1956 Budapest, on his way to a peaceful political street demonstration, Professor of Humanities Ernst Tolnai encounters his son Charles, from whom he has been mildly estranged. Distressed over his father's continued association with anti-Communist factions, which caused his firing from the university, Charles presses Ernst to accept the school's offer to reinstate him if he modifies his views, but Ernst refuses. Ernst accompanies Charles to a café to see his son's fiancée, Marissa Foldessy, who is there with her father, Ernest's old friend and head of the Hungarian army, Gen. Foldessy. Foldessy warns Ernst to stay away from the street demonstration, as police security chief Col. Otto Zagon is sensitive to the professor's popularity with activist students, but Ernst remains unperturbed. Later in the streets of Budapest, Ernst joins the peaceful, student-led march, which attracts a growing number of citizens, who sing the forbidden national anthem and carry the Hungarian national flag. Zagon watches the growing crowds from his window, then orders Ernst's arrest as well as that of the student leaders. Ernst is brought to Zagon who, after informing the professor that he has become too dangerous, shoots him to death. Zagon then has Radio Budapest announce to the crowds in the street that a plot against the government has been discovered and that as its leader, Ernst has been executed. Stunned, students Martin, Teresa, Karolyi and others decide to go to the radio station to determine whether Ernst is indeed dead. Upon hearing the announcement, Charles is overcome with remorse for not having openly supported his father and, despite Marissa's protests, unconsciously finds himself heading toward the radio station. At the army barracks, Foldessy expresses his shock over Ernst's murder to Marissa, then receives an order from Zagon to join his forces with the Russians to quell the increasingly large street demonstrations, which have become belligerent. Refusing to fire upon his own people, Foldessy does not act on the command. Charles and several students converge on the radio station simultaneously, and when Russian troops shoot down a student, the band resolves to fight back, with Charles as their leader. The group quickly lures several soldiers into alleyways and takes their weapons by force. Charles leads several students to the barracks and, breaking in, demands guns, declaring the right to defend themselves against the Russian assault. Foldessy approves and issues firearms to the students, but is quickly reported to Zagon by a member of his own staff. When Zagon wonders how best to neutralize Foldessy, his mistress Christi suggests using Marissa against her father. Zagon orders Marissa brought to Radio Budapest, where he asks her to give a speech exhorting the people of Budapest to return to their homes. Unaware of her father's change of heart, Marissa agrees and delivers a strident speech as Foldessy, Charles and several others return to the radio station. Although Foldessy wishes to join the assault, Charles convinces the general that he will be more valuable leading Budapest in the coming transition, and Foldessy returns to the barracks. With the help of a student formerly employed at the radio station, Charles and the others sneak into the building via a secret tunnel and take over the station. Charles confronts Marissa, but she refuses to believe his revelation that her father is supporting the demonstrators, and flees. Finding the barracks blockaded, Marissa goes to Zagon for help. When Zargon suggests that Marissa write a note to her father asking him to surrender himself to save her life, Marissa realizes she has been used and refuses. Zagon has her placed in a cell, where she is raped by the guard. The next morning Foldessy receives his daughter's handwritten note asking for the exchange as the city engages in a fully armed revolt against the occupying Russian forces. Charles convinces Foldessy to allow him to handle the exchange, and he reluctantly agrees. That night at the agreed upon meeting place, Charles, dressed in Foldessy's uniform, manages to spirit Marissa away during the exchange, but Foldessy exposes himself out of concern for his daughter and is killed. Marissa is wounded in the ensuing attack and Zagon escapes. As the revolt in the city continues, Charles struggles to nurse Marissa until Teresa volunteers to bring a doctor. When Teresa and Dr. Kovach run into Russian soldiers on their return, Teresa blows herself up with a grenade in the midst of the soldiers, allowing Kovach to proceed and save Marissa. Informed that the revolutionaries are closing in on police headquarters, Zagon orders Christi to pack, but when she refuses, he thrashes her until she passes out. Disguised and using forged papers, Zagon attempts to escape to the city of Gyor. Charles and the others overthrow police headquarters and revive Christi, who tells them of Zagon's plans. Charles, a revitalized Marissa and Martin chase Zagon and, as the radio announces that the Russian army is pulling out of Hungary, trap him in the hills. After using all their ammunition, Charles and Zagon fight in a cave until Charles finally kills the commander. Charles, Marissa and a wounded Martin then hear on the radio that the Russian withdrawal was a ruse to stop the fighting and allow Russian re-enforcements to arrive. The group contemplates escaping to Austria, then decide to return to Budapest and continue the fight.
IMPORTANT: There are a number of places in the film's beginning, where there is "frame-jumping". For the most part, this settles down after the title to the film (at 1 min., 56 secs.) is shown.
DVD-R is in English with no subtitles. Approx. 73 mins. See film sample for audio and video quality!