Morituri (1965 film)

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Morituri (The Saboteur)
Original movie poster for the film Morituri.jpg
original movie poster
Directed byBernhard Wicki
Produced byAaron Rosenberg
Screenplay byDaniel Taradash
Based onMorituri
1958 novel
by Werner Jörg Lüddecke (in German)
StarringMarlon Brando
Yul Brynner
Janet Margolin
Trevor Howard
Wally Cox
Music byJerry Goldsmith
CinematographyConrad L. Hall
Edited byJoseph Silver
Distributed byTwentieth Century-Fox
Release date
  • August 25, 1965 (1965-08-25)
Running time
123 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$3,000,000[2]

Morituri (also known as The Saboteur: Code Name Morituri) is a 1965 film about the Allied sabotage during World War II of a German merchant ship carrying rubber, a critical product during the war. The film stars Marlon Brando, Yul Brynner, Trevor Howard, Janet Margolin, and Wally Cox, it was directed by Bernhard Wicki. The filming occurred almost exclusively on an old German freighter.


Robert Crain (Marlon Brando) is a German pacifist living in India during World War II, he is blackmailed by the Allies into using his engineering experience to disable the scuttling charges of a German merchant ship Ingo carrying rubber from Japan. The Allies hope to recover the ship before it is scuttled by the captain because rubber is in short supply and essential for the war effort.

On board the ship, Crain finds the captain (Yul Brynner) to be a patriotic German who despises the Nazis, his first officer, however, is a fanatical Party member. Several of the crew are political prisoners pressed into service because of labor shortages; eventually Crain enlists them in a plan to give the ship to the Allies. Complications arise when several American prisoners and two suspicious Germany Naval officers are brought on board from a Japanese submarine. One prisoner, Esther (Janet Margolin), a young German Jew, joins the plot.

About to be exposed, Crain organizes a mutiny which fails, after which he sets off demolition charges; the surviving crew abandons ship, leaving behind Crain and the captain. The lard being transported in the hold spills and acts as a temporary stopper, keeping them afloat. Crain convinces the captain to radio the Allies for rescue.



The film did not do well on its original release and was a financial disaster. In an attempt to increase its commercial appeal, the film was reissued in 1965 under a new title as Saboteur: Code Name Morituri. Critic Bosley Crowther of the New York Times criticized it for being "turgid." He praised Brando's performance, however, saying:

It is a role that calls for Mr. Brando to play a slyly deceptive game, conning the suspicious ship's officers into trusting him while he sneaks around defusing the explosive charges, and then to risk his neck in several ways while he secretly musters a gang of prisoners and dissatisfied crewmen to take control of the ship.

And he plays it with evident enjoyment, milking the moments of suspense with all his beautiful skill at holding pauses and letting tense thought churn behind his bland eyes. Again he speaks with a juicy German accent, as he did in "The Young Lions," and affects the elegant air of a fellow who packs an iron first in a silken glove.

But, alas, the melodrama is as turgid as that title they have given the film, and anxiety over the fate of Mr. Brando is dissipated in a vastly cluttered plot.[3]

The title "Morituri", the plural of a Latin word meaning "about to die," is a reference to a phrase used by Suetonius, Ave Imperator, morituri te salutant. (Hail Emperor, they who are about to die salute you.)

Critic reviews of the time have not been collated on Rotten Tomatoes, but the film has a 71% approval rating by audience viewers.[4]

Box office[edit]

According to Fox records, the film needed to earn $10,500,000 in rentals to break even and made $4,045,000.[5]


The film was nominated for two Oscars in the 39th Academy Awards (1966) for best black-and-white cinematography (Conrad L. Hall) and best black-and-white costume design (Moss Mabry).

Meet Marlon Brando[edit]

After having appeared in a series of box office disappointments, Brando agreed to promote Morituri for the studio by participating in a day-long press junket at the Hampshire Hotel in New York City;[6] this event was the subject of Meet Marlon Brando (1966), a 29-minute black-and-white documentary film directed by Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin.[7] Brando was praised for his performance in the documentary by critic Howard Thompson who wrote, "The actor was never more appealing than in this candid-camera cameo, his best performance."[6]

The documentary premiered at the New York Film Festival in 1966. Since then, it has aired on French television but was not shown in its entirety in the United States until Fandor made it available on November 15, 2013.[8]


  1. ^ Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p254
  2. ^ Anticipated rentals accruing distributors in North America. See "Top Grossers of 1965", Variety, 5 January 1966 p 36
  3. ^ BOSLEY CROWTHER, "Seaborne Melodrama at Midtown Theaters", New York Times, 26 August 1965, accessed 17 April 2016
  4. ^ Morituri at Rotten Tomatoes
  5. ^ Silverman, Stephen M (1988). The Fox that got away : the last days of the Zanuck dynasty at Twentieth Century-Fox. L. Stuart. p. 324.
  6. ^ a b Meet Marlon Brando (1965) – Fandor.
  7. ^ Meet Marlon Brando – Maysles Films, Inc.
  8. ^ Bernstein, Paula. "Exclusive Clip from 'Meet Marlon Brando,' Maysles Brothers Doc, Available for the First Time", Indiewire, 14 November 2013

External links[edit]