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REVIEW OF THE VERSION SHOWN ON TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES IN NORTH America
This is one of many Italian WWII adventure films to be released in the late 1960s / early 1970s. It's a familiar story, presented in a unique way with some American aspects thrown in.
Leading man Rock Hudson stars as an American commando. His team is parachuted into Italy to blow a colossal, strategic dam. Hudson's unit is ambushed and he is the only survivor. He is "rescued" by a band of Italian youngsters, who con him into helping them wreak havoc on the Nazis who took over their town and killed their families. Meanwhile, Capt. von Hecht (Sergio Fantoni) leads a hunt for Hudson and must cope with the S.S. to do so.
This movie has a lot of fine aspects. First of all, it's got a very good international cast. American star Rock Hudson has had his share of fame in plenty of classic movies; he's had experience in the war movie genre, too, in TOBRUK and the marvelous ICE STATION ZEBRA. You'll see more of the incredibly beautiful Sylva Koscina than you've ever seen before; she's a nurse who's captured to aid Hudson, but is non-essential to the story. Just there to look at ... and there's plenty to see. Sergio Fantoni (VON RYAN'S EXPRESS) is very good as the one-eyed German Captain von Hecht, who will stop at nothing to stop Hudson from destroying the dam. Giacomo Rossi-Stuart (BATTLE FORCE, THE LAST 4 DAYS) has a very minor part as Fantoni's aide. Mark Colleano is incredibly good as the selfish leader of the youngster gang. His performance is brilliant and he deserves more credit than he gets. Plenty of familiar "German" character-actors ... Tom Felleghy (THE BATTLE OF EL ALAMEIN) appears as a German colonel. Max Tarilli (THE DEVIL'S BRIGADE) as a German Colonel. Gerard Herter (LAST DAY OF THE WAR) as the commander of the dam. Watch for Andrea Bosic from DIABOLIK as a German General.
The action scenes are sparse and involve few extras. The last big scene on the dam is well-done for the most part, but there are still a few corny moments. Several times, the camera focuses on a sole machine-gunner and you can hear men screaming, but you never get to see the victims. The cinematography is marvelous and breathtaking, as this was filmed on location in Italy. The musical score by Ennio Morricone is pretty good, but surprisingly not anywhere near as good as his Leone scores. The script is intelligent is tells a familiar story from a unique viewpoint; showing young pre-teens battling the Nazis with machine guns and grenades is something that's rarely done. No striking dialog or directorial tricks from Karlson, who did the great HELL TO ETERNITY ten years earlier, but it's still a good adventure / suspense flick. The only negative thing I can think of is the HORRIBLY OUT OF PLACE antiwar statement near the end. It stresses that people get so caught up in war that they make horrible mistakes and come to mourn over them later on. Come on, guys -- the first 105 minutes showed war as a big adventure, and the last 5 makes it look like a colossal tragedy. Sure, I think war IS bad and should be avoided if possible; but if you're gonna make an action movie, don't try to make a big statement at the end. It ruins what's been accomplished during the rest of the movie.
I saw this on video from MGM. It's an incredibly rare VHS tape, released for a short time in 1993. I found a brand new one on half.com for a great price and snatched it immediately. The print is pan & scan, except for the credits, which are widescreen, I'd say about 1.78:1. The colors are accurate and striking. There are hardly an flaws like scratches, etc. This is worth seeking out and buying for a decent price.
Overall, for the cast, Morricone music and unique approach to the subject matter, I'll give it a 6/10. With a better ending, it could have been a 7/10.
So-so wartime movie follows a group of children saboteurs commanded by
an Allied officer whose aim is to blow up a dam vital to the Nazis in
Italy. It happens during WWWII when Captain Turner (a moustachioed Rock
Hudson )is lone survivor of an Army commando unit that parachuted into
the Italian countryside . A small group of orphans must rescue the
American captain to be hold by the Nazis. Then the wounded captain is
saved , meanwhile the children kidnap a German doctor ( a sultry Sylvia
Koscina but rather unlikely medic) . Turner wants the kids to help him
blow up a dam and the boys want his help in getting avenge on the Nazis
(Sergio Fantoni ,Jacques Sernas,Gerad Herter, Andrea Bosic) who had
massacred his families and occupied their small village.
