Friday, January 11, 2019

Brass Target

On December 21, 1945, General George Patton died as a result of injuries sustained in a car crash. The 1970s were a period when conspiracy theory books and movies were a big thing, so it is perhaps not surprising that somebody would revisit Patton's death and suggest that it was not a car accident, but an assassination. After all, Patton did have quite a few political opponents. Anyhow, that novel was adapted into the movie Brass Target.

George Kennedy plays General Patton, who at the beginning of the movie is dealing with a pretty substantial problem. A train of Reichsbank gold that was being transported for safekeeping to Frankfurt was waylaid in a tunnel, and the $250 million in gold (quite a sum for 1945) stolen. Worse, the US Army soldiers guarding the train were all killed. So you can see why Patton would want to find out who did it. Plus, the Soviets aren't happy with him.

The first suspect is Maj. Joe De Lucca (John Cassavetes). De Lucca was a former member of US military intelligence, and he came up with the plan for stealing Nazi gold from the Nazis that was used by somebody else to steal the Nazi gold from the Americans. Since military justice doesn't work quite like the innocent until proven guilty of the American system, especially in an occupation zone, De Lucca decides that he'd better investigate the case himself and figure out who did it in order to prove that he didn't.

We learn fairly early that it's an inside job, as a group of OSS men led by Col. Rogers (Robert Vaughn) is behind the heist. Worse, when Maj. De Lucca meets his old girlfriend Mara (Sophia Loren). She discovers that another former boyfriend, Shelley Webber (Max von Sydow), now of a refugee resettlement organization in Switzerland, is really a professional assassin and is being hired by Rogers to kill Patton! Now she and De Lucca have to stop that.

Of course, we know from history that they don't prevent Patton's death, although whether or not he was assassinated is a different question. But Webber leaves a lot of carnage in his wake before the end of the movie.

Brass Target is an interesting idea, but one that doesn't quite succeed in the execution. It's slow, and has a difficult plot to follow. Kennedy has the difficult task of playing Patton when George C. Scott's bravura portrayal of the general was still fresh in the moviegoing public's memory. Kennedy does the best he can, and thankfully it's not the biggest role in the movie. Everybody else tries, but it hamstrung by the poor script.

Brass Target is available on DVD from the Warner Archive, if you want to watch and judge for yourself.

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