I saw Night of the Generals the other night, which is somewhat famous for not quite being a good movie despite having a great deal going for it: filmed on location in Warsaw during the Cold War, Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif as the main characters, Donald Pleasance and Tom Courtenay as key supporting cast, a story that could have been deeply psychological.
Ultimately, though, it was a terribly risky film, since all the characters including the good ones were Nazis. So the makers took no unnecessary risks - and still ran into problems with the Hays code. It is therefore remarkable that it's any good at all. But the actors filled their over-simplified parts with great skill.
It seems to have left a mark; I keep thinking about the movie despite not being impressed on the whole. It wasn't meaningful at all, when it might have been. Yet somehow it matters anyway. It must be the actors that did it.
This morning, reading an MFU fic, I ran across Napoleon talking about Illya in childhood having seen the horrors of Nazi soldiers. Instantly, I saw a vision of General Tanz looking calmly down on a tiny and furious little blonde boy whose family he had just ordered killed, very nearly smiling, and offering him a sweet.