This warlike movie packs well-staged action scenes , double-crosses, thrills, blood-letting images and criticism about the futility of war but doesn't quite hang together. It contains some unsettling and disconcerting frames as when the kids attempt to rape the German medic and are suddenly interrupted by the healed captain. The nice international cast includes American , British, French and mostly Italian actors such as Sergio Fantoni, Giacomo Rossi Stuart, Andrea Bosic , among others. Good musical score by usual Ennio Morricone and adequate cinematography by Gabor Pogany filmed on location in Italian outdoors. The motion picture is professionally directed by Phil Karlson, though drags in some places with little believable situations . There were no half measures in this filmmaker. He would make adventure movies or violent and noir films . As he directed Western as ¨Gunman's walk¨ , ¨They rode west¨, ¨Texas rangers, ¨Iroquois trail¨ and Gansters genre as ¨Phenix city story¨ and ¨Scarface mob¨. Furthermore, Elvis Presley vehicles as ¨Kid Galahad¨ and Dean Martin as ¨The silencers¨and ¨Wrecking crew¨ . Failure alternated with hits through his career, though Karlson's direction was more than successful in ¨ Walking tall¨ with invaluable help of Joe Don Baker . ¨Hornest's nest¨ is an acceptable and passable film with some scenes of relentless action that keep you breathless . This stirring movie will appeal to Rock Hudson fans and WWII buffs.
"Hornets' Nest" (1970) is far from a great World War II film, but I
have a soft spot for it and it does contain some highlights.
THE PLOT: The lone survivor of a paratrooper mission to blow up a dam in German-held Italy is rescued by a group of orphans, who live in a cave in the woods. Their families where slaughtered by the Germans and they want to use the soldier to help them get revenge whereas he wants to train the kids so they can help him blow the dam.
This is more of an Italian film than an American one and it shows in the Italian style of direction & editing, which sometimes comes off awkward.
Everyone speaks English but the Germans and Italians are heavily accented, so I suggest using the subtitles.
The biggest highlight is the moving score by Ennio Morricone. The second is the beautiful Sylva Koscina, who plays the doctor that nurses the soldier (Rock Hudson) to health and hangs around the outcasts the entire film. Sylva is just breathtaking throughout (and fully-clothed the entire time, I might add).
Hudson is rock-solid as the taciturn soldier (sorry) and Mark Colleano is excellent as Aldo, the fanatical leader of the ragtag group of kids. He wants revenge at all costs and the young actor gets this across with passion. Sergio Fantoni is also notable as Captain Von Hecht; he's not a one-dimensional German officer and is actually a solid man who just got trapped on the wrong side of the war.
There are a couple of action sequences, one being pretty far-fetched (when the soldier & the kids mow-down an entire village of Germans while riding in an Army truck), but the action is usually swift and quiet in the order of guerilla tactics.
I like how the members of the outcast group, including the soldier and nurse, are always sweaty and dirty with messy hair and crumpled clothing. It smacks of how war really is -- dirty, sweaty and messy.
The presence of the stunning Sylva Koscina blows any theory of gay or pedophile subtext. If any other actor than Hudson played the role of the soldier, like Clint Eastwood or Charles Bronson, there would be no such inane theory. It doesn't exist.
In any event, "Hornets' Nest" was likely the blueprint for John Milius' "Red Dawn" (1984). The difference being that "Hornets' Nest" takes place in Italy during WWII and involves a younger group of kids.
