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Cast | Classic Lines | Foreign Titles | Notes | Pictures | Quotes | Soundtrack | My Summary | My Review | Taglines

Cast

Character Actor
SS Captain Von Berkow Malcolm McDowell
The Basque Anthony Quinn
Prof. John Bergson James Mason
The Gypsy Christopher Lee
Ariel Bergson Patricia Neal
Leah Bergson Kay Lenz
Renoudot Michael Lonsdale
Perea Marcel Bozzuffi
Paul Bergson Paul Clemens
Madame Rose Alba
Gypsy's Son Robert Rhys
French Guide Peter Arne
Lieutenant Reincke Neville Jason
German Soldier James Broadbent
German Major Frederick Jaeger
1st German Sentry Terence York
2nd German Sentry Terence Maidment

Directed By J. Lee Thompson
Written by Bruce Nicolayson

Classic Lines

Von Berkow:
"You French and your pastries."
"Chop, chop. Chop, chop."
"Oh, you are a philosopher!"
 "I always keep my word, I'll send him him right where he told me to go...HELL!"

Foreign Titles

Belgium Passeur D'Hommes
Germany Paß des Todes
Italy Casablanca Passage
Turkey Gecit

Notes

Pictures

Malcolm's screen credit
Von Berkow's first scene entering a Nazi office in France

The guards finally realize Von Berkow is with the SS

P-4 The Gypsy tied to a chair with Von Berkow next to him

Quotes

Uma Thurman on the movie that freaked her out: "When I was young there was one called 'The Passage.' It horrified me. I think Malcolm McDowell chopped off someone's fingers. I never got over it." 12/10/03

Malcolm

"That movie contains some of the best work I've ever done. I managed to pack into a dozen scenes with the whole period of Nazi tyranny in a convincingly evil way." - Starlog 9/83

"I played this real nasty Nazi who was chasing these people across the Pyrenees. We all knew real early on that the movie was not going to be any great work of art and so I was determined to have some fun with it. My attitude was that if I was going to play a Nazi, I was going to take it totally over the top and do it right. I ended up playing the character like a pantomime queen. What I was doing was so far out that James Mason turned to me one day and said, 'That's wonderful dear boy, but are you in our film? You seem to be doing something different from the rest of us'," (laughs). - Starburst 7/95

Soundtrack

1. Into Action (2:49) 
2. Preparation (2:01) 
3. Hesitation (0:37) 
4. Planning (1:11) 
5. Further Preparation (1:04) 
6. Thoughts (0:45) 
7. Getting ready (2:05) 
8. Bordello Time (2:46) 
9. Further Thoughts (1:11) 
10. Awakenings (0:46) 
11. Pyrenean Prospect (2:11) 
12. Trouble ahead (1:42) 
13. Apassionata (3:44) 
14. Troubled Times (3:36) 
15. Relaxing at Bordello (3:54) 
16. Setting Out (0:20) 
17. Pursuit (2:03) 
18. Battle Sequence (2:59) 
19. Anguish (3:32) 
20. Chase (1:36) 
21. Get Them (3:16) 
22. Nightmare (1:04) 
23. Finale: Theme from "The Passage" (03:04) 
Total: 48:16

