THE WAR DEVILS (1969)
Guy Madison, Venantino Venantini, Anthony Steel, Pascale Petit, Enrique Avila, Claudio Biava, Federico Boido, Luis Induni, Frank Brana, Massimo Righi, Renato Romano, Raf Baldassarre, Luis Barboo, Giuseppe Castellano, Tom Felleghy, Paolo Giusti and John Ireland.
I came across this film quite unexpectedly, and boy was I glad I picked it out! It's one of the better Italian war films I've seen, with a good cast and very interesting plot line.
North Africa, 1943: a German security team, headed by a loyal Nazi officer (Venantino Venantini) pursues an American commando unit led by an experienced Captain (Guy Madison). The two units end up joining forces in order to cross the desert. Venantini eventually frees his captives, but vows to kill them if they ever meet again. Lo and behold, a year later, Madison is sent to rescue a British intelligence officer (Anthony Steel) who's being held in Venantini's base.
The film contains a slew of familiar European actors that one familiar with the genre will instantly recognize. American tough guy Guy Madison has appeared several Italian-made war films during thw 1960s, including A Place in Hell, and Hell Commandos. Unlike Madison, Venantini only had one small role in a war film, Anzio. Both men are incredibly good actors and it really shows --look at Venantini's face when he allows Madison to escape! It's almost as though neither were acting and really were friends. (Perhaps they actually were off the set?)
Anthony Steele has a really small role as a British intelligence officer, but it's important to the plot and he plays the role quite convincingly. Frank Brana, Massimo Righi, Giuseppe Castellano and Federico Boido all have minor and almost unrecognizable roles as American and German soldiers. John Ireland (The Dirty Heroes) appears in one really quick scene near the beginning as an American officer, and Tom Felleghy (Kill Rommel!) is on for about 2 seconds longer as another American officer.
The combat scenes are actually quite sparse. The first long sequence is a familiar firefight, involving a chase through some ruins is well-done but doesn't involve anything spectacular. The big tank battle in the middle of the desert is very well filmed, but unfortunately the Germans and Americans use the same type of tanks. The final combat scene in which an American commando units mounts a rescue is very reminiscent of The Dirty Dozen and Five for Hell; in fact, I think some modified sets from Five for Hell were used during the said final, climactic combat scene.
The cinematography in the outdoor sequences is quite striking. The African desert is appropriately bleak and and the scenes set in France have a ring of authenticity to them, right down to the thick pine trees and snow. The musical score is said to be written by Stelvio Cipriani. It's a perfect genre-fitting theme, reminiscent of Francesco de Masi's music for Eagles over London. Unfortunately, some of Cirpriani's score uses clips from The Battle of El Alamein which are very noticeably lifted without any modification.
For a great script, strong characters, fine editing Renzo Lucidi and some good combat scenes, this movie is definitely one of the better Italian "human" looks at World War II.
SGT. SLAUGHTER'S RATING:
ON DVD HERE