Decision Before Dawn (1951)

Decision Before Dawn (1951)
  • 2246
  • Not Rated
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release year: 1951 ()
  • Running time: 119 min
  • Original Title: Decision Before Dawn
  • Voted: 2246

WWII is entering its last phase: Germany is in ruins, but does not yield. The US army lacks crucial knowledge about the German units operating on the opposite side of the Rhine, and decides to send two German prisoners to gather information. The scheme is risky: the Gestapo retains a terribly efficient network to identify and capture spies and deserters. Moreover, it is not clear that "Tiger", who does not mind any dirty work as long as the price is right, and war-weary "Happy", who might be easily betrayed by his feelings, are dependable agents. After Tiger and another American agent are successfully infiltrated, Happy is parachuted in Bavaria. His duty: find out the whereabouts of a powerful German armored unit moving towards the western front.

1Richard BasehartLt. Dick Rennick
2Gary MerrillCol. Devlin
3Oskar WernerCpl. Karl Maurer aka Happy
4Hildegard KnefHilde
  • What memories this must have dredged up by 8

    Having served in the US Army-Europe in Germany it was easy to see that this work was an accurate depiction of the world as Germans saw it in those years. Going to the IMDb database confirmed that it was filmed in Wurzberg, a city I visited many times. One can not help but wonder what memories and nightmares came back to life for the German people in this movie, or the ones who viewed it, or even witnessed the movie being made. The film is so very realistic in script, acting, and setting that some must have almost thought WWII was alive again. For those that lived through WWII in that country it must have seemed as if those days were repeating themselves. Every detail of this movie is accurate as far as I could tell. It does not employ overused stereotypes, no action heroes, no earth shaking grand and glorious finale, it simply depicts a period of time in all its' tragedy and irony in a most realistic manner. This work deserves more praise and exposure than it has received. A must see for every WWII researcher and historian.

  • Exceptionally realistic and well-acted anti-war film by 10

    Decision Before Dawn, released in 1951--only 6 years after the end of WWII--is set in the final months of that war, and relates the story of three soldiers who go behind German lines as spies. Richard Basehart plays an American intelligence officer, with Oskar Werner and Hardy Kruger as two German POWs who have volunteered to accompany him for reasons of conscience. The protagonist is the Oskar Werner character, playing a young German Medical Corps Non-commissioned officer. In the course of his task, which is to locate a specific Panzer division and report its position back to Basehart, he undergoes a range of experiences that paint a realistic picture of the last days of wartime Germany. His pacifism and loyalty to his country and family (whom he visits) are challenged by his decision to help his American captors and the necessity to perform all that entails. Well acted, scripted and very realistically propped and photographed, Decision Before Dawn ranks very high on the list of thoughtfully made and thought provoking war films.

  • Outstanding picture, one of the best WW2 movies by 7

    As American forces approach Germany near the end of World War II, it becomes crucial for them to get an idea of the Germans' capacity to resist. In order to do that, they recruit spies from among German POWs, train them and send them into Germany to gather information. This is somewhat of an unusual film about a subject that, as far as I know, had never been dealt with before or since (the movie is based on fact; American military intelligence did indeed use German POWs as spies). The location filming helps the picture greatly, as the war had only been over for a few years and Germany still hadn't rebuilt yet. Performances are universally top notch, notably Oskar Werner as a young German soldier code-named Happy who volunteers to return as a spy, and especially Hans Christian Blech as Happy's tough, opportunistic, and not entirely trustworthy partner. There are some nail-biting moments, notably aboard a train when Happy and his partner come under scrutiny by a suspicious Gestapo agent. The film has a tough, gritty, dangerous look that is totally atypical of the usual 20th Century Fox gloss, and is all the better for it. Gary Merrill as the tough American officer in charge of the operation, and Richard Basehart as an American agent sent in to accompany the two German spies, also turn in first-rate performances, and director Anatole Litvak keeps the film full of twists and surprises, but it's Oskar Werner's show, and he is up to it. An excellent film and one to put on your must-see list.

  • A Great Period Movie by 10

    The movie puts you in WWII's closing days as you watch an idealistic young German Army medic become a traitor to his country by working as a spy in order to let the war end quickly and let peace return. The movie extras are former German soldiers, and you can tell by how they wear their "rag tag" uniforms and bark out commands in German. The scenes are superb. Bombed out areas of Germany were used, and one scene in a bombed out theater is especially great. You hear the falling glass and metal structures as the Gestopo search for the soldier. It is simply a very entertaining movie that lets one ponder: What would I have done if I were in his place?

  • excellent, little-known movie by 7

    Surprisingly good war film unknown to me before I saw it on American Movie Classics. Cast is excellent. Characters are well-drawn. The film is the best portrayal I have yet seen on celluloid of Germany in its stages of final collapse as the end of WWII nears. Some very impressive interiors are beautifully shot - the cathedral that serves as intelligence hq, and the castle or chateau that is the German command hq. Engrossing story of conflicted loyalties, and good action and suspense as well. I can only add my agreement with the positive comments already entered.

1Anatole Litvakdirector
2Frank McCarthyproducer
3Peter Viertelwriter
4George Howewriter
5Jack Rollenswriter
6Carl Zuckmayerwriter