My Summary

    The time is 1940. A Basque shepherd has lived alone in his house in the Pyrenees mountains with his flock of sheep for the last year since his wife died. One cold day two members of the French Resistance, Renoudot and Perea come to his house for his assistance on a mission. They will pay him $2000 to escort a Professor across the mountains to safety before the Nazis can get him. He figures the man must be important and worth much more, but he can't leave his sheep for too long. He wants to know why they picked him. It is because they heard he knows the mountains better than anyone. He agrees to $4000 in advance and that he must be back in four days to tend to his sheep. The only catch is they have to take a train to Toulouse and get the professor back to his house.
    They arrive at the train station and the Nazis do not hassle them. The three men head off to a house where the professor is hiding in the attic. Down below there is a party going on and German soldiers are in attendance. At the same time the resistance men are getting there, so too is SS Captain Von Berkow looking for the professor as well. The men get to the attic only to learn that they have to smuggle the professor AND his family - wife Ariel, daughter Leah and son Paul. This is much more than he bargained for and the wife is old and there is no chance she will make it. Before they can do anything though, there is word that the Gestapo is on the way up. They all escape through a secret passage in the wall as the Nazis break down the door.
    They run down the street and the Nazis are only minutes behind them. They hide in an alley and Renoudot allows himself to be caught as the Basque sneaks up from behind to nail the agent. They are on the run to the train station while Renoudot stays behind and gets captured by Von Berkow.
    When it looks like the family and the guides are safely away on the train an agent jumps on the train at the last second. The agent searches from car to car to find them and eventually gets to their car. He recognizes the professor and goes to take them away. Before he can, one of the resistance men pulls an emergency cord and the train comes to a rough stop. Everyone pours out and resistance men attack and it turns out to have been an ammunition train which blows up into many fireballs in the night as they spray it with machine gun fire. Paul goes down and his father goes back to save him, but the Basque has to carry the kid as they flee into the woods.
    Meanwhile Berkow is questioning Renoudot. The man claims he knows nothing and is not in the resistance, but in fact is just a baker. Berkow asks him if he makes strudel, but he tells him he should try his pastries. "You French and your pastries", he replies. Berkow tells him how he should have been a colonel. In fact all his family was either colonels or generals in the regular army, the Wehrmacht. He is SS though and has a higher purpose and knows in 10 years they will build a new empire that will last 1000 years and he will be part of it. He decides that it'll be much easier to just pay the prisoner for the information and the man tells him that the Basque will smuggle the professor and his family out of the country by boat, but that he doesn't know where the boat is. Berkow tells him that now that they are on the same side won't he join him for dinner?
    Meanwhile the family takes shelter in a barn for the night. Paul yells at his dad that it is all his fault that they are in this mess and that he tried to leave him behind. The Basque says if he was his son he would kill him for talking like that. In the morning the Basque sees a gypsy caravan preparing to head out. He wants the gypsies to take the family along their escape route, but the Gypsy leader isn't interested. The Basque has to pay him $1000 for them to smuggle the family in with their caravan.
    Von Berkow is in the kitchen with a chef's hat and apron complete with Iron Cross making a stew. Renoudot is beaten and bloody and chained to a table and Berkow pours boiling soup in his mouth making him scream. "Needs more salt", he tells him and then begins to chop up some paprika. Renoudot then admits he lied to him about the boat and Berkow tells him he knows, but won't hold it against him. He then starts chopping oh so close to his fingers "Chop, chop. Chop, chop", he recites. Before you know it he has started chopping off the prisoners fingers.
    The Gypsy convoy is moving through town and blocking the streets. A German staff car is trying to get by and honking at them. They are talking about how eventually they will slow the Germans down and beat them and the leader says they have already slowed them down. They picked the wrong Germans to mess with because it turns out to be Von Berkow's staff car. He forces all the gypsies out and lines them up. He talks to the leader and asks who the Basque is, the man tells him he is his brother. When the story matches he checks out Leah and likes what he sees. He then finds there is a man hiding in one of the carts. When he demands him to get out Leah tells him that it he is her father and is with fever and dying. Berkow covers his faces and looks in and sees a man all sweaty and dirty and believes her. He then slaps her so hard across the face that it knocks her down. The only one that moves to help her is her brother. A soldier quickly pulls him off and Berkow helps her up. He tells them the only ones with any courage are the women and children and takes Leah away with him in his car.
    He gets her back to a room in the headquarters and makes her undress and shower, even helping her at one point. He doesn't want her to dry off though. He takes off his clothes and laughs as he displays his white underpants with a big black swastika on them. She gets into bed wet and he has his way with her. When he is finished he takes her hand and notices a ring on it. He remembers the ring from a picture of her. He tells her he knew she wasn't a gypsy, but didn't know she was the professor's daughter who must be nearby. He leaves to find him, but the Basque has infiltrated the house and frees her.
    Berkow finds the gypsy caravan and tears it apart looking for the professor, but doesn't find him. He then ties up the leader to a chair and douses him with gasoline. Once again he asks where the family went, but the gypsy refuses and tells him to go to hell. "Don't you fear death?", he asks while lighting a cigarette and blowing on it. "We all have to die sometime" the gypsy replies. "Oh, you are a philosopher!", he responds. The leaders' son tells Berkow the family went off into the mountains and asks will Berkow now spare his fathers life. "I always keep my word, I'll send him him right where he told me to go...HELL!" and he throws the cigarette on him and he explodes into flame. The gypsies try in vain to put him out and are gunned downed anyway.
    The Basque leads the family through the snow and up the giant mountain with Perea covering the rear. They only have a two hour head start on the Nazis as Berkow gets a local guide and four men and is hot on the trail.
    The group struggles to keep up with the Basque and it is obvious the mother is in trouble. They make it up to a cabin for mountain travelers and stop for the night. The mother exclaims that she is glad the worst is over and the men tell her that was the easiest part. During the night she goes of into the snow to commit suicide so she won't slow them down any longer. The men see this, but let her go.
    The next day they go looking for her and the professor is distraught to find her dead and enraged that the guides didn't stop her. The Basque tells him he can relate since he lost his wife last year. They proceed on and can see the Nazi team is not far below. Perea stays behind to snipe at the Nazi search party and the rest continue on. Berkow sees this in his binoculars and isn't fooled. Perea sets up his position and starts shooting the Nazis and they all go down. But Berkow pops up 20 feet away and throws a grenade at him and rolls away. Berow had given his hat to another soldier to make it look like it was him and that soldier now lay there dying.
    Berkow tells his guide he doesn't trust him and knows he is trying to lead them astray. He asks why they are going the way they are and he tells them that is the way he would go. Soon they have lost sight of the family and Berkow tells him there must be another way around. The guide tells him there is, but that is leads straight to an army guard-post and it would be stupid for them to go that way. "Stupid, yes. That's what they want us to think", he tells him and decides that is the way they went.
    The Basque arrives at the guard-post and lures a soldier carrying rope away and kills him. Paul takes the rope and sneaks up the bridge while the Basque and Leah sneak up by the gate after a truck pulls up and empties out. Paul heads off and gets a machine gun and so does the Basque. Leah drives the truck up to the gate and distracts the guards and everyone starts shooting. Even the professor shoots some guards in a pillbox. As the big firefight breaks out fuel tanks blow up and the family escapes into Spain.
    Berkow arrives and is disgusted that the post has been blown up by an old man and some kids. The major in charge won't let him go into Spain because they are neutral. Berkow's French guide isn't allowed to go in and asks the major if he can go home and he agrees. While he is walking away Berkow shoots him in the back and the major arrests him. When the major finds out that Berkow is under direct orders from Himmler and the Fuehrer has an agreement with Franco, he has to let Berkow go. Meanwhile Berkow does a Hitler impression in the mirror by combing his hair to the side and putting the comb under his nose as a mustache.
    Berkow sets off alone after the family who now think they have lost him. A few hours later when the professor spots Berkow he wants to give up so everyone else can get away. He is just tired of fighting. Paul is sorry for yelling at his dad before and the professor admits it is part of growing up. The Basque doesn't want to hear about it and tells them to move on while he deals with Berkow. He hides on a hill and gets Berkows attention so Berkow starts shooting at him. This eventually causes an avalanche and it buries Berkow.
    Not long after they make it back to the Basque's house where he is able to tend to his sheep again. None of the sheep have died and Paul quickly takes to helping him out. The Basque says he is a fast learner. The professor says that it worries him because he had to learn to use a gun fast as well and now they are on the same level since they were forced to kill. Before they can continue to spend more time waxing philosophically, Berkow comes crashing through the door all bloody and brandishing a Luger. He tells them they are all dead except for the professor. They tell him he is too hurt to kill them and doesn't have long to live. Berkow then proceeds to shoot them all in the face and the blood flies everywhere. Then to our surprise we see that Berkow in fact only thought he shot them all, but was just hallucinating and drops down dead.
    The next day the family leaves and the Basque watches them go. The End.

