The Short Version? If you can't kill Hitler, kill time.
What Is It? Thriller.
Who Is In It? Peter O'Toole.
Should I See It? Maybe.
Aristocrat and game hunter Sir Robert Thorndyke appears to be on a sporting stalk when he takes aim at Adolph Hitler. He is caught by ze Nazis and tortured. This was done in hopes of yielding a confession that he was acting on orders from British Foreign Office Intelligence. The year is 1939, when appeasement was the name of the game, so such a confession would have political capitol. Thorndyke toughs it out, and his "accidental" death is engineered, but also unsuccessful. The rest of the movie is spent with Thorndyke on the run, finding allies where he can.
Rogue Male is based on the 1939 novel of the same name by Geoffrey Household, which also spawned the previous film adaptation Man Hunt and heavily influenced the creation of David Morrell's "John Rambo" character. As one would expect, there's plenty of cat and mouse games to be played, but this adaptation is troubled from the onset. If the hunter intended to assassinate Hitler, he failed, and the more immediate villains Thorndyke comes into conflict with afterward are progressively less compelling. The movie is frontloaded with its premise, leaving the lion's share of the film feeling like an epilogue, or worse, an afterthought. Fritz Lang's Man Hunt dealt with this problem by offering a love interest and a constant pursuer, not to mention an exceptional supporting cast. Here, Thorndyke remains a defeated man throughout, despite the repeated accomplishment of maintaining his composure and very life, but to no clear end. His attachments rarely last past a single scene, leaving the entire film to rest on Peter O'Toole's shoulders.
Here lies the argument to see this picture: Peter O'Toole has called Sir Robert Thorndyke one of his favorite roles, and he displays more range here than in just about any other production he partook of. It's a showy performance, and O'Toole clearly relishes the opportunity to strut. If you can overlook the plodding pace, awkward directorial flourishes, low rent BBC-TV production values, anachronistic hair and lack of real tension, Peter O'Toole makes the film worth the bother.
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