One of the finest Italian war films, directed by the famed producer Mino Loy.
Captain Bradbury (George Hilton) is assigned to lay mines to stop a German advance. His squad is made up of a crazed Canadian ex-con (Frank Wolff), a motorbiker (Rik Battaglia), and a young lover-boy (Fabrizio Moroni). They band together with survivors from a German tank (Robert Hossein and Ivano Staccioli) who have badly needed water.
Okay. With the stage set, not much more has to be said. The film is basically one long trek across the desert, focusing on the characters and their emotions and personalities. While most war films of the era rely on big spectacle and action, here the producers rely on acting talent for success. The tension between these guys feels real, as the water and petrol run low and the sun becomes intensely hotter.
Bruno Nicolai's memorable music score is haunting and fits the mood perfectly. Zanni's breathtaking photography captures the bleak desert with amazing authenticity, adding a degree of realism rarely seen in Italian war films of the time.
While George Hilton (THE BATTLE OF EL ALAMEIN) does a fine job as a stiff British officer, it's really Frank Wolff (A STRANGER IN TOWN) who steals the show. He's a crazed Canadian ex-thief who goes madder and madder until he meets his climactic fate. The rest of the cast all do a great job, especially Moroni as a fatally wounded grunt who is constantly flashing back to his pregnant wife back home. Staccioli (COMMANDOS) is also very good as a loyalist Nazi NCO, and Rik Battaglia (BATTLE FORCE) is decent in a small role as the one who goes along with the crowd. Goffredo Unger (THIRTY SIX HOURS TO HELL) is great as a burly, short-tempered career soldier. Loy uses the flashback technique again and again to paint his characters, and these scenes are appropriately edited either very choppily or very fluidly, depending on the intensity of what's going on in the present. Throw in some big tank battles near and the end and a slam-bang antiwar ending, and you've got a fine little film.
I saw this on an old Interglobal Home Video. I had no idea this existed existed on video and was quite surprised when a contact was able to send me a copy. The film is titled DESERT ASSAULT and not the common title, DESERT BATTLE. The original credits have apparently been removed, and this print has cheap video-generated credits about 10 minutes into the film. It's presented full frame which is occasionally annoying, cutting both speakers out of frame in some scenes. The colors are pretty accurate and there is not too much print damage. FIND THIS ONE TODAY!
Also of note: Lenzi uses a good deal of the tank battle footage for his later epic BATTLE FORCE.
It's not often that I come across a gem like this. Definitely a must-see.
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