From The Grindhouse Cinema Database
Review of Commandos
Opening text - OCTOBER 1942: On the eve of the American landings in North Africa, A secret American commando base, somewhere in The Mediterranean.
We're introduced to Sgt. Sullivan (Lee Van Cleef) who is giving orders to his Italian-American troops on how they will disguise themselves as an Italian unit under the facist regime. The mission is to overtake "The Oasis" (A compound/Inn where valuable re-fueling wells are being kept) which is currently occupied by Italian forces. Final preparations for the mission go into effect when commanding officer, Captain Valli (Jack Kelly) shows up. Friction is created when Sullivan finds out that his desired officer was replaced by Valli, an officer who's in-experienced in combat. Given the fact that Sullivan is slightly shell-shocked after serving in the Pacific conflict after a disastrous mission which turned out to be a trap, it's understandable that Sullivan will have difficulty in finding Valli trustworthy. "Operation Torch" begins and the quest for The Oasis begins. Once the Americans over-taken The Oasis, it's unclear what they are supposed to do afterwards (I put the blame on the truncated version I watched which probably edited out the explanation for the rest of the mission) but for the time being, the Americans get into character as Italian soldiers and go about the routine of aiding and assissting fellow Italian and German forces nearby. Suspense begins to build when the former Italian squad, led by Lt. Tomassini (Marino Masé), try to plan their escape from the cellar of The Oasis, where the remaining Italians have been held captive by the Americans. Meanwhile, a friendship between Valli and a German officer, Heitzel Agen (Joachim Fuchsberger) begins to grow as the German forces frequently visit The Oasis. But it's doubtful that the friendship will be contained once the real Italians make their dash for freedom and alert the Germans about the identity of the Americans.
What a surprise this film was! Since I didn't know anything about this movie going in, I just expected a sub-par effort of Macaroni combat with a few decent action sequences here and there. But that was far from the case. What first grabbed my attention about this film was Lee Van Cleef (In pure rare mode) playing an un-balanced character on the edge rather than the stoic, hard-as-nails protrayals that we've already seen many times in the past. And as I mentioned before, the suspense angle of the movie where the American's cover could be blown at any moment works very well. I give props to the director and the writers for managing to pull this off. But you can't have a 1960's war movie without no action so it's inevitable that a explosive climax awaits. And it's refreshing to know that the climax certainly delivers. Thanks in part to the well executed combat excitement and the dramatic levels involving the main characters on the opposite sides. Now if there were a few things I saw in Commandos that prevented this from being an excellent classic, it would have to be that there really wasn't enough emphasis for the rest of the American squad. But I guess I can blame the likes of Kelly's Heroes or The Dirty Dozen to have that kind of bias. The only few other nitpicks I had were the day-for-night sequences (Which never seem to appear well in any film from this era) and I would have liked to have seen more use of actress Marilù Tolo, who plays a "working girl" at The Oasis. But as I said, very minor complaints because I enjoyed the rest of the movie so much. Recommended!
Reviewed by Laydback - 11/7/08