This film is about a particularly bloody battle between Italy, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire during WW1.
Two friends, one Austrian, Luis Trenker, and one Italian, Victor Varconi, meet every year to climb one of the local peaks on the border near Trenker's village. The time is 1914 and Trenker is called up for service when war is declared. He is sent off to fight the Russians with all the men from his village.
A year later in 1915, Italy enters the war on the side of the Allies. This time Varconi is called up to take command of a battalion. The Italians take over the Austrian village where Trenker's wife and child live.
Austria quickly rushes back units from the east to man the lines against the new enemy. Trenker and his unit are assigned to a mountain that looks right down on their now occupied village. They dig in on the high Alps and construct a series of caves and dugouts.
The Italians need to take the mountain as it blocks the entry into the valley they need to carry out their planned offencive. They launch a series of infantry attacks supported by massive artillery barrages. The outnumbered Austrian troops repulse the Italians with huge losses. Besides the Italians, the Austrians must battle the severe cold, avalanches, lack of food and proper medical attention.
After several more failed attacks, the Italians decide on a new tactic. They plan on drilling a tunnel a quarter mile into the mountain, build a large chamber and fill same with high explosives. Then they plan on blowing the whole top of the mountain, along with the Austrians to hell.
The Austrians realize something is going on and send out a recon patrol on skis. Leading the group is Trenker. They soon discover what the Italians are up to and report back to headquarters. They are told to hold their posts to the last man. Their positions are the lynch-pin to the whole Austrian defencive line.
The Austrians wait, and listen to the Italian's dig and blast their tunnel below them. They know they are still safe as long as they can still hear the work going on.
The digging finally stops and the Austrians know the big bang is coming. The Italians now need to fill the mine with explosives. Trenker volunteers to go on a one man recon patrol and see if he can discover when the enemy will be setting off the mine.
Trenker manages to slip through the lines and gather the needed info from some over talkative sentries. Trenker even has time to sneak into his village and visit his wife and child.
Trenker makes it back to the mountaintop stronghold just in time to warn everyone. They hightail to the back of the mountain and safety. The massive mine is set off destroying their old lines. The men however are safe. They rush back to the rubble and take up new positions. The Italians get a rude surprise when they launch their new assault. The Austrians hold the line till the war ends.
The film ends with Trenker and Varconi, still friends, climbing mountains again after the conflict.
Quite a bit of this production was filmed on location, in the Austrian Alps. There were three versions shot at the same time, one in English, one in German and one in French. The versions vary in length from 74 minutes to 83 minutes.
This is one of the few films (besides, A Farewell to Arms) that I've seen about this particular theatre of operations. It is a somewhat dated, but still interesting film.
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