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Cheapie director Roger Corman brings us this low-budget, high-octane
thriller. THE SECRET INVASION was shot in Yugoslavia and released by United
Artists in 1964.
In 1943, British intelligence sends five convicted criminals into Yugoslavia to rescue an Italian General and convince him to turn his troops against the occupying Nazi forces. This story was essentially copied a few years later by director Richard Conte in OPERATION CROSS EAGLES, which has a similar look and feel but doesn't hold a candle to this film's characters or action scenes.
Corman's ensemble cast is made up of several familiar veteran actors. Raf Vallone is the leading criminal, who actually wants to earn his amnesty. Mickey Rooney (AMBUSH BAY) is great fun as an Irish demolition expert who can blow up just about anything. The ever-annoying Edd Byrnes doesn't give too hoots about the mission and even attempts to escape to a German PT boat almost immediately, but has come to his senses near the end. Master of disguise William Campbell doesn't trust silent killer Henry Silva (PROBABILITY ZERO), who he thinks is trying to botch the mission. An older Peter Coe (TOBURK) also appears as the Partisan leader, Marko.
Working with a low budget, Corman is surprisingly able to create a high number of suspense scenes and well-done action sequences. One plot aspect has the team keeping time by snapping their fingers when their enemy captors lift their watches. This allows them to time escapes perfectly, springing surprises on the Nazis. During the final battle, the old cliché of killers disguised as hooded monks comes up but is defied as one rips off his disguise; and Granger leads a pack of German attack dogs astray by ripping off his own bandage and allowing them to track his blood as he bleeds to death. The action scenes are excellently filmed, too, making great use of location photography to heighten the suspense. One long, drawn out sequence set in the hills of Dubrovnik involves hundreds of extras, lots of very loud gunfire, excellent explosions and some fine quick cutting. All of this makes the action even more nail-biting, as you never know who will live to the end and who won't.
The film boasts a great Hugo Friedhofer score which adds the perfect mournful touch to a scene involving a dead baby; and just the right rousing action theme for the combat portions. Cinematography is top-notch, with fine camera angles capturing emotions and action perfectly. Even on the small screen, the film has been pan-and-scanned with utmost care so you don't lose as much as you usually do.
I saw this movie on the Encore! Network. It has been excellently cared for, with accurate flesh tones, sharp images all around (Vallone's eyes are a clear blue even from far away). MGM has done a good job recently, digitally remastering a number of their old films (perhaps for future DVD releases?) such as ATTACK ON THE IRON COAST.
This is one of those rare war films which packs the most material possible into its' low budget. The characters are strong, the action spectacular and the suspense truly nail-biting. Corman's unorthodox twists make the far-fetched plot a little more acceptable. This is a 2-hour, no-intelligence-required action fest you'll not want to miss.
An army major leads a rag-tag band of convicts on a daring mission behind
enemy lines. THE DIRTY DOZEN, you ask? No, THE SECRET INVASION, a solid
Roger Corman programmer released two years earlier, with a talented cast
by Stewart Granger, Mickey Rooney, Raf Vallone, Ed Byrnes, William
and Henry Silva. Far less predictable than DOZEN, this film has some
dynamite performances (Byrnes, Rooney and Silva are especially good),
action, and some surprising plot twists. See it!
Although producer/director Roger Corman is known for his "economical" pictures, this World War II actioner belies its $600,000 budget (small by conventional Hollywood standards, but an epic for Corman) and is a well-acted, tightly directed, enjoyable not-quite-so-little picture. The story of a group of misfit Allied soldiers sent to rescue an important Italian general who has been imprisoned by the Nazis, Corman makes good use of the Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia, locations and a cast consisting of much better actors then he usually got, especially Mickey Rooney, Stewart Granger and Henry Silva (in an outstanding performance as a taciturn, deadly killer who isn't quite as cold-blooded as he seems). Even Edd Byrnes is far less annoying than usual, and turns in a good job. The action scenes are very well handled, the picture looks much more expensive than its budget would indicate, and it actually garnered some of the best reviews of Corman's career up to that time, and deservedly so. It's a good one (and compares favorably to "The Dirty Dozen," which it preceded). Check it out.