The Italian locations are a huge plus; the film runs 110 minutes.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Big Hollywood studio movies about World War II grew increasingly cynical during the 197os. "Walking Tall" director Phil Karlson made "Hornet's Nest," in Italy with Rock Hudson, Sylva Koscina, and Sergio Fantoni, showed what could happen when orphaned juvenile delinquents entered the fray with machine guns and an attitude. Hudson starred as an Army Captain sent to destroy a dam, but the Germans ambush his men after they parachute into enemy territory and wipe them out, so only the Hudson character survives. Meanwhile, the Germans wipe out an entire village of men and women, more specifically fathers and mothers as the partisans and the sons and daughters watch the massacre from afar. The children swear vengeance and rescue an unconscious Army officer before the Germans can take him prisoner. They abducted a female German surgeon to supervise his recovery because they want him to teach them how to use a cache of weapons and pay the Germans back with interest for slaughtering their sires. Initially reluctant, the Army officer realizes that he must accommodate these revenge-bent juveniles if he is going to use them to complete his mission. "Hornet's Nest" beat the John Wayne western "The Cowboys" to the punch. Since Wayne cannot find any adult cowpunchers to herd his cattle to market, he has to settle for school-age youngsters, literally cowboys, to drive his steers to market. Along the trail, these youngsters grow up and get handy with six-guns, eventually tangling with a gang of rustlers that kill Wayne. Clearly, cynicism is at work in both films as children are indoctrinated into a culture of violence and bloodshed. The amoral quality of the storyline can be measured in the reluctance of the protagonist to train children in the ways of violence, so much so that by the end, he smashes all the weapons that they used against the enemy. The Ennio Morricone theme music with its whistling motif is brilliant. Fantoni is the German officer who knows what the kids are going to destroy and he has to shoot one of his own officers to try to stop the pint-sized raiders.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Hornets' Nest" has been one of my favorite films ever since its
release. A few years ago I tracked it down on VHS, and I'm very glad I
did because the versions I'd caught on television had all been edited.
Rock Hudson is definitely the star, convincingly cast as an American army captain who finds himself expected to single-handedly destroy a strategic dam in occupied Italy. Yet the story focuses just as much on Aldo, the teen-aged leader of the gang of boys who help him. Acted with remarkable intensity by Mark Colleano, Aldo drives the action from beginning to end and in fact dominates the final scene. Without Colleano's passion and energy to offset Hudson's more subdued performance, the movie would have been a forgettable war story. Because of it, "Hornets' Nest" becomes an unusual anti-war tale of loyalty and jealousy, desperation and guilt.
Of course, the film does have its flaws. Silva Koscino plays a German doctor who accompanies the group against her will. Her character is out of place, frequently annoying, and seems to bring out the worst in those around her (a brief, non-explicit rape scene is the only reason I cannot unreservedly recommend this movie). The story honestly would have been better without any female presence at all.
Sergio Fantoni, on the other hand, is quite strong as a German captain who attempts to foil Hudson's mission. Despite being a Nazi, he is depicted as a gentleman as well as a military man, and his contribution adds another layer to the complex relationships being played out on screen.
The scenery is beautiful, evoking the warm, sunny, lazy Italian countryside during a period when it was anything but, and is brilliantly complemented by Ennio Morricone's score. All in all, this is a movie I love to share with my friends.
The Hornet's Nest of the title refers to the gang of Italian urchins
who find Rock Hudson and a fascist female doctor played by Sylva
Koscina to patch him up.
Hudson has parachuted ahead of the advancing Fifth Army during the Italian campaign. His mission was to blow up a dam, presumably to trap retreating Nazis. But these kids have a mission of their own in mind. Their village was massacred by the S.S. looking for partisans and they want some payback.
Rock has to recover first so the kids kidnap a female doctor to treat him for concussion and bruised ribs. She's also quite an eyeful and in one scene, the older kids kind of forget the purpose of their mission.
It's a routine action adventure story that probably Burt Lancaster or Kirk Douglas would have been better suited for than Rock Hudson. Still Hudson turns in a decent performance, given what he has to work with.
