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The McKenzie Break is a 1970 Britishmarker war drama film directed by Lamont Johnson, starring Brian Keith as Jack Connor, an intelligence officer investigating recent disturbances at a German P.O.W. camp in Scotlandmarker. The P.O.W's are led by the charismatic, yet ruthless, Willi Schlüter (Helmut Griem).


Captain Jack Connor is the Irish, hard drinking, womanizing officer and ex-crime reporter detailed to investigate the McKenzie prison camp in Northern Scotland. The Germans under Kapitänleutnant Willi Schlüter - a German submariner - have asserted their own authority in the camp by rising against their captors. The embattled C.O. of the camp, Major Perry (Ian Hendry), is powerless until Connor arrives and lays down the law to the prisoners.

However, Connor is not at the camp merely to suppress the Germans; he is there to find out why it is the only prison camp in Scotland to be causing any problems. He shrewdly deduces that it is a cover for an escape plot, most likely a tunnel, and bases his investigation on this suspicion. During a mass brawl - involving the local fire brigade's water cannon - Connor notices one of the Luftwaffe prisoners, an outcast named Neuchl (Horst Janson), dragged from the barracks and attempting to flee the Germans. He has been badly beaten, and Connor believes, rightly, that Schlüter is responsible. He orders Neuchl to be kept separated from the other injured men in the hospital, but later that night, one of the other patients strangles Neuchl while he is asleep. Crucially, Neuchl is not able to pass on information about the tunnel, though he does tell Connor in a semiconscious state of '28 German submariners', the number who are eventually to escape.

Unnoticed in this brawl, two Germans masquerade as British soldiers, and make their way to meet a contact in a nearby town.

With Connor looking to pin the death of Neuchl on him, and the two escapees now noticed by the British, Schlüter orders the acceleration of the escape project. The prisoners leave the next day, collapsing the barracks roof on some of their comrades as a distraction to the guards. Schlüter also disposes of the engineer responsible for the tunnel with a wrench.

The 28 men who escape make their way to where the two escapees are waiting with a large red lorry marked 'explosives' and a motorcycle 'escort'. They make their way towards the coast, where a German U-boat is due to pick them up. Unknown to Schlüter, Connor is already aware of this arrangement, as he has cracked the code used in letters sent by POWs to Germany. Within hours Connor's superior officer, General Kerr (Jack Watson), has arrived, and the search begins for the fugitives. Eventually, a British reconnaissance plane spots the truck, but loses them when they hide in some trees. While they are hidden, they dispose of the red cover of the truck, and the motorcycle. From then on, they go as delivery men, heading for a local U.S camp.

The Germans finally reach their objective on the North coast, while Capt. Connor takes to the sky with a recon pilot to get a first hand view. Unfortunately for Schlüter, his men ignore his orders to camouflage the truck, and merely drive it into a ditch, setting it on fire, and causing Connor to see the smoke from his aircraft. These scenes were shot in Bonmahonmarker, County Waterfordmarker, Irelandmarker at an old disused copper mine shaft. Although he does not say as much, it gives him the first clue as to where the U-boat might surface. After abseiling down the cliffs, Schlüter and the fugitives await the submarine.

As dusk falls, the search has become desperate. If the Germans are not found by nightfall, they will most likely escape. Just as the order comes in to return to base, Connor tells the pilot to do one more sweep of the area that the smoke was in earlier, and is just in time to see the P.O.W.'s frantically paddling towards the surfaced U-boat. Connor calls for a local MTB with depth charges to attend the scene. With only fifty yards to go, Connor orders the pilot to 'buzz' the inflatable dinghies, and although he does no damage, he slows down Schlüter's craft, and inevitably, as the MTB rounds the headland, the U-boat dives, leaving Schlüter and three of his men stranded.

The last shot is of Connor on top of the cliff and facing disciplinary action for not having completed the mission as successfully as the British would have liked, looking down at Schluter in a dinghy. As Schluter looks up at him, Connor says. "Willi, looks like we're both in the shithouse".


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