he calls characters by other characters' names or by the actor's name.
Even on DVD, the non-English sections of the film (and there are several of them) are not supported by subtitles, making it almost impossible to tell what is going on between the characters. There are key discussions between Rommel and Captain Schroeder which lead up to the climax, and I could only understand snippets of these scenes thanks to a semester of college-level German.
I had always considered Henry Hathaway a great director; after all, he was the brains behind the John Wayne classic "True Grit", one of my favorite westerns. The rest of the crew had experience limited to other low-grade movies or fairly strong TV series. At best, "Raid on Rommel" plays like an extended episode of "The Rat Patrol" and just cannot be taken seriously as a feature film. See "Tobruk" instead.