The Order

Fritz Hochwälder

Translated by Patrick Alexander


BBC1 18th January 1967


The Largest Theatre In The World presents The Order by Fritz Hochwalder starring John Neville: The time is the Second World War, the place is occupied Amsterdam. A young Austrian policeman in Nazi service is ordered to take part in the hunt for suspected Dutch resistance workers. He chases a teenage girl who in the struggle falls into a canal; he does nothing to stop her drowning. Twenty years later, Inspector Mittermayer of the Vienne CID is assigned the task of investigating the almost-forgotten crime.


This is the starting-point for tonight's play by Fritz Hochwalder, author of The Public Prosecutor and The Strong Are Lonely. And in telling the story of a police enquiry, the Swiss-domiciled Austrian writer conducts his own profound and disturbing enquiry into the nature of guilt and particularly the morality of unquestioning obedience - two questions which Hochwalder believes remain dangerously unanswered. The Order is one of the plays to be presented under the general title of The Largest Theatre In The World - which is not at all an exaggeration. Under this scheme a number of European television networks agree on an important play specially commissioned for the occasion, which each participating country undertakes to produce with its own cast and in its own language, and to transmit more or less simultaneously with all the other participants. So the total audience for tonight's play, which has been produced in Austrian, German and Italian versions, will certainly number many tens of millions, as it did for the specially written Terence Rattigan play Heart To Heart which inaugurated the scheme four years ago.


For The Order on BBC Television producer Cedric Messina has assembled a cast of exceptional distinction. Inspector Franz Mittermayer is played by John Neville, who was leading man at the Old Vic for a number of seasons before going on to become director of the now very successful Notthingham Playhouse. Frau Mittermayer, his mother, is played by the veteran actress Catherine Lacey, and De Goede, father of the dead girl, by Clive Morton. George Murcell and John Woodvine are two younger detectives detailed to assist Mittermayer in his investigation, and Nicholas Selby is the Viennese chief of police. Pokorny, a former Gestapo officer turned prosperous businessman, is played by George Coulouris, and James Cairncross is the Dutch policeman Knippers.


The play has been translated by Patrick Alexander, and it is directed by Basil Coleman, whose recent television staging of Britten's Billy Budd won high critical approval. There is a specially composed music score by Richard Rodney Bennett, composer of The Mines Of Sulphur, which has also been seen recently on BBC Television. Many of the film sequences for the production were shot on location in Vienna and Amsterdam. (Radio Times, January 12, 1967).