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April 5, 1943: a battalion of the Foreign Legion arrives in El Ksour, Tunisia, to escort a fortune in gold bars to the home front. A German ambush awaits, and all but four die. Thanks to the street smarts of Sergeant Augagneur, the Legionnaires successfully counter attack. The bank manager and his seductive wife arrive, and so does a German lieutenant, whom the French arrest. Augagneur wants to steal the gold; warrant officer Mahuzard wants to do his duty. A series of alliances form and break apart, the group dwindles in number, and the gold heads south toward Betahoua. But in whose possession? Written by
Jean-Paul Belmondo Is Fine In Played Out War Movie
At one point in Les Morfalous, Jean-Paul Belmondo's character tells the warrant officer: "I'll be frank, Edouard. It's not polite to mock us." Pause. "It's not polite." Although this war story seems often to be a bargain basement version of Kelly's Heroes, it has its moments. Another moment comes when the bank director's wife, observing her husband for the last time, gets a chance to make one really mean comment that is a play on words. Those moments do not include the cheap explosions that do no damage to the Tunisian town set where most of the action takes place in. Les Morfalous is the last of seven (by my count in IMDb) pairings of Belmondo and director Henri Verneuil. Belmondo in this movie seems as spry as ever, fighting, running and chewing the scenery. But age was catching up to him, which shows in close ups. Verneuil, a great action director, decided to end his career, after this movie, by making a series of dramatic movies about the Turkish genocide of the Armenians during World War One. I think he made the right decision, by ending his career making movies he cared about. Les Morfalous is a star vehicle that lacks the usual production gloss of Belmondo's movies in the 60s and 70s. The version I saw on the NYC CUNY Channel had subtitles but the print was grainy and washed out. Even a great print could not hide this movie's flaws: cheap action, choppy editing and too many dull characters. Belmondo is fine, the actor who plays the German officer is fine, the bank director's wife is very good looking and on target when she lists the mistakes Belmondo's sergeant made. In the end, Les Morafalous is a tired movie with too small a budget and not enough interesting action for a war movie.
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