The Battle of El Alamein film review

From The Grindhouse Cinema Database

The Battle of El Alamein The Battle of El Alamein (1969) review by Simon Gelten.

The battle from the title, is the second battle of El Alamein (October 23 - November 4, 1942); it was one of the decisive battles of the Second World War, the British victory forcing Rommel to retreat into Tunesia. For an Italian war movie from the Sixties, La Battaglia di El Alamein is a fairly large-scale affair. It has often been called the Italian The Longest Day.[

The first battle of El Alamein (June 1942) had ended, more or less, in a stalemate. Rommel's advance had been stopped but he was by no means defeated. He suffered from long supply lines and an acute shortage of fuel and therefore wanted to make a breakthrough and march on to Egypt and the Suez Canal. British commander Montgomery had read Rommel's plans and soon forced him to fight a defensive war near the railway station of El Alamein. At the beginning of the movie, on the Italian front, lieutenant Broddi, a fervent Mussolini adept who still believes the war can be won, is informed by his brother, a sergeant-major in another unit that the Italian situation is hopeless: morale is low, their equipment obsolete and they will soon run out of ammunition. Broddi won't listen to any reason, but when Rommel decides to disregard Hitler's order to fight until the bitter end, the Italian troops have no possibility to get out of harm's way; they are surrounded by the superior enemy and almost completely annihilated: according to some sources only 10-12% Italians survived the mass slaughter.


The events are basically shown from the Italian point of view, but in order to paint the bigger picture, director Giorgio Ferroni also spends time focusing on situations within the British and German High Commands. The film has an interesting international cast, but dramatically things are rambling: characterizations are stereotyped and most evolutions are foreseeable; of course the two brothers reconcile and will fight side by side during the movie's final moments. Some of the supporting actors - notably Nello Pazzafini and Sal Borghese - fare better than the leads, whose actions and words seem purely rhetorical. But there are interesting moments, such as George Hilton's British officer trying to prevent his fellow Brits to slaughter a group of unarmed German prisoners. And the action scenes - shot with the help of the Italian army - are tremendous.


The army only decided to give its full cooperation after ample consideration, when Ferroni had already started shooting in Libya, near to the historic locations. He was now forced to relocate to the Italian mainland because the army was not allowed to enter Libya. Of course the tanks used are not the same that were used by the different warring parties in 1942 (1) and in one (ugly-looking) night scene miniatures were used, but that are minor short-comings. Ferroni uses the widescreen to great effect and with hundreds of extras and dozens of tanks the scenes from the battlefield are often breathtaking; the Italian's last stand with the soldiers digging themselves in while the British tanks are approaching, is spine-chilling.

Note: (1) For the tanks used at El Alamein, see: this PDF



  • The battle ended in disaster for the Italian troops, but ironically their heroic last stand has become a historic event most Italians think of with pride: not only the Italians soldiers were ill-equipped and also betrayed by their allies; All thes weary and outnumbered soldiers could do, was fight bravely - which they did. The battle is now often called 'El Alamein, la battaglia che siamo fieri di aver perso' that is: the battle we're proud of to have lost.
  • For those who read Italian, see:

Director: Giorgio Ferroni - Cast: Enrico Maria Salerno (Sgt. Claudio Borri), Frederick Stafford (Lt. Giorgio Borri), Robert Hossein (Field Marshall Erwin Rommel), Michael Rennie (Field Marshall Bernard Law Montgomery), George Hilton (Lt. Gary Graham), Salvatore Borgese, Nello Pazzafini, Ira Fürstenberg, Luciano Catenacci, Ettore Manni, Marco Guglielmi, Gérard Herter (General Schwartz), Giuseppe Addobbati (General Stumme), Tom Felleghy (General von Thoma)

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