They Who Dare (1954)




Director:     .

Starring:     Kay Callard (Nightclub Singer), William Russell (Lieut. Tom Poole), Dirk Bogarde (Lieut. David Graham), Harold Siddons (Lieut. Stevens R.N.), Eric Pohlmann (Captain Papadapoulos), Akim Tamiroff (Captain George One), Gérard Oury (Captain George Two), Lisa Gastoni (George Two's Girlfriend), Sam Kydd (Marine Boyd), Peter Burton (Marine Barrett), David Peel (Sergeant Evans), Denholm Elliott (Sergeant Corcoran), Michael Mellinger (Toplis), Alec Mango (Patroklis), Anthea Leigh (Marika).

in the Aegean Sea, Britain's Special Boat Squadron sabotages Axis air bases



Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie.

"September 1942.  This is the 8th Army waiting in the desert at El Alamein poised for the attack that would drive out Rommel out of North Africa.  The greatest menace to the success of our forces came from the Luftwaffe based on the African mainland and the Greek Islands.  The RAF attacks on these scattered bases with every plane that could be spared were not enough. Something new was tried.  Night raids by small patrols of special  troops, commandos, to strike at these island bases to harry and tie down the enemy's garrisons and destroy his bombers on the ground.  This is the story of one of the first of these raids."

A nightclub singer comes over to the table of a soldier, Lt. Tom Poole.  She looks at the insignia on his cap that says:  "He who dares, wins."  That's the unit motto.  Poole joins the singer at the bar.  Lt. David Graham comes over to tear Lt. Poole away from the woman.  He tells Poole that their time has come.  They are planning a small raid using twelve commandoes.  After Graham finishes he goes over and takes the singer to another nightclub. 

The next day Graham and Poole go aboard a Greek submarine and meet Captain Papadapoulos.  The two Brits tell the captain that they are looking for two Greek guides and two Greek officers.  The captain tells them to go see Captain George Kunis.  They meet him and he invites them into his place.  Later George Kunis talks with another George.  Lt. Graham says he will call George Kunis Captain George One and the other George, Captain George Two.  Graham also gets his two Greek guides.  

Graham gets his group together and tells them what's going on.  They plan a raid on an island of the Dodecanese (literally 'twelve islands') group of 12 larger plus 150 smaller Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, of which 26 are inhabited. The islands are part of the Southern Sporades island group.  One of the islands is Rhodes, which is off the southwestern coast of Turkey.  There are two German airfields on the island and their objective is to blow both of them up simultaneously. 

They will land at an inlet at night.  From there they will sneak up into the mountains from where they can view both airports.  Their only option is to travel at night because the whole island is crawling with troops.  They will form into two parties.  Lt. Poole will take his group down to Maritsa in northern Rhodes.  The other group will follow Graham to Kahlarsen (spelling?)  On the third night on Rhodes they will attack both airports at the same time.  On the fourth night they will return to the place where they landed.

Finally, the captain tells them that they will be landing in half an hour.  All the expedition team members are told to get ready to land in that time. 

The submarine surfaces.  Tow rubber dinghies are inflated.  There is also a two man kayak. In all ten men start rowing to shore. 

On the beach the men deflate the rubber dinghies and hide them, along with the kayak.  The men start walking through a field.  A goat flees before them and steps on  a mine.  When the mine explodes the men decide to take a detour. The men are expecting to fill their canteens at a mountain spring, but when they get there they find out that the spring is dried up.  They gather up all the canteens.  The water will be rationed. 

One of the Greek guides talks about going down to his village in Rhoades to see his mother and sister.  Captain George One tells him he is not going.  The guide, however, takes off anyway.  Captain George One goes after him, but trying to jump over a crevice, he doesn't quite make it, loses his grip and falls down to some rocks.  George Two goes to the rescue.  He sees some blood on George One's shirt and tries to apply first aide.  George One tells him to knock it off.  He says he is not really hurt and he is not to tell anyone about what happened. 

The wayward guide makes it down to the village, avoids some Italian soldiers and reaches his mother's house.  But the guide can't just go into his house.  There are more troops around.  The guide's sister, Marika, sees her brother through a window and tells her mother.  The sister steps outside and smiles at the troops.  Then she starts walking down the street.  The troops follow after her.  When sister is far away enough from her house, she suddenly turns around and starts running fast back to the house.  She kisses her brother and they go inside the house to say hello to mother.

The commando patrol is waiting for the guide's return.   They are growing impatient with the guide, but he finaly does return.  Graham calls the man a blithering idiot.  The guide apologizes. 

Graham notices two boys are watching them from atop a mountain ridge.  He tells his men they definitely will have to move, because children will talk.  The men desperately need to fill up their water canteens.  So at night they decide to risk going into the village to get to the village well. 

Graham and the wayward guide go down with the canteens to the village, but he discovers that their chosen route is a mine field.  He decides to give up on this well.  Everyone is disappointed at not being able to get water.  Graham tells his men they are canceling the mission and heading back to the inlet. 

Marika comes up the mountains with a Greek Orthodox priest sitting on a donkey.   Two small boys lead the way.  The guide rushes over to hug the boys and Marika and greet the priest.  Marika has brought supplies for the men.  With this replenishment, Graham decides to go ahead with the mission.  The guys have some rum to celebrate.  Graham wishes everyone good luck.  George Two tells Graham that George One cannot go with Poole because the man is wounded.  Graham says George One will stay with his group. 