This exciting and so-so war movie produced by Gene Corman packs
thrills, suspense , plot twists , lots of action sequences and climatic
ending , but doesn't quite hang together. Passable warfare film follows
a group of convicts soldiers played by all star cast who undergoes
assignment against the promise of free pardons. It deals with Major
Mace (Stewart Granger) , a tough commandant , he assigns a motley
team(Mickey Rooney ,Raf Vallone , Edd Byrnes, Henry Silva, William
Campbell) for a dangerous mission whose aim is to free an Italian
General (Enzo Fiermonte) . As Stewart Granger training an outfit of
rebels and misfits soldiers for a risked assault in Yugoslavia where
they contact partisans. The commando must participate in a suicidal
mission, the first to wipe a Yugoslavian little town and after an
assault over a strong position located on Dubrovnik , Croacia, where is
imprisoned the Italian General. Each member of the squad keeps time by
rhythmically snapping his fingers so the kidnap can be coordinated .
They wreak havoc and kill Nazis to earn the respect of military
higher-ups in an exciting final .
This low-budgeted and appropriate runtime warfare film concerns about an incredible lesson of courage set in WWII . This flag-waving film packs frantic thrills, perilous adventures, relentless feats , and buck-loads of explosive action and violence . The noisy action is uniformly well-made, especially deserving of mention the rip-roaring final scenes on the mountains and battle at Dubrovnik city . Fine location cinematography by Arthur Arling and powerful musical score by Hugo Friedhofer . Serious and rough Stewart Granger is good as leader of the motley pack together thwart the the Nazi schemes, as well as the largely secondary cast with particular mention to Henry Silva and Raf Vallone who finish developing a sincere friendship . The film belongs to Commandos sub-genre operating beyond enemy lines whose maximum examples result to be the classics as ¨Dirty dozen¨(Robert Aldrich) , ¨Guns of Navarone¨ (J.L. Thompson) , ¨When eagles dare ¨ (Brian G Hutton), ¨ and ¨Kelly's heroes¨ (Hutton) and other movies that were made during the 60s and 70s regarding wartime adventures about special forces in risked missions .
The motion picture is professionally directed by Roger Corman . After his period realizing poverty-budget horror movies as ¨Swamp woman, The beast with a million of eyes, Attack of the crab monsters , Undead¨, then came the cycle of tales of terror based on Poe as ¨ House of Usher, Pit and pendulum, The raven , Tales of terror, The masque of the red death ¨ , and meanwhile Corman made this passable war film that achieved limited success.
Stewart Granger, Raf Vallone, Mickey Rooney, William Campbell,Edd
Byrnes, and Henry Silva are part of "The Secret Invasion," directed by
Roger Corman. Vallone, Rooney, Campbell and Silva are prisoners who are
brought in as part of a mission to free an Italian general, who was
about to turn on the Nazis and turn his army over to the allies and is
now being held by the Nazis. Granger, as Major Mace, is put in charge
of them. If they don't die, they will win their amnesty.
The levels of commitment vary among the men. The organizer, Rocca (Vallone) is a brilliant man who is dedicated to the mission, while Simon Fell (Byrnes), a forger, is not and tries to escape. Mickey Rooney plays the munitions expert, a cheerful Irishman, and Henry Silva plays an assassin, Durrell, who, although quiet, has feelings that run very deep. Saval (Campbell) doesn't trust him.
While this is a derivative movie, it's filled with action, some good characters, sadness, and violence. Corman paces it well. On a side note, because I know German, the German spoken was perfect and, unlike Das Boot, easy to understand.
Corman made this on a low budget, and the actors' performances vary as a result of not being able to fill this movie with an all-star cast. Edd Byrnes leaves a lot to be desired. I remember William Campbell from my childhood in a TV series called "Canonball" - actually, his big claim to fame is that he was married to JFK-Sam Giancana girlfriend Judith Exner. Granger, Vallone, Rooney and Silva are excellent as are the members of the German cast.
Good drama, good war story.
This film is well directed by Roger Corman and has a great plot with
some good twists. The Yugoslavian location filming adds to the enjoyment,
there's plenty of action and the pace is fast. The top notch cast is what
really puts it over. Mickey Rooney is excellent as Scanlon and provides
much of the humor. Edd Byrnes, Stewart Granger, William Campbell and
Silva give solid performances and Raf Vallone adds an introspective
that raises this film a few notches above the average adventure. My
favorite quote is from his character, "Who will free it from us and who
free us from ourselves."
