Triple Cross (1966 film)

Triple Cross is a 1966 Anglo-French war spy film directed by Terence Young and produced by Jacques-Paul Bertrand. It was released in France in December 1966 as La Fantastique histoire vraie d'Eddie Chapman, but elsewhere in Europe and the United States in 1967 as Terence Young's Triple Cross. It was filmed in Eastman Color, print by Technicolor.

Triple Cross
DVD cover
Directed byTerence Young
Produced byJacques-Paul Bertrand
Screenplay byRené Hardy
William Marchant (additional dialogue)
Based onThe Eddie Chapman Story (1953 novel)
by Eddie Chapman and Frank Owen
Music byGeorges Garvarentz
CinematographyHenri Alekan
Edited byRoger Dwyre
Cineurop Company
Distributed byWarner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • 9 December 1966 (1966-12-09)
  • 19 July 1967 (1967-07-19)
(United States)
Running time
140 minutes (UK)
126 minutes (US)
CountryUnited Kingdom

Triple Cross was based loosely on the real-life story of Eddie Chapman, believed by the Nazis to be their top spy in Great Britain, although he was actually an MI5 double agent known as "Zigzag". The title of the film comes from Chapman's signature to mark he was freely transmitting by radio, a Morse code XXX. Another meaning of the title "Triple Cross" becomes clear in the final scene of the film. Chapman, sitting at a bar, is asked who he was really working for. In reply, he raises his glass in salute to his reflection in the mirror.

Triple Cross is the second pairing of Terence Young and actress Claudine Auger. She was the leading James Bond girl in Thunderball (1965), which Young also directed.


Early in the Second World War, debonair safecracker Eddie Chapman (Christopher Plummer) blows open a wall safe. Outside, a car is backfiring repeatedly and a marching band is passing, which mask the blast. Chapman casually removes some jewels from the safe and examines them for the choicest items. He leaves a card in the safe complimenting its owners for being victims of the "Gelignite Gang". The gang pulls off a series of heists before Chapman is caught while on holiday on the island of Jersey, where he is imprisoned. After ten months, he sees German soldiers landing outside the prison and learns that war has broken out.

Chapman offers to work as a spy for the Germans, who are at first skeptical of his motives, but because of his unique qualifications they must consider it. They eventually fake his execution and smuggle him into occupied France where, working closely with his handler, Col. Baron von Grunen (Yul Brynner), he is trained to be a spy. He becomes romantically involved with a fellow spy known only as Countess (Romy Schneider), one of the agents who first interviewed him. He is closely watched by the dour Lt. Keller (Harry Meyen), who never trusts him. They are all watched by Col. Steinhager (Gert Fröbe), von Grunen's immediate subordinate.

On his first mission Chapman is parachuted into England at night, but it turns out to be a test of his loyalty and he has actually been dropped close to the German spy school. He comes up with a plausible story to explain why it took him as long as it did to radio his German handlers. He is then dropped into England on an actual mission, but goes straight to the police and via them to the British military. He shows his identity card and identifies several radio frequencies the Germans are using, which, since they already know some to be secret German war-use frequencies, convinces the British officials Chapman's story is true. They negotiate with him: in return for working as a double agent for Britain he wants a full pardon for his crimes, £5,000, and a war commendation.

The Germans radio a message ordering Chapman to blow up the Vickers aircraft factory. The British use fake explosives and camouflage to make it seem like Chapman has been successful. His German handlers order him to return to Germany, where he learns that von Grunen has been sent to the Russian front and, because the tide of the war has turned against Germany, everyone is suspicious and afraid. He receives the Iron Cross for having accomplished his Vickers mission; and is able to get von Grunen recalled. Chapman's next mission to England, devised by von Grunen (who is part of a group of officers plotting to assassinate Adolf Hitler), is intended to benefit all the branches of the German military. But Chapman returns to his British handlers, who give him false information to send to the German forces, which significantly hastens the end of the war. Chapman ends up on the winning side, which he has always said was what motivated his wartime activities, with his pardon and his financial compensation.



In his autobiography, Christopher Plummer said that Chapman was to have been a technical adviser on the film but the French authorities would not allow him in the country because he was still wanted over an alleged plot to kidnap the Sultan of Morocco.[1]


Reviews were generally mixed for Triple Cross. The review for Variety thought Plummer's performance was listless and the plot hackneyed. "Though based on a true story of a British safecracker who worked as a double spy during the Second World War, Triple Cross is made in the standard spy pattern of having him a ladies' man, fast with his mitts, glib and shrewd, and with overloaded and obvious suspense bits thrown in to rob this of the verisimilitude needed to give it a more original fillip."[2] Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 2.5 out of 4 stars and described the film as: "A slow-paced, loosely plotted excursion into the Spy business. One or two competent performances struggle to its surface, tread water briefly and sink. It's hard to fix the blame."[3]




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