The Secret War of Harry Frigg Film Details
Overview: In 1943, when 5 captured Allied one-star generals cannot agree on an escape plan, the HQ promotes an escape-savvy private to 2-star general and sends him to coordinate the captive VIPs.
Tagline: It’s not who you con. It’s how you do it.
Review: The Secret War of Harry Frigg is a daft at best war comedy, a film I have little doubt exists for any other reason other than The Great Escape was made a few years previously and was somewhat successful; itself a piece with an outlandish, romping sensibility that distilled the harsh realities of life as a prisoner of war under German command through a filter of the somewhat upbeat and cheery. The characters had fun trying to escape, and we were invited to equate as such whilst watching them do so in their bid to get out and foil those dastardly Huns in the process. To some degree, Jack Smight’s film of Harry Frigg is actually about the polar opposites, in that it features the fooling of the Italians along with the desire to stay inside of certain prisoner of war parameters, but is concurrently similar in overall ideology; the whole thing, like The Great Escape, falling apart in its final act as the shifts in tone perturb what sporadically enjoyable content preceded it, and a real sense of anguish and peril is suddenly inserted into proceedings. The titular Harry Frigg is played by that of Paul Newman, Newman bringing a certain boyish charm to proceedings; a certain roguish charisma that sees him mean well, in spite of the circumstances, and yet is played with enough of what it is that makes certain higher-ups get as angry at him as they do. The performance is crucial to the proceedings, and Newman proves, if anything, that he is above such things by doing as well as he does. Frigg is a deserter, a guy wanting to avoid military service as best he can and attempts to do so by any means possible – a bid for freedom during an organised game of American Football the latest coup seeing him grab the ball in play and charge for an end-zone located somewhere up beyond those nearby trees on that slope and about a hundred miles away there on in. The authorities try in vain to stop him, the firing of live ammunition towards the guy not enough to force him into pulling up and if they were shooting to kill, you’d have thought their aim might be a bit better by now given how often it’s established he’s tried such stunts. His involvement to proceedings becomes more prominent when, a world away in Tunisia on the African front of World War Two, a cluster of Generals of varying Allied nations are swiped by Axis powers and taken to an Italian castle to be held prisoner. These Generals are a stuffy bunch, a mixture of the predominant Allied forces involved in said war in the form of American, British and French nationalities. They cannot work together out of pride in their attempts to break free; thus, force those at Allied HQ to hit upon the idea of sending our Frigg into the war-zone so as to get captured and then, hopefully, tunnel each of them out given his expertise in escaping. Following Frigg’s deliberate capture, we are granted a tour of the facilities; the Italian guards reiterating how difficult it is to escape from such a place: the place being a large, elegant mansion of a few storeys with acres to spare and woodland in mostly all directions beyond the gates. Concept established, it is then revealed that there is a bit of an issue involving Frigg and those of a more distinct nature within the Army from time’s past; specifically, his disgruntlement at never having been promoted beyond that of a lowly private and he abuses his faux-rank once in there to exploit the existing situations with the officials thus acting as a further source of mirth. Thrown into proceedings is that of the mansion’s Countess and owner; a certain Francesca De Montefiore (Koscina) whom Harry comes to be quite fond of and thus, holds up the excavation process. The good Countess had a husband die in the war already, but the idea of being in a state of grieving appears to elude the girl, as she intermingles and comes to enjoy Frigg’s company. The film is total fluff from beginning to end; Frigg’s constant clashes with that of the existing Generals cute in its premise but not entirely funny, while Frigg’s shot at redemption in getting them all out of the place so as to prove his worth to the Army as a decent, stand-alone grunt gives way to wanting to stay there and woo Francesca as quickly as possible and is not engaging nor humorous enough to act as the crux of the thing keeping it afloat. An example of the film’s flat, commonplace humour is evident during a sequence depicting an evening meal, in which each of the captured Generals speak of their favourite dishes and restaurants of around the world. We sit there, listening to extravagant meals at equally extravagantly sounding places, anticipating Frigg’s answer; knowing he is not whom he claims to be and, as a result, cannot muster much of a chuckle when he reels off the best “bar ‘n’ grill” diner that he can think of located in his backwater town. The film is somewhat crass in its apparent disneyfication of POW conditions without necessarily being terribly ugly; we don’t dislike the lead and enjoy the idea the film carries that good teamwork, regardless of class, rank or background, wins out in the end; teamwork, as opposed to petty squabbling and not being able to get beyond one’s ego or sense of ‘self’. The film has no right to go to the harder, darker places it ventures toward come the final twenty minutes, while the idea of five guys wanting ‘out’ under the ill-gotten control of one guy with a grudge wanting to stay ‘in’ wears a little thin. Mostly unremarkable, and terribly paced at times, this is one concept comedy that barely gets out of the traps.
Country: United States
Language: English, German
Duration: 110 min
Genre: Comedy, War
Also known as: Slaptasis Hario Frigo karas,Ontsnapping op bevel,Apodrasis kata diatagin,Évasion sur commande,Zorg dat je d’r uit komt,Frække Frigg,Mestaripakoilija,Der Etappenheld,Tajna wojna Harry’ego Frigga,Sahte general,Тайная война Гарри Фригга,The Secret War of Harry Frigg,Dassô dai sakusen,Guerra amore e fuga,The Chill,Războiul secret al lui Harry Frigg,La fuga de los generales,Generalernas flykt,A Guerra Secreta de Harry Frigg,Meanwhile, Far from the Front,脱走大作戦,Comando secreto,Tajna vojna Harrya Frigga,Que Delícia de Guerra,Απόδρασις κατά διαταγήν