If you're not initially nuts about this flick like I was, be patient. I went to see this in 1964 with my cousin. It was my second time seeing it but her first. About twenty minutes into it I said to myself, "Boy, this is a good movie." "It is," she questioned in an unconvinced tone, but fifteen minutes later she nudged me and said very enthusiastically, "You're right! This is a good movie!"
It is also one of the first films I remember from the 60's that dabbled in graphic violence. Although there are only a few, the scenes were shocking and tense in 1964 and still strike a chord now.
The Dirty Dozen(1967), which I also like very much, may be the best known of the two but the Secret Invasion was a forerunner of the genre and in my estimation is the better film.
I saw this one today and I was very surprised by the film. Not only does it have a theme reminiscent of the later Dirty Dozen, but there's a scene towards the beginning that smacks of the Guns of Naverone. The casting is surprisingly top notch and I was overall pleased with the entire film. Stewart Granger is Good as the troubled British officer out for revenge. I loved Mickey Rooney, who seemed to be having the time of his life as an IRA demolition expert. The other members of the cast rounded out an almost perfect ensemble with notable mention to William Campbell & Edd Byrne. The only thing I found odd about this film was the speed at which the actors found themselves on their secret mission. It seemed within 20 minutes they were introduced, trained, and already in enemy waters. Other than that, it was a solid WW2 movie with plenty of action! I HIGHLY recommend it.
This film cut out much of the extra stuff that was in the Dirty Dozen. It
also did not have a maggot character like Savalas played in the dozen. The
film had a few unexpected turns and did not turn to the revolting
conclusion of the Dirty Dozen. Secret Invasion had a better premise than
In Dozen the mission was to kill as many German officers as possible at a castle which also would include their their wives and girlfriends. In Secret Invasion the mission was to rescue a popular Italian general from German captivity so that he could return to lead Italian forces. At that time many Italians wavered between German and Allied forces so a strong leader could turn the tide so Italians would join the Allied cause.
The film demands some understanding of the war to fully understand the plot. It also shows glimpses into the Yugoslavian underground which supported the U.S. There are plenty of convincing battle scenes and Corman does a fine job of directing with good acting. Great to see on cable instead of the usual more talky Second World War films.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Now Secret Invasion isn't in the same league as The Dirty Dozen in
terms of Production, but for its low budget, it's worth a watch. 3
years before the Dirty Dozen, Secret Invasion was first in the
"Prisoners who get a 2nd chance so they hand pick 5 to carry out a
secret mission" fighting the Nazi's storyline. Of course in here there
are only 5 but for what you get, it's an entertaining yarn.
Whats great about this little war movie is the actual settings in Yugoslavia and Croatia and not some Hollywood sound stage. Real landscapes and authentic people from the area make a decent watch. If you happen upon this little title, grab it and watch, you'll probably like it.
Roger Corman got his largest budget to date and distribution through
United Artists for The Secret Invasion. Even though the story is a
combination of The Dirty Dozen and The Guns Of Navarone, it's all
delivered in nice style.
Heading the mission is Major Stewart Granger and the time is during those days just before the Allies invaded Italy proper having already landed and occupied Sicily. He gets himself a choice team of criminals of varying kind all with certain specialties. His team includes Raf Vallone, Edd Byrnes, William Campbell, Mickey Rooney, and Henry Silva. With Granger that makes it a half a dozen.
These six are to go into occupied Yugoslavia and kidnap a popular Italian general. Remember at this point in time Mussolini had already been overthrown and the Allies were conducting negotiations with Field Marshal Badoglio to take Italy out of the Axis orbit. Command broke down in the Italian Army and Badoglio dragged his feet somewhat. So this was a move in Yugoslavia where the Italians had considerable troops.
Things didn't quite work out for Granger and the rest of his half dozen no more than they did for the Allies and Badoglio. Still the mission is completed kind of and a few actually survive to tell the tale.
Best in the cast is Mickey Rooney who adopts a nice Irish brogue as he plays an IRA man who's good with explosives. Like the rest he's fighting for a pardon if he gets back from Yugoslavia. He looks like he's having a great old time in the part. Given his last name you'd think the Mick would have played more Irish types in films. But remember he was born Joe Yule, Jr. quite Jewish.
The Secret Invasion will not be one of Roger Corman's cult classics, it had too big a budget for that. Still it's an enjoyable film, war film fans will like it.
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