Saturday, 25 February 2012

Murphy's War

Although the historical setting is some 1900 years later there are similarities between the Eagle and Murphy’s War, the 1971 Second World War Film with Peter O’ Toole as Murphy and Sian Phillips as a Quaker doctor in a film which could be said to have been a remake of the 1951 African Queen with Boggart and Katherine Hepburn. Murphy’s War is based on 1 novel by Gary Paulson. The African Queen was in turn based on a 1930’s novel about the Great War. The former a German war ship comes up a South American River to hide and repair while in Murphy’s War it is a submarine.

Murphy is rescued after his merchant ship was destroyed by the U Boat at the mouth of Orinoco in Venezuela and where the action takes place and was filmed. He reveals that the U Boat slaughtered fellow sailors in the water as they abandoned their sinking craft.

In addition to the good and virtuous doctor he befriends Louis who lives on a floating crane barge and whose job was to care take the premises of an Oil exploration company, a job for which he has not been paid for four years and survivors as do the villagers from fishing and crop growing. The medical station has a radio which the doctor uses to keep in touch and arrange supplies. She reports the arrival of O’Toole and his story that the submarine had gone up river which she declares is fanciful. Someone else arrives at the water’s edge in a critical condition. He is a young British flyer of a mono sea plane.

While Toole and Louis go in search of the plane, the Germans pick up the radio broadcast and head for the station where the blow up the transmitter and kill the flyer who the doctor pretended is the O’Toole of the merchant ship.

The middle portion of the film covers O Toole using the available machinery of Louis and the company to repair the plane and then test it although O’Toole has no experience as a pilot and his first flight is thwart with difficulties he successfully returns having identified what he believe is the camouflaged submarine but is in fact their up rive base The consequence is that when he destroys the base and a number of German sailors the submarine is intact and returns to the village to destroy the plane and half the village. They go in search of O’Toole who has successfully hidden himself away.

He persuades Louis to let him use the barge in what appears likely is a fruitless and fatal attack on the submarine although he improvises plan B which works.

When they set off the news on the vessel’s radio announces the German surrender. He smashes the radio to prevent the mission being aborted. The good doctor hears the news and seeing the barge on its way up river take to a canoe with two villagers in pursuit to tell the good news. At the submarine base the crew are celebrating going home and then they hear the noise of the approaching barge. The murderous war crimes captain appeals to O Toole that the war is over that alerting Louis to the development. Realising that he the barge is pressing g on to ram the submarine in headlong collision he dives escaping below by a matter of feet.

O’ Toole puts plan B into effect which is get the submarine to fire a torpedo which misses and lands on the beach without exploding. The submarine has hit a sandbank so O Toole takes the barge as close as possible to beach to use the crane to raise the unexploded torpedo. The peaceable Frenchman decides he no longer wants to be a party to what appears to be the slaughter of Germans who have become sitting ducks and goes off along the river bank back to the village.

O’Toole is successful in getting the torpedo over the submarine but following the explosion he is pinned under the crane and is lost along with the barge and submarine. There is a kind of justice reality whereas in the African Queen the two survive to be picked up by a British vessel and after destroying the German vessel. The crane barge was used to lift Tanks ashore and the plane was display in an Ohio Museum. The Submarine was Venezuelan. The three films have in common one man against the odds.

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