THE BATTLE OF THE LAST PANZER (1969)
Jose Luis Merino
Stelvio Rosi, Erna Schurer, Guy Madison, Ruben Rojo, Enrique Avila, Giuli Carr, Antonio Mayans and Gustavo Rojo.
This is the movie that proves bargain buys aren't always worth the meager price you pay. I walked into Suncoast Video and picked up this title, along with three others, on DVD for a total of $10.00 in mid-2004, I believe. I couldn't go wrong for $2.50 per movie, now, could I? Well, Brentwood Entertainment sure fooled me! The plot (a German tank crew stuck behind American lines tries to get back to German-occupied territory) sounds promising, and a quick look at the cast suggests a decent outing. But seeing as the film is in the hands of the always-incompetent Jose L. Merino, it's doomed to fail.
First of all, we're forced to pay host to some badly dubbed dialog as Stelvio Rosi's fanatical German lieutenant spouts off pro-Hitler garbage every time the camera points in his direction. The voice artist seems far to excited about his lines, as every word Rosi speaks is over-emphasized and every pause is exaggerated.
There are some good ideas floating around in the script, but they get lost amidst a slew of poor performances. Every piece of dialog in the film is a verbal cliche, each of whice have been heard in several bigger and better war movies made years earlier. I kid you not: the film sounds like a compilation of all of the familiar lines from other war movies cobbled together with a decent story holding them together. The emphasis is on the silly dialog, though, and not the good story.
Then, we can add in the sagebrush of familiar what appears to Almeria, Spain, which stands in for 1940s France. This wouldn't be a problem if the film was set in the Mediterranean, but the barren wasteland of Almeria is a poor substitute for the lush, green French countryside. Sometimes, this error is forgivable. Umberto Lenzi shot Battle of the Commandos right around the same time on similar-looking sets. At least the characters in his film were engaging and the action scenes were frequent enough to distract attention away from this error.
There are countless equipment and costume flaws all over the place, too, since the film was shot with such a low budget. The German characters carry Italian-made Beretta submachine-guns and Italian pistols. The Americans carry German-made G3 Assault rifles (which weren't even manufactured until after WWII), and wear Italian-made headgear. I've seen cheap before; any fan of this kind of movie probably has, too. But it's a much bigger distraction to me when anything that could have been gotten wrong IS gotten wrong. A slip-up here or mistake there is forgivable. On this scale, it's a deadly flaw.
Add to all of that some monotonous, boring music; poor editing and incredibly unexciting and badly shot action sequences, and you have the makings of one poor war movie. The only redeeming factor is the immense supporting cast: Ruben Rojo and Gustavo Rojo from The Last Day of the War have decent parts to work with. Stelvio Rosi, Guy Madison, Giuli Carr and several others went on to work with Merino in his later, better action flick Hell Commandos a year or so later. I also liked the presence of Erna Schurer, a gorgeous German actress who gets to show off plenty of nice skin.
All that said, this little flick does serve to be engaging and fairly entertaining despite so many huge flaws. I actually sat through it without getting bored. The pace rarely slows, and the story is actually somewhat absorbing. Maybe that is because I was taking notice of how much was wrong with it. If you do take the time to watch this one, don't say you weren't entertained!
SGT. SLAUGHTER'S RATING: 1.5 Bullets