The sad thing about Hornet's Nest is that with the revelation of Rock's homosexuality the film became something of a joke, what with Rock and a gang of teenage boys. Had any other actor done it, no one would have thought anything of it.
Or maybe Burt and Kirk had insights.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This highly unusual war drama stars Hudson as a U.S. Commando dropped behind enemy lines in Italy. When every other member of his team is killed, he must rely on the aid of a ragtag bunch of orphan boys to complete his mission. Hudson, in an anachronistic moustache and making a rather unlikely skydiving commando--at least in this stage of his career, does an okay job. He looks a bit tired, but his character is supposed to be wounded and a bit overwhelmed. Colleano gives a very overheated and loud portrayal as the ringleader of the orphan brigade. He has a few quiet moments, but mostly comes off like a deranged, Italian Davy Jones. A little subtlety would have gone a long way. Koscina plays a surgeon (with the least WWII-like and least doctor-like hair in film history!) who gets coerced into trying to save Hudson from his initial injuries during the drop. She does an adequate job, but is hardly compensation for the film's original intended star Sophia Loren. The role is unnecessary, except to add female interest and visual, and the story would have been stronger with just Rock and his boys doing their thing. (Who knows if producers were wary of a film like this with Hudson lacking a love interest and surrounded by scantily clad boys!.......) The plan involves carrying out the demolition of a massive dam and doing away with as many Nazis as they can in the process. The reality of the film is hampered somewhat by having a Nazi general played by an obviously Italian actor (Fantoni) whose hair has been bleached (and fried) to a white crisp and by it's odd changes in tone. An unbelievable amount of people are killed within the first opening moments of the film (including women in the process of nursing their babies!) In fact, virtually every character besides Hudson and the boys is offed by the ten minute mark (and this is not the end of the killing.) This much carnage doesn't leave any room for shock if a more prominent character dies...it's just part of the action. Still, the film does leave an impression. It overstates some of it's points through bombast and over-emphatic acting, but also has some gentle, thoughtful moments which salvage it. The actions scenes are pretty capable, even somewhat memorable and location filing helps a lot. In the end it's kind of a "Lord of the Flies" meets "The Dirty Dozen" filmed by an Italian crew.
It has been argued the Germans during World War Two made a number of mistakes with the various countries they conquered. In some cases, those mistakes were colossal. Take this film for instance. It's called " Hornets Nest " and takes place in 1944, near Reanoto, Italy. The small village is suspected of aiding the Partisans. These guerrilla, groups have become so annoying to the Germans, the local military Italian governor is replaced by a brutal SS Officer. Upon reaching the town, he rounds up the villagers and order them to reveal the Partisans upon pain of death. Bad mistake, but one which the Germans inflict with Nazi efficiency. Their children, learn the US military is sending a team of Commandos to destroy the dam near the town. The SS discover the drop zone and massacre all the airborne troops except one. The single survivor called Turner (Rock Hudson) awakens from his wounds and discovers he owes his life to a group of Teenage boys. Informed the SS is searching for him, Turner also learns an experience German Officer name Von Hecht (Sergio Fantoni) is also closing in on his whereabouts. Realizing, he has little choice, Turner decides to use his hate-filled and revenge seeking youths to continue his mission to destroy the dam. Accompanying him is a kidnapped female doctor (Sylva Koscina) who reluctantly joins the group. The movie itself is interesting in that instead of battle hard soldiers, Hudson has to first teach the kids to kill and then later must reverse his lessons. To the credit of the young cast, the teens lead by vengeance seeking Aldo (Mark Colleano) do a remarkable job of acting. From deep sorrow to hate spewing machine-gun scenes, they add to the over the top drama. In all, this action film does an honest job of creating a military Classic. However, much as I enjoy Hudson the actor, I can't help feel Charles Bronson or Burt Lancaster would have been a better choice as Husdon is not convincing as a rapist of women or abuser of children. ****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A dark and gritty World War II adventure movie filmed on location in
Italy and co-produced by the Italians, this film is quite grimdark and
violent, and also possibly one of the filthiest movies I've ever seen.
