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Most of the Italian war flicks from the late 1960s and early 1970s were filled with action, adventure and familiar cliches. However, THE FIFTH DAY OF PEACE does just the opposite -- it's an antiwar drama with virtually no combat.
It's the beginning of May, 1945. Captain Miller (Richard Johnson) takes command of a POW camp in Holland. He must deal with Col. von Bleicher (Helmut Schneider), the senior German POW, who insists on maintaining a military system of discipline amongst the POWs. Soon, two deserters (Franco Nero and Larry Aubrey) are taken captive. Bleicher wants them shot for desertion; Miller could care less since the war is over.
The movie features a fine leading cast. Richard Johnson is excellent as the war-torn Canadian Captain. Helmut Schneider is equally great and very believable as the authoritarian German Colonel. Franco Nero's performance as an anti-Hitler, quick-to-anger deserter is incredibly good and quite over-the-top. It's a pity his voice was dubbed. In support is Larry Aubrey, who I have yet to see in another film. His performance as the innocent young German deserter is good, but doesn't hold a candle to Nero's. Bud Spencer is decent as the kindly Canadian Corporal Jelinek, but he only appears in a few scenes.
There is no combat in the entire film. The action takes place within the camp. There are no escape attempts; it's more psychological warfare between von Bleicher and Miller. The two deserters are just the catalysts. The film does a magnificent job of showing how innocent people are often the victims of circumstances beyond their control. The cinematography is marvelous; while practically the whole movie takes place within the camp, it's established quite early that's a muddy, dirty and horrible place to live. The musical score by Ennio Morricone is quite unusual and fits perfectly. The ending is unexpected and very well set up; at an appropriate moment, the story is simply over.
The DVD release is a waste of money. It is of poor quality and has no special features. I would recommend the video from Congress, although it's not much of an improvement.
The BEST Italian war movie I've seen so far. I give it an 8/10.
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