The Heroes of Telemark (USA/GB 1965)

Director: Anthony Mann

Starring: Kirk Douglas, Ulla Jacobsson, Michael Redgrave, Eric Porter, Richard Harris, Anton Diffring

Cinematography: Robert Krasker

Original Music: Malcolm Arnold

Script: Eric Ambler

FACT: Richard Harris plays a character called Knut. (Rearrange the letters for a more accurate soubriquet.)

LIE: Kirk Douglas plays a character called Ursehole.

Bit Parts: Vanessa Redgrave, Roy Dotrice

In one line:  Norwegian resistance fighters aim to destroy a heavy water plant to prevent the Nazis building an atomic bomb.



The Nazis are stockpiling thousands of gallons of deuterium oxide in the Vemork Norsk Hydro plant near Telemark in Norway. Resistance leader Knut Straud (Harris) convinces lothario physics professor Rolf Petersen to undertake a trip to England to confirm findings that the Germans are developing a hard water plant to create an atomic bomb. After a British commando raid is wiped out in a plane crash, Straud, Petersen and the Norwegian resistance vow to finish the job. Their Norwegians' raid on the heavy water plant is not entirely successful and the Germans aim to transport the heavy water across a nearby fjord and then by rail to Germany. The resistance set out to sink the ferry.....


Another almost-British war film that leaves a sour taste in the mouth. The original film was made in 1948 (a Franco-Norwegian production) and featured many of the men who took part in both raids. I recently saw a documentary on the Telemark heroes and they were a humble, self-effacing group, who more likely than not changed the course of human history.

Douglas and Harris, the two nominal stars of The Heroes of Telemark play their usual strutting,  'look at me' arsehole selves that they play in pretty much all of their films. Douglas is a sex-mad (but tough as nails) professor; Harris is a hot-head (but tough as nails) resistance fighter, and the two men clash on screen because of their philosophical differences - just as they did off screen due to their unchecked and innate vanity.

It's left to the redoubtable British and German actors to add a little class and dignity to the film. 'Our' Eric Porter is suitably heartless as a high-ranking Nazi, and (obviously) Anton Diffring is along for the ride. Acting honours go to Roy (Betty's dad) Dotrice and the always reliable Michael Redgrave (who plays Douglas's former father-in-law)/ I doubt if it took much acting effort on Redgrave's character's behalf to show the contempt he feels for the man who has 'used' his daughter , and you can see what must be genuine pain etched into his face as he has to give up his screen life for his impossibly vain 'A' list superior.

There are some good action scenes in the film and it would be difficult to go wrong as a cinematographer with the snowy landscapes of central Norway, but this is a pedestrian piece of work from the once highly-talented Anthony Mann. His auteurship had deserted him by this time and he vainly strives to create a decent film from what essentially becomes a star vehicle for the tedious Kirk Douglas.

Facts are inevitably manipulated to create a genre action movie, but the worst element of all concerns the story of the innocent Norwegian civilians who were drowned on the ferry carrying the heavy water cylinders. In real-life, these people were sacrificed for the greater good of world peace- it was a decision which caused much heartbreak amongst the real Norwegian resistance. In the film, good old Kirk Douglas has a much better idea, and saves the day, because he's such a great guy....

A rubbish, schedule-filling film (which rears its ugly head to replace better, but more contentious films when there's some sort of disaster) that once again tarnishes the memories of many real-life great men and women.

The bombastic, inflated score by Malcolm Arnold is another horrible aspect of this film, and I can guarantee that it will be difficult to shake off no matter how hard you try.

It makes 'the list' for the appearance of Ulla Jacobssen , an early appearance by the young Vanessa Redgrave (looking spookily like her daughter Joely Richardson) and for Kirk's rather nifty ski jumper (which reminds me of one I owned for Everton awayday travel in the 80s).

Otherwise, SHITE.


Michael Redgrave: banged to rights for appearing in a crap film for ale money