Everyone is always sweating and in bad need of a good bath, with messy
hair that needs combing, and clothes that need a trip through the
washing machine. It all adds to the realism, of course; war is dirty
Hornets' Nest stars macho man Rock Hudson, fresh off his successful starring role in the big screen adaptation of Alistair MacLean's novel Ice Station Zebra, as the determined Captain Turner. He does a pretty good job in what is essentially a one-note tough guy role, although he does, later one, get to emote a bit during scenes where Turner wonders he's doing the right thing by arming a bunch of preteen and younger kids.
Other standout performances include the achingly beautiful Sylva Koscina as Bianca, whose compassionate, kindhearted nature make it truly saddening all that she endures throughout the film. She begins by denying the crimes of the Nazis, but eventually takes up arms against them herself. Still, there is the uncomfortable scene where she's almost raped by the kids, and roughed up by Turner later, and I really have to wonder what in the world directors Phil Karlson and Franco Cirino were thinking.
There's also Mark Colleano as Aldo, and wow, can that kid act! Colleano really plays the whole "psycho teen" angle to the hilt and makes Aldo a believably dangerous and reprehensible, but still somehow pitiable character. Indeed, almost all the actors playing the boys do a good job, particularly Mauro Gravina as the adorable, ill-fated Carlo, and John Fordyce as Dino. These two are really the human face of the group of children (nevermind Dino is probably close to eighteen). If Aldo represents all that is wrong with youth, then the warm and compassionate Dino and the eager, curious and hopeful (despite the tragedy that has befallen them) Carlo represent all that is good and pure in it.
This finally brings us to the German characters, who save for Lithuanian actor Jacques Sernas as Taussig, are played almost entirely by Italians doing bad Teutonic accents. The high-ranking colonels and generals are stilted and laughable, but Sernas is pretty good. His Taussig oozes despicable arrogance and casual cruelty.
The best German character, though, and, indeed, probably the best character in the movie, is the very, very blonde Sergio Fantoni as Captain Friedrich von Hecht. He's a perfect example of an antagonist who isn't a villain. He's a decent enough guy who's just on the wrong side of an unjust war and knowingly serving an evil regime, acidly making his distaste for "you SS people" known at every turn, even at the risk of his own career and maybe even his life. Most interestingly of all is how he treats his mission to find and eliminate (or capture) Turner. Von Hecht is a hunter, you see; and he sees the American officer on the loose as a challenge that he must accept and try to overcome. For him, it's less about advancing the Nazi cause (he could care less about that) and more about the thrill of the hunt. And (mild spoiler here), he isn't one of this egomaniacal hunters drunk on his own superiority over his enemy; when his own prey bests him in the end, he accepts his defeat with dignity.
If the movie has a fault (the rape scenes aside), it is that it is a little on the unrealistic side when it comes to the battle scenes, and also can't quite seem to settle on a tone or moral. We have (essentially) untrained kids mowing down countless Nazis left and right, and it can't quite seem to decide if it wants to show war as a fun adventure or as a grim reality with tragic psychological tolls that come with children becoming killers, and its efforts to have it both ways leave it feeling a bit disjointed.
I was flipping channels and came upon Hornet's Nest. I thought I was
watching Force 10 From Navarone (no digital cable) until the hospital
scene. The movie had elapsed 20 minutes but for some reason I was drawn
into the story. There was quite a lot of carnage in the movie and I
hope I had to assume that Rock raped the doctor lady. The real
character that you have to clap for is the German Captain that was
dissed by all his superiors pretty much for the whole movie when he was
just doing his job in the best interest of the Fatherland.
I went through all possible emotions during the flick and was overall happy with the movie having never seen it before. I had to log onto the database to know it's title which brings me to making my comments. I give it a 7.
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