THE SEVEN RED BERETS (Mario Siciliano, 1969) **1/2
From one week to the next, I have learned to count on late-night Italian TV to come up with forgotten but worthwhile native movies from the past: this imitation of Jack Cardiff's Congo-based actioner DARK OF THE SUN (1968; one of Martin Scorsese's guilty pleasures) is yet another such example. The director here is a debutante and, after a cursory glance, not much else in his filmography elicits much interest except for EVIL EYE (1974; with Richard Conte) which has recently been deigned with a R1 DVD release even though, come to think of it, I have missed out on SCORTICATELI VIVI aka SKIN 'EM ALIVE (1978) a couple of times already and OVERRUN! (1970) seems to be an unofficial follow-up to the film under review itself! Still, a more interesting name in the credits would be co-writer Piero Regnoli, an indefatigable craftsman whose self-directed ghostly crime opus TI ASPETTERO ALL' INFERNO (1960) I had seen for last year's Halloween marathon. Anyway, the only two cast members which stand out (more from their familiarity than for any particular acting merit) are star Ivan Rassimov and former mythological muscleman Kirk Morris (in his penultimate film); for the record, I have also just scored the latter's TERROR OF THE STEPPES (1964) in another nightly excursion in Italian TV land. Rassimov is a misanthropic French guide reluctantly hired by the titular misfit band of soldiers to lead them through the desert in search of some vaguely important documents. Needless to say, the band is divided by race (two of the group are negroes and one of them is a trigger-happy German!), sex (the medical officer, surprisingly enough, turns out to be a woman and so is an imprisoned reporter they meet up with along the way) and loyalty (the leader of the pack is a former member of a previously decimated group seeking to retrieve the incriminating documents). Most of them are going to be dead before the film's end, of course, but no one suffers more than the lady doctor: having her shirt torn open by her 'companions' on the truck (thus revealing all her womanhood to the gasping group); being raped(!) by the clearly troubled Rassimov in the midst of combat; almost drowning while crossing an infested, swamp-like stream; and being shot dead in a train compartment (after having just cuddled up romantically with Rassimov!) at the end. The various action sequences are above par for the course and the obligatory rousing (and electric guitar-led) score is not to be amiss under the circumstances: all in all, a pleasantly enjoyable 90 minutes is to be had by undiscriminating viewers.
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