What a difference a few years can make. The Desert Fox, released six years after the end of World War II, is a solemnly respectful tribute to Erwin Rommel, Germany's most celebrated military genius. James Mason's portrayal of this gallant warrior became a highlight of his career iconography. The film itself is oddly disjointed: a precredit commando raid to liquidate Rommel is followed by a flashback to the field-marshal's lightning successes commanding the Afrika Korps-a compressed account via documentary footage and copious narration (spoken by Michael Rennie, who also dubs Desmond Young, the Rommel biographer and onetime British POW appearing briefly as himself). The dramatic core is Rommel's growing disenchantment with Hitler (Luther Adler), his involvement in the plot to assassinate der Führer, and his subsequent martyrdom. Mason's Rommel returned two years later for a flamboyant, mostly German-speaking cameo in The Desert Rats, a prequel focusing on the battle for Tobruk. --Richard T. Jameson
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