Secret War of Harry Frigg, The (1968)

Universal.

Director Jack Smight can't enliven a potentially wild farce that shows too many strains in achieving desirable comedic effects.  Most reviewers criticized the overly episodic film (with its gimmicky title) and Newman's performance in a heavy-handed turn that was not suited to his talent range.

The plot concerns five WWaII Allied generals, Andrew Duggan, Tom Bosley, John Williams, Charles D. Gray and Jacques Roux, who were captured in a Tunisian Turkish bath by the Italians and transported to detention in a luxurious Italian villa, under the command of lieutenant Colonel Ferrucci (Vito Scotti).

Problem is, the five generals can't agree on an escape plan. To that effect, General Homer Prentiss (James Gregory) of Army Public Relations decides to enlist the services of Private Harry Frigg (Newman) in orchestrating their  adventurous escape.

Famous for his clever escapes from stockades, Frigg is expected to apply his expertise to this operation. To enable him to order the one-star generals in the villa about without back talk, Frigg is promoted to Major General and then smuggled into Italy. Upon reaching the villa, he begins engineering the escape, but when he meets the owner, Contessa Francesca de Montefiore (Sylva Koscina), who resides there, he predictably slows down his plans.  Visiting the Countess every night, he delays the generals through some diversionary escape maneuvers.

When the escape date finally arrives, another postponement is caused by the need to make the Italian commandant a general at midnight.  During the midnight celebration, Nazi officers come to the villa and announce the country's surrender  and the transfer of  prisoners to a German stalag. Once deprived of the Countess' company and the luxurious villa, Frigg snaps back to his old self and shrewdly engineers the generals' escape, for which he is cited for a commission, and winds up stationed at an Army radio station in the Countess' villa.

The farcical picture aims to show the maturing of Frigg under the stress of responsibility, but as played by Newman, he seems as frivolous at the end of the saga as at its beginning. 

Director Frank Corsaro, who had worked with Newman in the 1964 stage play, “Baby Want a Kiss,” was one of the few helmers able to get a decent comic turn from the star.

Cast

Paul Newman
Sylva Koscina
Andrew Duggan
Tom Bosley
John Williams
Charles D. Gray
Vito Scotti

With: Jacques Roux, Werner Peters, James Gregory, Fabrizio Mioni, Johnny Haymer, Norman Fell, Buck Henry, Horst Ebersberg, Richard X. Slattery, and George Ives

Credits

An Albion Production for Universal.
Produced by Hal E. Chester.
Directed by Jack Smight.
Screenplay by Peter Stone and Frank Tarloff, based on a story by Frank Tarloff.
Camera by Russell Metty.
Music by Carlo Rustichelli.
Musical Supervision, Joseph Gershenson.
Art Direction, Alexander Golitzen and Henry Bumstead.
Set decorations, John McCarthy and John Austin.
Sound: Walden O. Watson, William Russell and Ronald Pierce.
Costumes by Edith Head.
Makeup by Bud Westmore.
Hairstyles by Larry Germain.
Associate Producer, Peter Stone. 

Location scenes shot in Sierra Madre area of Southern California. 

Running time: 110 Minutes.