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Operation CrossbowOperation Crossbow on DVD

In the tradition of the Guns of Navarone comes this second world war thriller starring Sophia Loren and George Peppard.

It's the height of World War II, the allies are still pinned down in Britain, and the Germans are working feverishly on new, high-tech weapons with which to bring the allies to their knees. The Brits are aware of these plans, though they don't know how far advanced they are. But time is of the essence, and they need to find out what's brewing and take steps to prevent it.

What's brewing is rocket technology, as personified by the V1 and the V2.  The V1, also known as the buzz bomb, was a pilotless flying bomb the Germans could launch from their territory and which would fly to England and rain death on its cities, particularly London. The V2 was the next generation; a true rocket (if memory serves, Saddam Hussein's SCUDs were adaptations of his technology) that would offer longer range, faster speed and a higher, more deadly, payload.

Operation Crossbow is the story of those efforts on the part of the allies to prevent that death being rained down upon their people. It was a multi-pronged strategy that included bombing raids and an espionage mission undertaken by highly trained multilingual agents, whose task was to infiltrate the German facilities and, if possible, sabotage them from inside.

Peppard, Tom Courtenay and Jeremy Kemp are the poor souls whose lot is to infiltrate the Nazi war machine, through high security and much suspicion.  They're aided by members of the underground, but the Nazis are no fools - and they've been doing some pretty diabolical espionage of their own.

Who lives?  Who dies?  Is the mission successful? We won't spoil the movie for you, and we do recommend you watch it because it's a gripping thriller.

We were surprised to find the Sophia Loren role was basically a big cameo, but as her husband was the producer of the film I guess we shouldn't be too surprised. But she plays her part well, as does the part of the rest of the cast - which includes John Mills, Richard Johnson, Anthony Quayle and Trevor Howard, the latter as a particularly misguided scientist.

The production values are great, the special effects look very real for the most part and we get a good look not only at the development of the technology but at its results, and the stakes involved for both sides.

The DVD is presented in anamorphic widescreen, 16x9 TV compatible, and the picture is very good for the most part. The colors are good, but there's some grain in places especially during effects scenes, but it is by no means a deal breaker.

Audio is Dolby Digital 5.1, a remix, and it's also pretty good.  The music spreads nicely across the front of the home theater, and there's a nice rumble as the rockets roar.

Extras include a theatrical trailer and an interesting vintage featurette that's most interesting for its history of rocketry, though, as a promotional featurette, it makes the inevitable veer into shilling for the movie.  It's worth seeing, if only to learn about Robert Goddard and his work-at how easily and cheaply the Germans got a hold of the fruits of his labor.

Operation Crossbow, from Warner Home Entertainment
116 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1, widescreen TV compatible), Dolby Digital 5.1.
Starring Sophia Loren, George Peppard, Trevor Howard, John Mills, Richard Johnson, Tom Courtenay, Jeremy Kemp, Anthony Quayle
produced by Carlo Ponti
written by Richard Imrie, Derry Quinn, Ray Rigby, directed by Michael Anderson

Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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