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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.
*** 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. ****
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 ***
I saw this film in a cinema in the early 1970s. My first impression was that it was a Hudson vehicle full of cardboard characterisation. But was it? With the benefit of hindsight aren't Aldo and Dino representative of the schizophrenia of the modern Italian state? Both boys' lives are already ruined by the time the Hudson character appears on the screen. Aldo is all for unquestioning action and immediate revenge against the perpetrators at any cost, a very human reaction. His power to reason has completely disappeared. Dino is more sanguine, protective of the other boys and willing to accept Hudson as the natural leader. According to modern Italian writers every time the Italians decide to adopt the sensible Dino approach they fall foul of the Aldos agitating to rectify their ills by short term methods. The contrast between the two characters may not have been intentional but it adds flavour and a realistic ending to an otherwise routine film. Coleano (son of a famous actor) and Forsythe's physical difference also adds emphasis to their different approaches.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Had I been around in 1970 and seen this film in the theater, I would
have been applauding the deaths of each and every nasty German in this
film, and more than 45 years after this film, am still doing the same
thing. I don't care whether its John Carradine being assassinated in
"Hitler's Madman" or Ralph Fiennes being hung in "Schindler's List", I
just can't help screaming, "Die, Nazi, die!" every time I see blood
trickling out of their mouth or that last moment before their execution
as their soul prepares to catch the elevator down to hell. "Hornet's
Nest" starts me off with absolute hatred towards the most evil
political party in European history, tied with the vicious thugs who
terrorize world peace today.
An entire village of aging townspeople and young mothers are viciously wiped out in the opening scene by the Nazi's. Watching from afar atop a huge hill are the teenaged sons who are wanted by the Nazi's for being rebels against their regime. The arrival of American parachuters leaves only Rock Hudson alive, brought into their cave. They deceive Nazi doctor Sylvia Koscina into coming back to treat him, and making her their prisoner begin to turn her political beliefs around.
A touching reminder how war touches so many lives and turns young boys into men over night, this isn't flawless by any means. Like the kids of "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang", these kids seem to ho everywhere without being caught, even stealing a full arsenal of weapons. All it seems to change Koscina is seeing the children in danger, but fortunately, the beautiful blonde doesn't break into song. The actors playing the Italian teenagers do a perfect job for amateurs, with Mark Colleano passionate as the very determined leader.
One scene that is very disturbing has Colleano preparing to rape Koscina simply out of revenge for what the Nazi's did to the women in his village. He's the only professional actor among them, and at times, seems to be over emoting, but somehow it comes off as believable. Sergio Fantoni as the Nazi leader gives a very subtle performance, reminding us that real villains could be cultured and well-mannered in the pursuit of their goals, but sometimes, evil is brought on in a calm, convincing voice. Great photography is a plus, and the tension never lapses as Hudson and the boys (with fights from Koscina) build up to the plans to blow up the local dam.
For me, the whole point of this movie (putting guns and explosives into the hands of children) is to show how that in times of war, when survival of decent communities is key, all must fight in one way or another. Sure, killing the Germans won't bring the dead back, but it will prevent other innocent people from being slaughtered at the hands of terrorists. The fact that this flopped because of youngsters being given weapons is nullified by the need to neutralize evil under any circumstance.
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