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  • bkoganbing23 February 2013
    Cornel Wilde stars in this World War II drama Operation Secret in which most of the film is done in flashback by witnesses at a post war French tribunal. The object of the inquiry is to determine who killed Maquis resistance leader Paul Picerni.

    This film was about the only Marine who may have served in the European Theater of World War II. Wilde is quite the colorful character and what a background he has. He does a hitch in the Marine Corps during peacetime and then enlists in the French Foreign Legion where he and fellow Legionaire Karl Malden just simply refuse to surrender until wounded and ordered to by Captain Steve Cochran. After a stint in a Prison Camp he's repatriated back to France whereupon he flees to Great Britain and tries to enlist in the Marines again. The Marines take him, but rather than send him to the Pacific, Wilde is given spy training and sent back to France where he eventually hooks up with the Maquis.

    That the Maquis had a lot of Communists in it is a given fact. But remember this was the beginning of the Cold War so some anti-Communism gets worked into the plot. Many members of the Resistance do not want to give plans for the new Nazi jet airplanes to the Americans and British. That sets up the conflict as Wilde has to deal with both Germans and people in the Maquis who want to do him in.

    To say the least I found the whole premise quite bizarre. But I've always liked Cornel Wilde on the screen and this is far from the worst film he ever did. In fact his portrayal of a spy who has to think fast on his feet is quite good.

    Tstifying at the tribunal are Malden, Cochran, Jay Novello playing a former Gestapo man, and an ersatz nun played by Phyllis Thaxter. Eventually the murder of Picerni is solved and the perpetrator faces French justice.

    Why they had to invent such a wild (no pun intended)background for Wilde is beyond me. If they had just made him a Frenchman in the first place it would have made more sense. Not like Wilde never did a French accent effectively on the screen.
  • This is a WWII swashbuckler!

    I remember seeing it as the second half of the double bill at the Avalon in Brooklyn in 1952. The feature was something "serious" like Winchester '73. Anyway, as the film progressed, I said more than once: " This is really a good movie!" – I was 15.

    Forrester (Cornel Wilde) is the man of mystery. He is a Marine who does a stint with the French Foreign Legion. This was all in the European Theater. He is recruited by, maybe, the OSS to parachute into Nazi territory and check on the devastation wrought by our B 17's.

    With the help of a phony nun (Phyllis Thaxter) he is able to secure films of a German top secret weapon. These real weapon films are truly fascinating. Even the combat footage of the 17's is better than average. The whole thing ends with a shoot out on a beach where the main characters are to be picked up by a submarine. We then pan to an executive board type hearing to find out ---- Who is Forrester?

    Phyllis Thaxter was beautiful. Cornel Wilde was adequate but quite dashing. Karl Malden, as the Legion's Maj. Latrec, shows some of the charisma that would blossom into his great talent.

    Yes. It was a B black and white movie. It WAS a good one!
  • There have been some outstanding movies about underground forces in Europe during WWII. There have been some excellent movies about espionage during WWII. And, there have been a number of very good movies that combine espionage and underground efforts. "Operation Secret" is far and away the very best of the latter, with a lot of intrigue and mystery tossed in. The film combines spy efforts with underground operations, and then adds some combat scenes and aerial bombing footage along with the mystery and intrigue. It involves a court inquiry after the war, and a story told in flashbacks from various characters.

    Just as with "Where Eagles Dare," this film story is fictitious, but is about real subjects of the war. In the former, it was the efforts to knock out Norwegian plants before the Nazis could use them to produce heavy water for use in German nuclear arms plans. In "Operation Secret," the real subjects were Germany's V-2 rockets and jet aircraft.

    This film excels in a number of areas. The plot and script are first- rate, and the acting is first-rate by the whole cast. The direction is excellent, as are the cinematography and the scenes. This may be one of Cornel Wilde's best performances, and Karl Malden gives a first-rate performance. To top it all off, the movie has some actual German footage of the V-2 rocket firings, and the actual footage of the earliest German jet aircraft tests. I recall seeing such tests only once before; so this is very rare among WWII movies.

    I'm surprised that so few have seen this movie by this late date. I don't recall ever having seen it before, but I've added it to my film library. Now that it's on DVD, more folks should want to buy it. I think it's a "must" for any serious war film library. If you're not a collector, watch for its showing on TV. I highly recommend this excellent, interesting, intriguing and entertaining film. For a bit of trivia, in an early scene of a flight from New York to Paris, presumably around the time the film was made, 1952, the pilot announces over the plane's PA system that the flight will take "about 13 hours." That was the speed of the four-engine prop planes before the advent of commercial jet service.
  • aldiboronti16 February 2013
    What a wonderful movie and what a surprise! I didn't expect much from this and the unimaginative title didn't help. I decided to give it a try because a couple of my favourite actors were in it, Steve Cochran and Karl Malden.

    First a rundown of the plot. In the opening we see a couple of passenger planes converging on Paris, one from New York and one from Germany. The date is a few years after WWII and a trial is being held in Paris for the murder of a Maquis member during the war. The accused person is absent, the character played by Cornel Wilde. The witnesses are being assembled from all points of the compass, including Cochran, Malden and others, all belonging to the same French Resistance group as Wilde. From here we get a series of flashbacks as each witness tells how he or she met Wilde and their experiences during the war years. Cochran tells first how he met Wilde when they were all cornered by the Germans in 1940 in a house outside Paris. Cochran is in the French army, Wilde (an American) and Malden are Foreign Legionaries. The order from the government for French soldiers to lay down their arms and surrender comes over the radio. From this pivotal point the plot proceeds through twists and turns, always gripping us and always surprising us.

    As the final titles came up I realised I'd just viewed one of the best B movies I'd ever seen. I highly recommend it to all, a brilliant little film with the ensemble cast at the top of their form. A well-deserved 8/10.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Want to know how a Big Hollywood Studio could make a Good Movie on a Minimal Budget in 1952? The answer, of course, was to commission a screenplay from contract writers like Harold "King of the Turf" Medford and James R. "Jesse James at Bay" Webb. Specify that their script must utilize as much of the studio's own enormous library of stock footage as possible, as well as material that could be provided from Hollywood's many professional stock libraries at minimal cost. And that is what good old Warner Brothers have done here, but they have gone a step further by enlisting the services of charismatic players like Karl Malden, Dan O'Herlihy, Jay Novello, Paul Picerni, Phyllis Thaxter, Steve Cochran and Cornel Wilde. As producer, Warner assigned ever-reliable Henry Blanke who had been with the studio since 1924. And to direct, why not super-experienced Lewis Seiler who had been directing away in Hollywood since 1923? True, "Girls Gone Wild", "The Ghost Talks" Seiler was not exactly what you would call a critic's favorite director, but he knew how and when to say, "Cut the lights!" to save electricity and he was a whiz at brushing off and eventually ignoring the demands of egotistic actors, fusspot cameramen and time-wasting set-dressers. Available on an excellent Warner Archive DVD.