“As the end of World War II drew near, Hitler’s Germany was not only waging a war on separate fronts but from within the Third Reich. This story is based on actual events.”
If any of that sounds familiar, it should. It’s the plot and historical source for Tom Cruise’s latest big budget film, Valkyrie. One can’t help but wonder if this 1990 made for television film would ever see the light of a DVD release if not for the hype surrounding the Cruise film. Likely it would have remained in the vaults somewhere, an obscure film about a long obscure historical event.
It is absolutely true that in July of 1944 there was a failed attempt on the life of Adolph Hitler. Rather than bringing about the end of his tyrant reign, it actually gave him an opportunity to hold his power even tighter. It was an excuse to execute some 5,000 Germans, by making them suspects in the plot, whether they actually were or not. Hitler had also flirted with an almost god-like rhetoric of destiny. By surviving such an attack it appeared to some that Hitler was divinely favored. His escape truly appeared miraculous. In the long view it helped to reconcile the German people with the rest of the world once the war had ended. A plot from within demonstrated that there was a conscience of the people, and they had attempted, risking their own lives, to remove the threat to the world at large. Unfortunately this film does little to bring out any of these points. It appears almost afraid to take a stand. The plot is viewed in terms of minutia, crowded by the mundane details of these peoples’ ordinary lives. We pretty much follow the last days of the plot through the eyes of Non Stauffenberg (Davis). We spend too much time with his family and his day to day affairs. It doesn’t help that we join the plot already in progress. Stauffenberg was the leader of the plot and was the man who delivered the bomb directly to the feet of Adolph Hitler, only to cause a few scratches. The journey is almost emotionless. Once the plot failed, I was left with an almost empty feeling that this story wasn’t worthy of telling. Of course, it is, and it falls to the filmmakers here and some very small thinking that it appears otherwise.
We need only look to history in order to know that the plot will fail. So, I don’t think I’m in danger of revealing anything that approaches spoilers by revealing the end here. The reason we would watch either of these films on the subject is to take the journey. The journey here is remarkably uninteresting when you consider the subject matter. I felt like I was being made privy to the most tedious moments of the plot itself. Even the execution of the plot comes as rather undramatic. This is a flaw I expect the upcoming film will not suffer.
The Plot To Kill Hitler is presented in its original broadcast full frame format. The presentation is pretty typical of a low budget 1990 television film. Colors are a bit soft. There appears almost a steady haze over much of the film. Black levels are mediocre at best.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track serves the dialog. That’s it. Even the explosion of the bomb towards the end of the film is muted.
For a film of this nature, made for television, and thus limited in its scope, the devil must indeed be in the details. Because of the secret nature of the plot, there is little known about the actual meetings of the conspirators. A film like this must rely on conjecture to arrive at those devilish details. Unfortunately the film doesn’t appear willing to go very deep inside of the plot or the minds of the plotters. Characters are all matter of fact. Instead of details, this film leaves us with a lot we must assume for ourselves, and “assumptions can be dangerous”.