Comparison of the restored and extended version and the original theatrical version. The Special Edition by Carlton consists of two DVDs. The first disc contains the extended version (with subtitles), the second disc provides the theatrical version (without subtitles).
Director John Sturges depicts a fictional commando mission from a German point of view. The detailed preparation of said mission fails due to the weaknesses of the involved persons but on the other side, the Allied troops don't act too competent as well.
Running time of the restored and extended version: 2:25:04 Min.
Running time of the censored theatrical version: 2:09:53 Min.
Removed scenes: 6
Duration of the removed scenes: 875 Sec
The theatrical version includes a different introduction: 25 Sec
Both versions miss a logo.
The theatrical version starts with a newsreel report about the liberation of Mussolini by German paratroopers. This intro is missing in the extended version.
At the beginning of the restored & extended version the following text appears on screen.
1.)"At least half of this story can be documented by historical facts."
2.)"The audience will have to decide how much of the rest is reality or fiction..."
3.)"It began in the Bavarian Alps in September 1943."
New scene: the camera moves in bird's eye view. Donald Pleasence (as Heinrich Himmler) arrives at a castle (not further elaborated) in the Alps. He's being escorted by two motobikes. Alone, he walks to the entrance of the castle, hands his coat to the receptionist and approaches the stairs. A guard stands in front of the door and several people draw closer from out of the background. Those persons are Himmler, Peter Miles (as Adolf Hitler) and Anthony Quayle (as Admiral Canaris). The following conversation ensues:
"(Hitler) It is the opportunity of a lifetime, Admiral Canaris."
"Wouldn`t you agree, Reichsführer Himmler?"
"We cannot expect less from section three of our beloved Abwehr. We will not"
Himmler and Canaris talk about Hitler's mood before they switch back to Mussolini's liberation from the mounatains of Gran Sasso. Canaris congratulates Himmler on Skorzeny. Himmler thanks and compliments Canaris and switches topics to a new of Hitler's plans. Canaris asks for Himmler's feelings about that. Himmler is optimistic!
After the conversation with Canaris Robert Duvall (as Col. Max Rad') takes the stairs to his office. In the anteroom he meets his adjutant. We see that he wants to say something but the Colonel doesn't notice. He enters his office and meets Ferdy Mayne (as Col. Radl's doctor) who's waiting for him. Without saying a word he walks over to the cabinet and takes out a glass and a bottle of brandy. Silently the doctor watches. The colonel only pours himself a drink. The doctor says that Radl better ought to put a bullet in his own head because it would kill him faster. Unmoved the colonel takes a big gulp. The doctor complains about Radl not committing to any appointments they've arranged, the last one being this morning. Radl says the meeting with the admiral to discuss Hitler's special plan was of much more importance in regard of his health. The doctor accuses Radl of being very stubborn and Radl replies that he doesn't have much time left anyway. The doctor says that Radl finally have to stop destroying himself while Radls finishes his drink. Then the adjutant enters and the theatrical version continues.
The conversation of Donald Sutherland (as Liam Devlin) and Jean Marsh (as Joanna Grey) is longer. They talk about the plan to kidnap Winston Churchill. She asks for his connections and gives him some tips regarding the handling of stolen gasoline. Then they drink to the operation. To avoid unnecessary attention Mrs. Marsh tells Mr. Devlin to not contact her anymore if possible. Devlin checks the area with the motocycle while Jenny Agutter (as Molly Prior) watches him doing so.
Outside a hangar Michael Caine (as Col. Kurt Steiner) and Sven-Bertil Taube (as Hans von Neustadt) are talking about a mission. Von Neustadt has doubts. Steiner says it could help to stop the "bombs". Furthermore they discuss an incident in Poland and the legitimation of kidnapping a civilian.
Next scene: Liam Devlin drives his motocycle to his house. He enters and sees that some has cooked for him. He takes off his jacket and hears some noise coming from the front door. He quickly grabs a book and puts on some slippers to create the impression of him being here for a while, reading. He focuses on the front door and doesn't notice Molly entering through the back door. Shocked he looks at her. Both start smiling. They talk about books and then he reads one to her.
Liam Devlin returns to his house at night. Because light comes from the next room he recognizes that he's not alone. He takes his rifle, loads it and then pushes a door open with the barrel. Wrapped in blanket, Molly sits in the next room, looking at him. He reminds her that he told her not to come over tonight. She says she found something and points at the table in front of her. There we see some stencils. He changes the topic and throws her a bag of pantyhoses. She wants to know where they come from and guesses that the only way is the black market. He asks her if she wants to rat him out to the police. She declines and hugs him.
Father Verecker enters a room, takes a seat and starts to read the paper. But soon his gardener interrupts him. They talk about an escape tunnel.