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A very forgotten film with the participation of Sir Roger before The Saint.
A very rare film, shot in black and white and set during the German occupation of Italy in the year of 1943. Its cast is lead by French actress Pascale Petit and Roger Moore, but the story is rather a work of an ensemble than a vehicle for a protagonist. It is not a war picture but a drama behind the lines. A group of traveling persons end up as prisoners of a German sergeant and his squad, in an isolated and precarious cabin in the country. Let's list the principal characters in the story: Pascale Petit as Giuditta, is the orphan girl, beautiful and courageous. She has suffered a great bereavement due to the death of her little brother, an innocent child that was shot by a squad of German soldiers looking for escapees of a concentration camp. Her contempt to all German soldiers is erroneously interpreted by the sergeant who has a very sick notion of his self importance. He claims that he is not a Nazi monster but a German soldier. All the prisoners are at his mercy but he pretends that Giuditta goes to his room and makes love to him by her own choice. To that end, he coaxes all the others by threatening them, even to be shot if they don't cooperate in persuading the girl. All the group is under great stress. Roger Moore is Enzo, a soldier that fought in the fronts of Yuguslavia and Russia and he is going back to his home after being licensed. But the German sergeant thinks that he is lying and that he is instead a deserter. Enzo is the knight in a white horse and he is willing to take action in defense of Giuditta. But the others doesn't believe in the purity of his intentions because they notice that he has fallen in love with the girl. There is nothing to be ashame of, in the participation of Sir Roger in this humble film. As always, he is a strong hero and after completing this obligation, he would go back to England to initiate the filming of the TV series "The Saint", a great move in his career, indeed. The German sergeant was aptly acted by the Austrian actor Carl Schell, brother of Maria Schell (known in Hollywood for The Hanging Tree, The Karamazov Brothers and Cimarron) and also brother of Maximilian Schell (Academy Award Winning for Judgment at Nuremberg in 1961). He was good in being menacing without exaggerations. Another character was the Italian soldier tortured by the Gestapo acted by Renato De Carmine. He has no fear because he feels he is very sick and thinks that his end is near. He has a bad attitude, and his cynical remarks wind up annoying everyone. But also is the only one ready to fight along Enzo. And at last, we arrive to "Un Branco Di Vigliacchi" (A Bunch of Cowards). The two married couples and the two drivers. Aroldo Tieri and Luisa Mattioli (future Mrs. Moore in real life) interpret one of the couples. Frank Villard and Scila Gabel make up the other couple. They are always plotting to continue their journey no matter the consequences for the other prisoners. The driver of the jalopy truck is Bautista (Memmo Carotenuto), always worrying about the fares of his passengers, and the man who was trying to help Giuditta to get away of her village is a devious character acted by Aldo Bufi Landi. Of course he annoys her with her romantic insinuations, totally out of place. And the American officer at the end of the picture is represented by Archie Savage. At the helm of this multinational group was Fabrizio Taglioni also the writer of the story. He has to deal with a low budget and a crowded cast. But the film has no pretenses of being a masterpiece. Nevertheless it's no so bad either. It tries to portrait a difficult time in the lives of the Italian people. A country besieged by the ravages of war. Invaded by the Germans, yesterday allies, but now oppressors. At the end of 1943, the Americans were pushing the Germans out of Italy. And the civil population were doing what they could, cajoling the favors of the ones or the others, following the contingencies of war. When one must survive in such environment, it seems that the ethics is thrown away and the basic instincts reigns supremely. Like the voice in off at the start of the picture says (forgive me for the translation): the good ones, the more generous and the innocents pay the price, often with their lives, and the cowards, escape unscathed.
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