1942. First lieutenant Wisse, young and still idealistic, is sent to the Eastern front where a renewed German offensive is in full swing. During his trip, he witnesses the hardships entailed by the occupation of Russia, but keeps his faith in the success and ultimate good of the national-socialist endeavour. Upon arriving at his new quarters, he quickly gets informed about the precarious nature of the strategic situation. As a matter of fact, Wisse is unusually well-placed to gain an unvarnished insight into the state of military affairs. His assignment: liaison officer to the Romanian army. His station: in the Russian plain, on the flank guarding the advance of the German sixth army to Stalingrad... Written by
Eduardo Casais <email@example.com>
German soldiers carry the Yugoslavian M56 submachine gun instead of the MP40. Yugo M56s are basic copies of the German design, but there are subtle but noticeable differences, such as the long smooth barrel. See more »
This unfairly obscure early German World War II movie has a lot going for it. For one, it has a solid cast with a lot of recognizable German actors who went on to be in a lot of international productions (namely Preiss and Frank) and put in some solid performances here as soldiers trapped in a hopeless battle.
There's a solid share of action with everything on display from the Romanian units crumbling under tank assault to General Hoth's attempt at relieving the pocket to the bitter street fighting up to the end. Actually the street fighting comes off even better than in STALINGRAD and ENEMY AT THE GATES and feels quite authentic and realistic despite the low budget. Maybe it's because a good share of the actors in the film actually served in the war? I assume the producers were able to find a section of a German city still devastated from the war some 14 years later or else it's some very good set design. Either way I'm impressed. Amazingly, they even managed to round up some real hardware with at least two real T-34's and a PAK anti tank gun for the battle scenes.
The film takes the ingenious step of using authentic stock footage to supplement the battle scenes as was possible only back when films were black and white. This trick also worked well in ITALIANI BRAVA GENTE which also managed to often call into doubt whether the combat footage was original or stock.
The only main detractor is a lot of mismatched stock footage often from entirely different battles (including some now-famous shots of the retreat from Moscow) and during different times of the year (winter to summer and back again). The film tries to play it off by making it look like snow doesn't hit until after the Russians cut off Stalingrad, but anyone with a basic knowledge of WW2 history should know better. Also the tanks are off, with T34/85's appearing too early in the war as usual and a rare case where an IS2 briefly subs in for a German tank of some sort. Mostly minor nitpicks considering that the film's budget was so low. It's amazing what they were able to pull off with such scant resources.
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