My Review

    This film had been a thorn in my side for more than a decade as it was the only early major film of his I hadn't seen. It has never, ever been released in the US on any format, so I was out of luck. I finally found someone who had the original UK PAL tape and was able to transfer it to NTSC for me. The quality was pretty good and there were no subtitles like on the bootlegs.
    I'll admit it - this movie sucks, but Malcolm is so campy, crazy and funny that is was totally worth it. The scene where he did Hitler was so out of left field you could tell it was just Malcolm being silly. The swastika on his underwear was also too funny. He actually does start out with a bit of a German accent, but as time goes on he just loses it completely and we have the only British SS officer in WWII.
    The story really didn't make any sense. I still am not really sure where the Basque lived and why the hell didn't he just go and bring them back to HIS house!? Then they just walk out from there. Where do they go? Into Spain which was sympathetic to Hitler!? It was painfully obvious that the mother wasn't going to survive from the frost, but they HAD to cart her along. I can't imagine what the intended audience was for this film.
    The only points I give are for Malcolm's performance as every single thing about the film is sub par - the action, effects, story and acting. The exploding train sequence for example was so useless and completely obvious that it was a model. If the film was made in 1942 during WWII it might have been important. By making it nearly 35 years later it is really just a slasher flick masquerading as something else - but I don't know what. You know the Friday the 13th type where the villain hunts down and kills people and can't be stopped.
    Bottom line is this movie really needs to be seen by every Malcolm fan. If you ever get a chance to see it, don't pass it up. There are supposedly cut and uncut versions that tone down on the rape and violence. You'll need the uncut version since most of the cut scenes would feature Malcolm. He said at one point that it was some of the best work he's ever done. Maybe he was goofing around because he knew no one would get a chance to see it? No way is it anywhere near his best work compared to ACO or if.... or Gangster No. 1. It is a classic grade B horror film performance though, but not a roll that would win people over. I recently got a hold of a pristine copy and they music and the scenery is gorgeous, so it gets an extra point for that.

Rating: 4/10

Taglines

An ice-swept escape route in front of them. A cold-blooded killer behind them.
THE ONLY WAY OUT IS UP.
A howling white hell, Nazi hunters - and a Basque guide who became a giant among men.

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