Monday, July 13, 2015

Italian Exploitation Month, Macaroni Combat Mondays: Dirty Heroes (1967)

            "They fight a dozen dirty different ways..." Wait- what?
             I think what I enjoy most about these macaroni combat movies that the Italians churned out in the wake of The Dirty Dozen and Where Eagles Dare is how they feel composed almost entirely of imagery you would find on the covers of men's adventure magazines. The heroes of these films run, leap, parachute and scuba-dive into one dangerous situation after another, and any one of those images could be framed and put on the wall next to the finest pulp artwork you could find. Alberto de Martino's Dirty Heroes is filled with such hallmarks, and in terms of exciting WWII-era thrills, you can't ask for much more than this.

            Frederick Stafford plays the lead, an American soldier who escapes from a POW camp in Holland during the final days of the war and hooks with with the Dutch resistance headed by Adolfo Celi and plots to steal a cache of diamonds from the Wermacht HQ. They enlist the wife of the base's commander (played effectively by Daniela Bianchi) to help them get inside, a Jewish woman who took on a new identity and now lives the high life amongst the very bastards who've shunned and murdered her own people, and the movie becomes a heist film disguised under the trappings of WWII.

            What's perhaps most enjoyable about the film is the twisty script - kind of a rarity for Italian exploitation of any genre, but I quite enjoyed the complexity found (mostly) throughout Dirty Heroes. Our Allied "heroes" of the title aren't necessarily heroic, basically carrying out their plans for little more than their own greed, while certain members of the German army are portrayed in a more sympathetic light - especially Curd Jennings as Bianchi's husband, who knows that Germany's already lost the war and is doing everything he can to keep his men alive until hostlities cease completely.

            The acting is solid all-around, the direction is fantastic, the score is a collaboration between Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicolai... but yet the movie can't help but fall flat in the end. After arriving at a climax that is at once tragic, poignant and darkly humorous, the film drags on for another fifteen minutes or so, tidying up plot business that really didn't need any tidying to begin with, before culminating in a scene so sappily-romantic that it's kind of hard to believe it's unfolding before your very eyes.

             But still, if you can manage to hit the stop button at just the right moment, you have on your hands not just a macaroni classic, but probably one of the best "fun" WWII movies made in the sixties.

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