Hannibal Brooks


Hannibal Brooks

Adventure, Comedy, War | 101 mins | Released: 1969
Director: Michael Winner
Starring: Oliver Reed, Michael J Pollard, Wolfgang Preiss, John Alderton, Helmut Lohner, Peter Carsten, Karin Baal
Our Rating: 7

In Hannibal Brooks, Stephen “Hannibal” Brooks is a British prisoner of war officer put to work in a Munich zoo, looking after an Asian elephant called Lucy. When the zoo is bombed by the Americans the zoo’s director determines it is unsafe for the elephant to remain there. So he sends Brooks along with hostile German soldier Kurt, a friendly German soldier named Willy, and Vronia, a female cook to accompany the elephant to Innsbruck Zoo via train.

They are forced to walk when an SS commander tells Brooks that the elephant is not allowed on the train. In Austria, Kurt threatens to shoot Lucy whilst drunk and Brooks accidentally kills Kurt. Brooks, Lucy, Willy and Vronia are forced to run towards the Swiss border. They are helped along the way by an American escapee named Packy who has formed a group of partisans to fight the Germans in Austria, after many run-ins with the Nazis. Half way there, Lucy gets mumps, so Brooks finds an Austrian doctor to look after her, whilst Vronia and Willy run to Willy’s parents house. Vronia and Willy are captured, and later are joined by Brooks. Brooks and Willy are rescued by Packy and continue to race towards Switzerland with Lucy. Unfortunately, along the way Willy is shot by the Nazis whilst helping Brooks to escape.

When Hannibal Brooks gets close to the border with Lucy, he is met with German Col. von Haller, the SS commander who told him to walk to Switzerland and Vronia, who has changed sides after being captured. Von Haller proposes the three go together to Switzerland as he intends to defect due o Germany’s deteriorating military position. They are joined by Packy and his partisans near a German border post. The plan is to use von Haller to bluff their way through, but he betrays them. Vronia died trying to warn the others and is shot in the back. After another long fight with the Germans, Hannibal Brooks and Lucy eventually make it to Switzerland with Packy and his remaining partisans.

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Movie Notes:

Hannibal Brooks is a 1969 British war comedy film directed by Michael Winner and written by Ian La Frenais and Dick Clement based on a story by Winner and Tom Wright.

The film follows a prisoner of war attempt’s to escape from Nazi Germany to Switzerland during World War II, accompanied by an Asian elephant. It stars Oliver Reed, Michael J. Pollard and Wolfgang Preiss. The beginning is based on the experiences of the writer Tom Wright, who whilst a prisoner of war, worked at Munich Zoo to care for their elephant “Lucy”. It has also been attributed to the true story of Olga the elephant rescued from Vienna Zoo in 1944. The title is a reference to the Carthaginian military commander Hannibal who led an army of war elephants over the Alps.

Oliver Reed, in preparation for his role of Hannibal Brooks, spent a whole week working with an elephant keeper in a zoo to learn how to handle Aida the cow elephant, who would be playing Lucy in the film.

Karin Baal was dubbed by Nikki Van der Zyl.

Aida, the Elephant, who plays “Lucy”, lived at the Rotterdam Zoo until July 23rd, 1981, when she died at age 46. She arrived in Rotterdam from Thailand on Jul 9th, 1940, at the age of 5 years-old, already trained to obey some human commands in Thai, just 2 months after the Nazi blitz bombing of Rotterdam on May 14th, 1940, which killed over 900 and left over 30,000 homeless. Aida then survived 18 Allied air force bombing runs over Rotterdam from June 1941 to December 1944. Then, Aida survived the Nazi food blockade of the Netherlands until May 1st, 1945 when Allied relief was parachute dropped into Rotterdam.

Over 18,000 Dutch citizens starved to death during the famine. Another survivor of the Nazi food blockade was actress Audrey Hepburn who took refuge with her mother’s family in Arnhem: Her family survived the famine by beating tulip bulbs into flour and baking tulip bread.

Until her death, Aida was a prized performing elephant at the Rotterdam Zoo often appearing before classes of children and responding to her trainer’s spoken commands.

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