Graham's group moves out a little later.  A rain storm strikes the area and Graham's men go into a cave for cover.  Graham gives Captain George One a map to their rendezvous place at a church. 

Both groups reach their destinations.  In Poole's group one man sets his watch wrong when everyone synchronizes their and this later makes the guide worry excessively unnecessarily. 

Graham's men reach the airport, cut the barbed wire and start planting their explosives on the planes.  Poole's group does the same at the other airfield. 

A guard spots one of the Graham men and shoots off a red flare into the air.  Italian soldiers start pouring out onto the field.  Two of the commandoes are caught and taken prisoner.  Graham and two others make it back to the rendezvous place at a church, but George One is not at the church.  Instead, there is a Greek nun there.  Graham says there is someone in the church.  He goes to find the someone and the nun rushes right past Graham over to the rope attached to the church bell.   They try to stop her but she succeeds in ringing the bell.  The commandoes have to get out and away from the church fast.   

The Italians catch the wayward guide.  Graham now starts thinking that the bombs are not even going to go off at the airfield.  And just then the bombs start going off. 

Poole's group of bombs starts going off. 

Graham goes to look again into the church.  This time he finds George One.  Graham has to explain to George One that the wayward guide and George Two were captured along with one other man.  George One is angry about George Two being caught.  Graham says that he himself feels sick.  George One tells him to stop carrying the whole war on his shoulders.  Graham is yelling at the two men because he feels he has made such a mess of the mission and it makes him angry at himself. 

The three prisoner commandoes watch as an Italian plane lands and lets it's high-ranking officers off.  Up into the mountains a huge search is launched for the other commandoes.  Poole and his men are okay.  They make their way toward to the rendezvous.  They stop suddenly as not far from them two truck loads of Italian soldiers get off and start walking up the mountain. 

The shepherds start blowing different tunes on their flutes, while keeping an eye of the progress of the Italians.  One fellow uses his entire flock to help cover the hiding place of Graham and his two men. The three men thank the shepherd and take off fast.  At a rest stop George One spots Poole and his three men.  Then the Italians come marching down the road.  George One fires his pistol as a warning to Poole.  Graham says to George One that now the Italians will get all the commandoes.  George One tells Graham no they won't get the rest of the commandoes.  They will just get him.  He starts climbing down to the road.  He sticks up his hands and the Italians take him prisoner.  Then  a squad of Italians heads up into the mountains. 

Poole and his men get captured by the Italians anyway.  The guide decides to resist and is shot.  Graham and his one man, Corcoran, watch as the commandoes are captured. 

An Italian sits on a big rock which is part of Graham's hiding place.  The officer smokes a cigarette.  He swings one of his legs and the heel of his boot keeps hitting Graham in the face. Finishing his smoke, the officer gets up and he and his men move out.

Cochran carries Graham for 20 minutes before he regains consciousness.  Graham was in and out of consciousness from the face beating he took from the Italian officer. Graham loses consciousness again.

The men reach the rendezvous spot, but an enemy boat is in the area.  Corcoran is convinced the enemy found their stash of supplies and took them.  Graham doesn't give up and starts to search the rocks.  There he finds a part of the stash that the Italians missed.  Graham has new hope and especially so when he finds a flash light in the stash.  He starts using the light to signal the submarine.  Corcoran says it's useless because they are late already by 35 minutes.  Corcoran has been a downer on the mission the whole time talking about not making it back.  Now he tells Graham that he hates Graham for never giving up.  He adds that Graham never knows when he's licked.  He says he is leaving Mr. risk-taker behind and making his own way from now on.  At that moment, Corcoran sees a light out on the waters.  Graham doesn't see it and they have a little disagreement, when they are interrupted by the Italians coming down the mountains. 

Graham decides to start swimming away from the shore.  Corcoran asks him what is he going to swim to?  Graham says he's not going to spend the rest of the war in a Prisoner-of-War Camp.  He goes into the water and Corcoran follows him.  The men swim for about half an hour.  They suddenly hear engine sounds.  Corcoran starts flashing the flashlight.  The captain of the submarine sees it.  

The swimmers have to dive under the water when they see an enemy boat hurriedly go past them.   A Nazi boat sees the submarine surfacing.  The submarine goes back under the surface.  The Nazi boat drops depth charges, but doesn't do much damage. 

Reporting to the officer's mess table are Graham and Corcoran.  (Evidently, the submarine picked up the two commandoes when it surfaced.)


This is an okay movie.  The DVD by Studio Canal was very dark making it more difficult to determine which character(s) is (are) on the screen.  The audience can hope for the escape and safe return of their submarine, but the tension rises because we don't know which of the ten commandoes will be killed, wounded and/or captured.  There are certainly a lot of tense moments for the commandoes on the island of Rhodes.  The leader of the raid (played well by Dirk Borgarde) was shown to be all too human, rather than a superhero, and that's better anyways.  Denholm Elliott (as Sergeant Corcoran) also did a good acting job. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.



Historical Background:

following the surrender of Italy in September 1943  -- the Dodecanese Campaign of World War II was an attempt by Allied forces, mostly British, to capture the Italian-held Dodecanese islands in the Aegean Sea , and use them as bases against the German-controlled Balkans. The Allied effort failed, with the whole of the Dodecanese falling to the Germans within two months, and the Allies suffering heavy losses in men and ships. The operations in the Dodecanese, lasting from 8 September to 22 November 1943, resulted in one of the last major German victories in the war.



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