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Yugoslav partisans grimly crop the hair of a village quintet of women believed to have consorted with the occupational Nazis. Four, for various reasons, have indeed - and their seducer is a lone, swaggering sergeant whom the partisans briskly emasculate. Escorted out of town by the sheepish Nazis, the forlorn ladies link up, patriotically and romantically, with a band of tough mountain guerrillas. Written by
This film is one of the least known gems to come from producer Dino de Laurentiis. Five women in war-torn Yugoslavia have their heads shaved for having intimate relations with a German soldier. The five bond and eventually join the partisan group who punished them back in their village. The film documents their fight against the enemy of their homeland, and their internal feelings of remorse, love, and hate. The women all give stellar performances--Silvana Mangano, Barbara Bel Geddes, Vera Miles, Jeanne Moreau, and young Carla Gravina. Van Heflin and Harry Guardino also deliver fine performances, as the leader of the Yugoslav partisan group and the troublemaker of the partisans, respectively. But perhaps the most touching performance comes from Richard Basehart as the German Captain Erich Reinhardt. In the little screen time he has, Mr. Basehart delivers a gem, bringing poignantly to life a gentle widower, plucked from his comfortable life as a university professor to fight in the war. He is captured by the partisans, and bonds with the 5 Branded Women who have been accepted into their group. He had shown sympathy for the women in the beginning of the film after their disgrace was made public, and in captivity, he bonds with them, particularly Mira (Carla Gravina),(whose baby he delivers) and Ljuba (Jeanne Moreau),(who finds herself in danger of falling for him). It takes a special talent to make you care for a character who is supposed to be a "bad guy", and to do it in less than ten minutes of total screen time is an art form. Mr. Basehart was indeed an artist. This is just one touching instance of the emotional exploration of the characters in this movie. Each character comes to life. A very little known film, but a must see. The action and emotion is raw and realistic throughout.
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