Peter O’Toole, playing an Irishman for the first time does so with a gleaming zest that brings nerve and style to this wartime anecdote. It was shot mainly in a remote uncomfortable part of Venezuela’s Orinoco River and director Peter Yates has brought out every ounce of the discomfort of the location.
Film opens with World War II drawing to a sluggish close. A German U-Boat torpedoes an armed merchantman and all survivors are bumped off, except, apparently, O’Toole, one of the ship’s aviation mechanics.
He is rescued by a French oil engineer (Philippe Noiret) who wants nothing more than to lie doggo till the war’s over, but he takes O’Toole to a nearby Quaker mission where he’s nursed by the missionary-nurse, played by Sian Phillips.
Another survivor is brought to the mission but is killed by the Germans. Before his death he pleads with O’Toole to find his wrecked plane and keep it out of enemy hands. The Mad Murphy has a better idea. He decides to patch it up and blow the submarine to the high heavens.