Rogue Male (1977)
Let’s not focus on comparing this Peter O’Toole starring effort with that of the earlier version from Fritz Lang featuring Walter Pidgeon in 1941’s Man Hunt. It just wouldn’t seem fair. There I go already insinuating that this one isn’t nearly the film that the earlier one is. Enough! On to the version at hand.
“An elephant separated from the herd is known as a Rogue Male.”
Beginning in Germany of 1939, our leading man is seen in the opening stanza of the film lining up Adolf Hitler in the scope of his rifle at a secluded estate in the German countryside. Unfortunately for O’Toole, he is discovered by some guards on the perimeter and finds himself in the company of SS Officer, John Standing. It’s an abrupt edit to the torture seat where O’Toole is bloodied and beaten. Soon to follow is the removal of his fingernails. Thankfully off screen.
The war with Britain has not broken out yet so Standing’s Officer has a problem on his hands. A respected English gentleman and world famous author and hunter in the palm of his hand. It’s decided that an “accident” should occur leaving O’Toole a dead man on a hunt for wild boar. Much to Standing’s chagrin, O’Toole seems to have nine lives and survives the torture, being thrown from a cliff and somehow makes his way back to England via a freighter while eluding Gestapo agents.
Once back in England, O’Toole finds himself under the constant watch of enemy agents who have infiltrated the English landscape. His well connected Uncle played by Alastair Sim suggests he might, “Go hide in Canada” and further points out that, “shooting heads of state is never in season.” O’Toole has no such intention and in a decently filmed chase, he cuts short the life of one enemy agent who clearly intends to kill him in a game of cat and mouse below the city streets in the subway.
From here O’Toole goes to hide in the English countryside and following his trail by means of a book written by O’Toole’s world renowned hunter is the SS Officer who wants his pound of flesh for having let Peter escape his grasp, Mr. Standing. More chase scenes and cat an mouse shenanigans are to follow as O’Toole has a hideaway that Standing can’t quite figure out so it’s back to O’Toole’s book on hunting and capturing one’s prey. Soon the two will be deadlocked in a war of words that can only lead to one ending.
Directed by Clive Donner who worked primarily in television and the Get Smart big screen adaptation known as The Nude Bomb (saw as a kid on the big screen), Rogue Male comes off as a bit amateurish overall. It’s too small in scope and plays a bit stage bound despite the location shoot. Chalk it all up to budget restraints I suppose. Peter O’Toole does fit the role nicely I must say in his defence. He’s perfectly cast as the suffering soul who has tempted fate a bit too closely, finding himself at odds with the rising power of Hitler’s regime.
There is a frequent use of flashbacks to a gentler time showing O’Toole and his lady love who is off to war though it seems rather unclear as to just why. The scenes don’t meld together with the overall narrative and are a definite weak point of the script. Perhaps Harold Pinter who is cast here as a friend of O’Toole’s might have better served the production by contributing to the screen adaptation of the original source novel from Geoffrey Household. Pinter has a long list of writing credits attached to his name including screenplays for The French Lieutenant’s Woman and The Quiller Memorandum.
An interesting idea, remaking the Lang film that in the end comes up short. Not so surprising but I’m making an effort to see more Peter O’Toole films lately as he’s an actor I’ve never gone out of my way to see. Sure I’ve seen the major films but the lesser known ones have evaded me so I’m playing catch up to flicks like this one and Murphy’s War. The version I scored of this title is a budget label DVD release so I can’t compliment it’s quality but I don’t think that had any impact on my overall view of the film which is watchable but by no means a must see other than for those looking to complete their list of O’Toole titles or enjoy comparing remakes to their original film versions.