January 23, 2024

MURPHY'S WAR: O'Toole Goes Full Ahab

MURPHY’S WAR (Blu-ray)
1971 / 107 min
Review by Mr. Paws😽

Murphy’s War was directed by Peter Yates, produced by Michael Deeley, written by Sterling Silliphant (adapting Max Catto’s novel) and stars the great Peter O’Toole. While all of them have bigger, more impressive credits on their resumes, this comparatively forgotten film isn’t without merit.

Near the end of World War II, the titular character (O’Toole) is one of two survivors of a merchant ship attacked by a German submarine. He’s rescued and brought to a nearby mission run by Dr. Hayden (Siân Phillips). When his captain, the other survivor, is murdered by the German commander (Horst Janson), Murphy becomes obsessed with finding and destroying the sub, which he believes is hiding down-river from the mission. 

With the help of good-natured charter boat captain Louis (Phillippe Noiret), Murphy repairs an airplane, assembles a makeshift bomb and launches his one-man campaign. Hayden condemns his actions, especially after one failed attempt brings swift retribution on the mission. Still, nothing dissuades Murphy, even after the war has all-but been declared over. 

Peter O'Toole flies coach.
Murphy isn’t a particularly endearing character, but his Ahab-like compulsion is interesting and O'Toole plays him quite well. Phillips has the most thankless role, that of Murphy’s moral compass. Since he never listens to her, Hayden mostly exists just to scold him and their conflict is perfunctory…sometimes a little dull. However, the film comes to an exciting climax that’s both suspenseful and - in a weird way - ironically amusing.

From a thematic standpoint, Murphy’s War doesn’t offer much we haven’t seen in other films about the ramifications of single-minded obsession or the folly of war. But while no lost classic of the genre, O’Toole’s performance and well-directed action sequences make it worth checking out. Arrow Video has put together a pretty decent Blu-ray release with a smattering of new & older bonus features (the latter taken from a previous disc by Indicator).


NOTE: Free Kittens Movie Guide was provided with a promo disc for review purposes. Physical supplemental material included with the final product (booklets, artwork, inserts, etc) were not available for review.

RUNNING OUT OF WAR - A new 20-minute appreciation by film critic David Cairns.

INTERVIEWS - Individual archival interviews with co-editor/2nd unit director John Glen, focus puller Robin Vidgeon, film critic Sheldon Hall.

IMAGE GALLERY - 18 images taken from the film.


No comments: