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Well it isn´t quite Saving Private Ryan, but that is no surprise I guess.
However, the fact that I watched Spielbergs masterpiece, only a few weeks
before I layed my eyes on this rather unknown WW2 movie, have contributed
greatly to my sense of what you have the right to expect. So bear that in
mind when you read the rest of this gibberish.
"Wheels of Terror" or "The Misfit Brigade"(The most suitable title if you ask me) is based on the books by Sven Hazel about a group of "criminal elements" in a german penal regiment. The books are entertaining and highly recommendable, so I had high hopes for this movie. It kicks of in 1943 with "our" platoon returning from the battle of Stalingrad, in a tank that is as post-war as the media you are reading this through. Well I can´t avoid mentioning just a few more flaws:
The russians speak russian as they should, however the germans speak english.
Try to picture this: You are a german commander. You have two tank destroyers in a good hulldown position. In your binoculars you see some T34´s approaching your position. What seems to be the right thing to do?
A. Wait until the T34´s are within, a you can´t miss kindda range, and then destroy ´em.
B. Order your tank destroyers to move forward, in an attempt to outmanoeuver the extremely fast and turreted T34´s.
A few minutes into the battle a T34 crushes your command vehicle beneath its tracks. What is your initial reaction?
B. Disbelief and a feeling that maybe you shouldn´t have driven your green american Jeep onto the battlefield anyhow.
Well now try to picture this: You are a general in the german army standing in a german camp in russia. Suddenly eight russian planes start strafing the area. What would you do?
A. Try to find some cover ASAP.
B. Walk over to a slow, unarmed recon-plane and complain that there is no pilot to get you the hell out of there.
If you feel deep in your heart that B,B and B are the right answers, then you will probaly regard this, as one of the most realistic war movies ever made.
Please don´t think that this is an all bad movie. The dialogue and portrayal of the soldiers in the platoon are caught spot on and stays true to the books. Especially the performance of Jay O. Sander as "Tiny", the big dum demolition "expert", is worth mentioning.
Watch this if you liked the books or are a big fan of war movies. 5/10
Svel Hassle has written a lot of books about his war experiences as a
Dane in the German Army in WWII. Most of these fictional accounts but
based on real-life events), the books have been widely released in
Europe, but from time to time are available in North America as well
This is the one and only movie made from one of his books, a shame really, since Swen Hassle portrays way in a most realistic manner; neither making light of what is happening, not glorifying war, but emphasizing the "Kameradschaft" - the effects of the war's events on Swen and his friends.
The movie unfortunately has some flaws that keep it from being really great. Foremost of these is the casting of David Carradine as a German officer. Too bad, since his performance in this film is sub-par at best.
The casting of Bruce Davison as Porta is a great choice, and he really shines in this movie, and along with David Patrick Kelly (as "The Legionnaire") gives realistic performances.
One of the major reasons this movie didn't receive wider distribution was protests from a number of groups who thought the movie - although they probably had not seen it - glorified the Nazi regime. It doesn't - it portrays war as brutal (on all sides), with no leaders to rely on, rather only one's fellow soldiers to depend on for your life.
A side-note - Swen Hassle is still alive (at this writing) and until relatively recently, has still been writing (although not writing fiction any more). Two of the three major characters in his books (Tiny, Porta and the Legionnaire) survived the war as well.
A very watchable low budget WWII action adventure in the same vein as Kelly's Hero's. You could say it's a cross between Kelly's Heros and the Dirty Dozen. It's a light-hearted adaptation of a Sven Hassle novel about a German penal tank crew sent to the Russian Front. On their return they are sent on a mission to destroy a train behind enemy lines with the promise of retirement if their mission is successful. The tone is one of anti-war and anti-nazism, with the laid back crew pushing insubordination to the limits. The movie has a good cast and characters. David Carradine is superb as the nazi Col. Von Weisshage; and indeed one of the things that make it enjoyable is that all the actors seem to be enjoying their roles. The other thing that makes it enjoyable is the solid humour that keeps a steady pace.
For almost two years I successfully resisted renting this movie. That resistance was certainly aided by the cheap looking case of the video, and the fact that director Gordon Hessler is known (if at all) in the US only for a trio of cheap, British, AIP horror flicks, "Scream and Scream Again" being marginally the most watchable of the lot. But the desire to see what Hessler and his mostly American TV actor cast would do with such material, and the need for relief from a recent diet of "serious" indie film viewing, pushed me over the edge to spend the whole one dollar rental fee. Obviously "the Misfit Brigade" is no masterpiece, but it was far better than I expected, and, as others have pointed out, occasionally rises to the level of pretty damn good. I loved, for instance, the sequence in which the misfits watch a Soviet propaganda film projected on a large screen across the front line. I don't know if this ever happened, and if it did, I doubt he films would have had the big studio production values of the one presented. The bordello sequence was also funny, and reminded me of the humor in some of the better Italian westerns. There was also the occasional visually striking shot. I particularly liked the long tracking shot that begins on a Russian peasant coming to a road, then follows a Russian military vehicle through the gates of a compound, then swoops up on a crane to the roof, where a German soldier is observing the vehicle. Then, in subtitled Russian, someone yells, "There's a Kraut on the roof," and we cut to a shot of the rest of the misfits (some distance away) as we here automatic weapons' fire on the soundtrack. This is damn good sequence. I've read in his mini biography here on Imdb, that Hessler worked for Hitchcock's TV unit at Universal before directing features. This long tracking shot is certainly similar to one of Hitch's, and even shares a bit of the master's dark humor. But, OK, this film is not art. It is somewhat choppy (at least in the U.S. video version), and the low budget shows in some of the action sequences. Still, it's a fun little movie if one can accept its limitations. Even David Carradine seems to be enjoying his minor role as an uptight German officer. Oliver Reed is not on screen very long as a pompous German general who arrives at the end of the film to decorate the misfit heros. I cannot agree that his attitude during the air raid which follows detracts from the film's "realism." This is all slapstick anyway, which accounts for the film's final cut, before some graphic violence would have betrayed it's lighthearted mood.
To tell the truth, I liked this movie. It's not great, it's not even good,
but it's a very entertaining piece of budget movie history, and considering
that I am surprised at how good it actually became.
Basically it is a classical Dirty Dozen/Guns of Navarone mixture. Group of misfits in German penal battalion goes on impossible mission, shot lots of ruskies, loose some good men and have some strange/amusing/other encounters. The acting isn't bad, in fact it's downright good in a few spots such as Tiny and The Legionaire but generally it's pretty mediocre. What makes this movie something more than B trash is the fact that it has some pretty likable characters and some pretty funny scenes.
For example; throughout the movie we are given propaganda bulletins on the German radio talking about the heroes of Bektovka, who are holding out against all odds far behind enemy lines. One is compelled to laugh at the absurdity when our heroes accidentally end up at Bektovka and discovered that the 'heroes' are living a quiet farm life together with the Russian defenders of the village.
Another fun thing, at least for me, was how equipment and uniforms change continuously throughout the movie. At one point even the German tanks (which look suspiciously like Russian JS3s) are transformed, into Russian T-55s.
Wheels of Terror gave me a feeling of watching an episode of the 60s WW2 series 'Combat' or the old Polish series 'Four Tankers and a Dog'. If you're looking for a good war movie see Peckinpah's 'The Iron Cross' or Stone's 'Platoon', but if you're looking for a trip down nostalgia lane Wheels of Terror is the movie for you.
This is one of my favourite flicks!Based on the Sven Hassel book "WHEELS OF TERROR."Nothing fancy here.Good casting job bringing Hassel's characters to the silver screen.Having read most of Hassel's books,makes me biased towards this film.It has all the elements of a good war/anti-war film.David Carradine has a blast as the commander and,the cast works well with/off each other.Oliver Reed has a cameo that is perfect for him.I really like the tank sequences.Real armor was used to great effect.This is on my top 10 war films list.It is a shame that no other films were made,based on Hassel's books.
This film is far from perfect, though I'm overall quite glad I saw it.
It's basically THE DIRTY DOZEN if the protagonists were all Germans
serving on the Eastern Front. Sound interested? Well I was hooked right
The main strength to the film is the characterization. The three central characters are fleshed out pretty well and the interplay between them rings quite true. There's plenty of action sequences involving tanks, planes, and a fair amount of explosions but overall they're quite hindered by the low budget.
Problems here include a lot of confusing moments, character decisions, and anachronisms. For one, we're introduced to the heroes at the beginning of the film driving a soviet post-ww2 T-62 tank! Later they're seen manning two SU-122 tank destroyers, which were also soviet, but the film wants us to believe are STUG-III's which look nothing alike. Also, the heroes (a penal battalion) often speak irreverently of Nazis and SS, but the costuming department outfitted them with Totenkopf SS emblems on their uniforms.
However I must give credit to proper firearms. The uniforms overall look quite good though I wonder what a Russian 1939 early war hat would be doing on the front line in 1943/44. The Russian T-34/85's are quite authentic though with a lot of additions they wouldn't have had on in WW2. Overall the tank-fighting scenes are quite poorly done, though somewhat realistic in showing that tanking is a very cooperation-based profession.
Overall, this is a movie that will only appeal to WW2 buffs. It's a pseudo-comedy but it isn't really that funny, per-say. It's an action movie too, but isn't particularly bloody or violent either.
If you fell in love with the books of Sven Hassle, you might think this
is a movie not to miss. Sorry, have to bring your hopes down.
The movie doesn't catch anything from the books! The characters are nothing like in the books. Can it be so that they couldn't find any actors to resemble the characters in the books or was the directing so terrible? I don't know but I was SO disappointed after seeing this movie that I was sorry I bought it.
As far as I'm concerned, this movie shouldn't have been done, at least not in the 80's! They probably had a very small budget which may be the reason for the terrible style of the movie and the story, that doesn't remind me of the exciting and cruel stories in the books of Sven Hassle. Skip the movie and stick to the books!
I have seen this film a couple of times and have found that I like the movie. It is not the quality of Stalingrad but I think if follows the basic premise of the books by Sven Hassle. Other people have ripped it to shreds and said that it was trash but I found that the books and the film are quite similar in tone. It does not follow the book Wheels of Terror exactly but it does a good job of capturing the flavor of the books. I would encourage people to try to find a copy. Used VHS tapes often show up on Ebay and even European DVDs can be found. Be sure to search for both titles as The Misfit Brigade seems to be only the USA title.
A friend and I watched this movie back-to-back with the Italian flick "The Inglorious Bastards", as a part of our 'crazed rampaging soldiers' theme-night and it was a terrific ride throughout the two whole movies. The Italian cult classic one, directed by Enzo G. Castellari and starring Fred Williamson, is undoubtedly more outrageous and spectacular, but the main conclusion actually was that both films share practically the same plot; only seen from the two opposite war fronts. Obviously both productions are imitations of the legendary war film "The Dirty Dozen", but personally I always treasured a bigger weakness for cheap knockoffs than for the acclaimed originals. "The Misfit Brigade" is adapted from a novel from Sven Hassle; who was a former Nazi Soldier and thus a bit of a questionable and slightly controversial figure himself. Regardless of his background, "The Misfit Brigade" definitely isn't pro-Nazi and actually quite blunt and uncompromising in the expression of its political opinions. The protagonists in this movie are anti everything and that's probably why this is such a good and plausible film. And by plausible I do not necessarily mean the depicted events in the film, but the characterizations of the rejected SS-soldiers and deserters. The plot introduces the questionable members of the 27th Panzer Regiment; a gathering of overly opinionated soldiers convicted in court martial and downright expandable criminals. They spent their days driving around in their tank, drinking heavily and playing vicious pranks on each other. Mostly active near the Northern front lines and Russians borders, the 27th Regiment unmercifully kills Russians but drive their tank over German soldiers just as easily. When the vicious Colonel Von Weisshägen promises them amnesty in return the fulfillment of a special and dangerous assignment, the boys go far beyond Russian enemy lines in order to blow up a train chock-full of oil and military equipment. As much as it is a harsh and realistic war epic, "The Misfit Brigade" is also a subtle and blackly humorous parody about the people forced to fight for a cause that is not necessarily their own and, as you can guess, their number is far more plentiful than the heroic patriots. Some sequences are near-brilliant and overwhelming (like the tank fights, the screening of the discouraging propaganda film, and the encounter with the exhibitionist deserters), but other footage is dreadfully tedious and misplaced, like the scene in the brothel for example. The best element about "The Misfit Brigade" is unarguably the character drawings. The members of the 27th Panzer Regiment aren't friends or soul mates. They're cold and emotionless bastards that do not mourn when one of their colleagues is killed in action and they definitely don't philosophize about the senselessness of warfare. The Yugoslavian filming locations add a great deal of realism to the film and the scenery (those tanks and Luftwaffe attacks!) are excellent. Director Gordon Hessler known from the early 70's Vincent Price horror movies "The Oblong Box" and "Cry of the Banshee" does an admirable job as well and he could rely on a fantastically devoted cast, including Bruce Davison as the uncrowned leader of the bunch, David Patrick Kelly as the eloquent and provocative Legionnaire and Jay O. Sanders as the big & dumb kamikaze freak Tiny. David Carradine is sublimely nefarious as the power-hungry Colonel Von Weisshägen; complete with his glasses for one eye only to make him look extra evil. Oliver Reed receives top billing but only makes a cameo appearance during the hectic and extremely cool climax. The role, however, is perfect for him and he gives his absolute everything in only five lines of dialog. Recommended!
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