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Battle of the Commandos (1969)

La legione dei dannati (original title)
PG-13 | | Action, War | 12 August 1969 (Italy)
Irish Colonel Charlie McPhearson has just had his platoon of twenty-eight slaughtered by German troops. Angered at his superiors for this suicide mission, he takes convicts on his next, ... See full summary »



(story) (as Stefano Bolla), (story) | 4 more credits »
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Complete credited cast:
Gen. von Reilow
Col. Charley MacPherson
Capt. Kevin Burke
Claudio Undari ...
Pvt. Raymond Stone (as Robert Hundar)
Col. Ackerman
Helmuth Schneider ...
Pvt. Sam Schrier
Guido Lollobrigida ...
Pvt. Tom Carlyle (as Lee Burton)
Sgt. Karim Habinda
Diana Lorys ...
Franco Fantasia ...
Schiwers, the French Maquis leader
Gérard Herter ...
SS Lt. Hapke
Mirko Ellis ...
Capt. Adler
Bruno Corazzari ...
Pvt. Frank Madigan
Antonio Molino Rojo ...
Pvt. Albert Hank
Lorenzo Robledo ...
Pvt. Bernard Knowles


Irish Colonel Charlie McPhearson has just had his platoon of twenty-eight slaughtered by German troops. Angered at his superiors for this suicide mission, he takes convicts on his next, along with fornicating American explosives technician Major Burke, to defuse underwater mines so that a commando squado can prepare for a June 10 invasion to destroy a tank gun. Because Colonel Ackerman, whose troops killed his last platoon, is the leader of the platoon in charge of the gun, McPhearson insists on trying to complete the commandos' mission. Written by Scott Hutchins <scottandrewh@home.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


They Challenged the Devil... and Won!


Action | War


PG-13 | See all certifications »




Release Date:

12 August 1969 (Italy)  »

Also Known As:

Battle of the Commandos  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

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Technical Specs



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


Curd Jürgens (General von Reilow) and Wolfgang Preiss (Colonel Ackerman) previously appeared in The Longest Day (1962), which likewise depicted the D-Day landings. See more »


Col. Charley MacPherson: [to his commanding officer] You pig! You dirty rotten *pig*! There were 28 of them, my whole squad. Dead, one by one, *all* of them! And it's ALL YOUR FAULT!
See more »


Referenced in Phenomena (1985) See more »

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User Reviews

Below-average Italian War Film
7 November 2002 | by (St. Davids, Pennsylvania, USA) – See all my reviews

If you like low-budget Italian movies or war films, then this will be a real treat, even though it is probably one of the worst films I've ever seen – regardless of genre. This is unfortunate, because director Lenzi's first war effort, Desert Commando, showed marvelous potential.

The story focuses on a band of British ex-cons, who are recruited by Scottish Colonel MacPherson (Jack Palance) to clear a path for British commandos through a minefield off the Normandy coast on the night of June 4th, 1944. When the commando force is ambushed by a German PT Boat, MacPherson becomes obsessed with taking on their mission: destroy a huge railroad gun which threatens the imminent Allied landings, which happens to be commanded by his nemesis, Colonel Ackerman (Wolfgang Preiss), much to the dismay of his men.

Lenzi's second war film is, for all intents and purposes, a combination of three classic war movies: the indestructible artillery and impossible mission theme of The Guns of Navarone; the rivalry between Allied and Axis extremists, not to mention the central steam engine of The Train; and the now-familiar anti-hero characters of The Dirty Dozen. This is a fast-paced movie about a bunch of guys on the run, racing against the clock to complete their mission. The characters are never really fleshed out, but for a low-budget action film, they've got more dimensionality than we've come to expect.

Palance never makes a very convincing leader. At his best, he tries to be human, but always returns to being a tough bully. He's got a mission and will stop at nothing to accomplish it, even though it means the death of just about everyone under his command. On one hand, he has a responsibility to save Allied lives by destroying the railroad gun, but his real goal is always, clearly, personal prejudice, and it's not admirable.

What's more admirable are the attitudes of his men: Guido Lollobrigida (Commando Attack) is one of the ex-cons, who realizes the error of his ways and is now willing to fight because his duty is to his country. Helmut Schneider is excellent in a very under-developed part of a humanitarian, who can't agree with MacPherson but goes along because he's a concentration camp survivor and wants vengeance. Thomas Hunter is fun to watch as an American captain who got conned into the mission because of his specialty in demolitions. At first, he's a coward who wants to be back at a desk job chasing girls, but proves his courage under fire more than once. Roberto Undari and Bruno Corazzari are the rebels of the group, who are constantly bickering with MacPherson, but always stick with him because they know he is their only chance for surviving behind enemy territory. That's where the depth hits rock bottom. Every time men threaten to abandon the mission, MacPherson simply yells and threatens to shoot them, and the discussion is over. There's not much moral drama to be explored, and once the point is made, it's dropped and Lenzi moves on to more important things.

Don't let me mislead you – this is an action movie and is not meant to be anything more, but substance and character are necessary to make the action have an impact. On the action level alone, Lenzi fails miserably – though not as badly as he would years later in the infamous "Bridge to Hell". Working with a low budget this time around, Lenzi and his production crew obviously couldn't afford much in the way of pyrotechnics or extras, and as director, Lenzi tries to cover this up – and doesn't do a very good job. The many combat scenes consist of skirmishes between small bands of men, a dozen or so at the most, and consist mainly of quick zoom-ins, frequent cutting and rapid shift of focus. This is often confusing and dizzying, and makes the action move far too quickly. It's too much information thrown out too fast, and looks pretty pathetic on top of that.

The limits of the budget are also obvious in the sets. There are not many interiors, and when we do go inside a house or German office building, they're shabbily furnished. Lenzi keeps his focus on the actors so that you don't notice right away that their surroundings don't look too convincing. Many exteriors - particularly near the end of the picture – are set in southern France, but were obviously shot in Spain. Instead of forests or lush fields, we see desolate sand mounds and bare, rocky hills all over the place. As far as costumes and props go, Lenzi also fails to make his movie look authentic. Most of the Germans wear uniforms of artillery troops, often with ill-fitting jackets or helmets. They are armed primarily with Beretta submachine guns, a weapon developed by the Italians. Finally, miniature work is below-par, too, but fortunately this flaw is limited to a single shot during the climax.

On the plus side, Armando Travajoli provides an energetic score which adds to the tension and fast pace. This film is always moving, and there is never a wasted moment: every action, every line, every glance contributes to the story. That is the glue holding this mess together. Lenzi does manage to execute the finale quite well, too. The German train yard looks quite bustling and official, and the battle between the Allied commandos and German soldiers on the train is tense and nail-biting. It's a pity that Lenzi has to ruin this victorious spirit by throwing in a muddled anti-war statement for the film's conclusion.

This is a satisfying action yarn, but offers little besides some enjoyable, pulpy 90 minutes of pure adventure. Despite poor execution, the familiar supporting cast of Italian and German character-actors offers some good turns and provide enough energy to keep the film moving through the final scenes.

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