At the end of WW II, German deserters are tried for desertion by fellow POWs inside a prisoner of war camp for Nazis.At the end of WW II, German deserters are tried for desertion by fellow POWs inside a prisoner of war camp for Nazis.At the end of WW II, German deserters are tried for desertion by fellow POWs inside a prisoner of war camp for Nazis.
It's the beginning of May, 1945. Captain Miller (Richard Johnson) takes command of a POW camp in Holland. He must deal with Col. von Bleicher (Helmut Schneider), the senior German POW, who insists on maintaining a military system of discipline amongst the POWs. Soon, two deserters (Franco Nero and Larry Aubrey) are taken captive. Bleicher wants them shot for desertion; Miller could care less since the war is over.
The movie features a fine leading cast. Richard Johnson is excellent as the war-torn Canadian Captain. Helmut Schneider is equally great and very believable as the authoritarian German Colonel. Franco Nero's performance as an anti-Hitler, quick-to-anger deserter is incredibly good and quite over-the-top. It's a pity his voice was dubbed. In support is Larry Aubrey, who I have yet to see in another film. His performance as the innocent young German deserter is good, but doesn't hold a candle to Nero's. Bud Spencer is decent as the kindly Canadian Corporal Jelinek, but he only appears in a few scenes.
There is no combat in the entire film. The action takes place within the camp. There are no escape attempts; it's more psychological warfare between von Bleicher and Miller. The two deserters are just the catalysts. The film does a magnificent job of showing how innocent people are often the victims of circumstances beyond their control. The cinematography is marvelous; while practically the whole movie takes place within the camp, it's established quite early that's a muddy, dirty and horrible place to live. The musical score by Ennio Morricone is quite unusual and fits perfectly. The ending is unexpected and very well set up; at an appropriate moment, the story is simply over.
The DVD release is a waste of money. It is of poor quality and has no special features. I would recommend the video from Congress, although it's not much of an improvement.
The BEST Italian war movie I've seen so far. I give it an 8/10.
- Nov 7, 2002