Review: Murphy’s War
Blu-ray: Murphy’s War (1971)
A very different story from the Max Chatto novel, Murphy’s War starring real life married couple Peter O’Toole and Siân Phillips and directed by Peter Yates, is a showcase for O’Toole’s acting.
Set in South America, filmed in Malta and Venuzula, it tells the story of the last survivor of a UK WW2 Nazi torpedoed ship, who is intent on revenge after the German crew machine gun all the survivors in the water.
Injured Murphy is picked up nearly dead and taken to a missionary settlement on the Orinoco in Venezuela, where he is treated by a pacifist Quaker doctor, Dr Hayden (Siân Phillips).
On discovering this nazi U boat can travel up and down rivers and is in fact hiding upriver, he plans to sink it using a surviving Grumman J2F Duck floatplane.
In one long and hair raising scene Murphy teaches himself to fly this plane, finds the U boats hiding place and tries to bomb it using Molotov cocktails aided by new French friend Louis (Philippe Noiret).
All his attempts fail, but Murphy is relentless and will not give up until the bitter-sweet end.
Apparently this was a troubled film, with producer Michael Deeley regretting that he and Peter Yates turned down the chance to make The Godfather (1972) to make Murphy’s War.
Also O’Toole did all his own stunts, including swimming through water on fire with oil and with explosives going off! It wasn’t a success on release and is definitely one of those films you’d watch with your dad on a Sunday afternoon in 1979.
It’s worth watching just for O’Toole’s performance alone, you can forgive his terrible Oirish accent because he has a twinkle in his eye.
- High Definition remaster
- Original mono audio
- Michael Deeley in Conversation (2008, 42 mins): archival audio recording of the Murphy’s War producer in an onstage discussion with Matt Field, recorded at London’s BFI Southbank
- Philippe Noiret on ‘Murphy’s War’ (1971, 6 mins): extract from the French television programme Bulletin d’information
- A Great Adventure (2022, 31 mins): in-depth account of the film’s production with editor and assistant director John Glen
- Dougie, Chic and Me (2022, 18 mins): focus puller Robin Vidgeon recalls working with director of photography Douglas Slocombe and camera operator Chic Waterson
- One Man Army (2022, 18 mins): appreciation by academic and film historian Sheldon Hall
- Behind the Camera: Douglas Slocombe (1999, 13 mins): archival documentary by Richard Blanshard on the great cinematographer, featuring interviews with Richard Attenborough, Frank Marshall, Alan Parker and Ken Russell
- Super 8 version: original cut-down home-cinema presentation
- Alternative US ending credits
- Textless theatrical trailer
- Image gallery: promotional and publicity material
- New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
- Limited edition exclusive 36-page booklet with a new essay by Julian Wheeler, a look at the production of the film, an archival interview with Peter O’Toole, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits
- World premiere on Blu-ray
- Limited edition of 3,000 copies for the UK
Review by Tina from a disc kindly supplied by Powerhouse Films.