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Countdown to War (1989)

| Drama, History, War | TV Movie
Based on a play, the story details the dramatic negotiations between the UK, France, Poland, Nazi Germany, and the U.S.S.R. from the day Czechoslovakia fell, until Britain's declaration of war on Germany, caused by Hitler's invasion of Poland.


Patrick Lau


Ronald Harwood (play)


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Ian McKellen ... Adolf Hitler
Michael Aldridge ... Neville Chamberlain
Tony Britton Tony Britton ... Sir Nevile Henderson
John Woodvine ... Joachim Von Ribbentrop
Peter Vaughan ... Hermann Göring
Michael Culver ... Lord Halifax
Anthony Bate ... Sir John Simon
Lee Montague ... Hore-Belisha
Jonathan Coy ... Butler
Ronnie Stevens ... Phipps
Jack Galloway Jack Galloway ... MacDonald
Richard Heffer ... Wallace
John Elmes John Elmes ... Colvin
Bernard Gallagher Bernard Gallagher ... Greenwood
David Swift ... Daladier


Based on a play, the story details the dramatic negotiations between the UK, France, Poland, Nazi Germany, and the U.S.S.R. from the day Czechoslovakia fell, until Britain's declaration of war on Germany, caused by Hitler's invasion of Poland.

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Drama | History | War







Also Known As:

Hitler végső döntése - A háború küszöbén See more »

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Did You Know?


Sir Ian McKellen, who played Adolf Hitler in this movie, played a Nazi in Apt Pupil (1999), and holocaust victim Erik Lehnsherr, a.k.a. Magneto, in the X-Men film franchise. See more »

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User Reviews

"Two suitors!"
2 September 2012 | by lunettaroseSee all my reviews

As someone who is a keen historian with a particular interest in the Second World War, I was very eager to watch a film all about the actions which precipitated the most terrible conflict in history. I was also excited about watching this film because it seemed to have an excellent cast, full of actors I admire and respect: Sir Ian McKellen, Michael Culver, Michael Aldridge, Alan Bates, John Woodvine et al. But oh, it was so disappointing. Having seen Ian McKellen's stunning performance as Richard III, I was expecting something similar as Hitler. Oh dear lord, how wrong I was. It was as if all the actors had been instructed to act badly. The pacing was leaden, the script was cringe-making and the direction was atrocious.

The upside of this - and it is considerable - is that it was hilarious. I'm not joking: I watched this with my family, and we roared with laughter almost all the way through. Several times we had to pause the DVD to wipe tears of mirth from our eyes. Some particular gems are Stalin's "roving" accent; the portrayal of Mussolini as an embarrassingly stupid imbecile; Peter Vaughan playing Goering like the Penguin from Batman; the scene in which Ciano and Ribbentrop are discussing Italy's readiness for war. Ciano asks, "Does the Fuhrer have a date in mind?", and then Hitler - Hitler! - who had been facing the window, spins around with a mischievous grin on his face, revealing to the audience that he has been standing there all along. All the characters are played like caricatures.

I don't know what went wrong, I really don't. On paper, it's perfect. Good subject matter, good cast, where's the fault? I can only blame the director, but that seems unfair, as I have seen some other things he's directed, and they were OK. But anyway, its accidental humour has to be seen to be believed. For that alone, everyone should watch this film; it's spectacular.

(The review would have been two stars if it hadn't been so unintentionally hilarious).

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