Lo sbarco di Anzio (1968)

ANZIO (aka: Sbarco di Anzio, Lo)

(director: Edward Dmytryk; screenwriters: from the book by Wynford Vaughan-Thomas/Duilio Coletti/Harry A.L. Craig/Frank De Felitta; cinematographer: Giuseppe Rotunno; editors: Alberto Gallitti/Peter Taylor; music: Riz Ortolani; cast: Robert Mitchum (Dick Ennis), Peter Falk (Cpl. Jack Rabinoff), Robert Ryan (General Carson), Earl Holliman (Platoon Sgt. Abe Stimmler), Mark Damon (Wally Richardson), Arthur Kennedy (Maj. Gen. Jack Lesley), Reni Santoni (Pvt. Movie), Joseph Walsh (Doyle), Thomas Hunter (Pvt. Andy), Arthur Franz (General Howard), Giancarlo Giannini (Cellini), Patrick Magee (General Starkey), Wolfgang Preiss (Field Marshal Albert Kesselring); Runtime: 117; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Dino De Laurentiis; Columbia-TriStar Home Entertainment; 1968)

“… threadbare, run-of-the-mill war drama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Edward Dmytryk (“The Caine Mutiny”/”Back to Bataan”) offers lackluster direction to film one of the bloodiest World War II battles fought in Anzio, Italy, in 1944; it’s crassly told in a portentous manner and it further fails because of dull pacing. The director in a hamfisted way, expounds on the waste of war that never comes off as anything more than pseudo-philosophical piffle masquerading as profundities voiced by Robert Mitchum’s war correspondent character. The battle at Anzio took four months and left 30,000 Allied casualties in their battle with the Nazis before the soldiers marched to victory in Rome. It tells of one of the greatest foul-ups in American military history, as the Allies land in the empty village of Anzio, some 30 miles south of Rome (the Germans opted to fortify Monte Cassino in the south), and could have marched straight to Rome unimpeded but instead followed the incompetent orders by the top brass to dig in on the beaches and this allowed the Germans time to prepare their defense by surrounding the Allies (can’t blame Rumsfeld for this blunder). This threadbare, run-of-the-mill war drama was produced by Dino De Laurentiis, hoping to make it an epic war story but succeeding only in getting the bloody battles scenes down with good craftsmanship. Though inaccurate (fails to mention the rough weather conditions) it was nevertheless entertaining and showed off the great camerawork skills of Giuseppe Rotunno. The original script by Harry A.L. Craig was supposedly so weak, that Dmytryk all but chucked it in total and called in writer Frank De Felitta, someone who served in the U.S. forces in Italy, to rework it. An all-star American cast is wasted, giving only stock half-hearted performances. The film’s most enjoyable scene had TV’s Columbo, Peter Falk, writing his own scene of him saying goodbye to three Italian whores in an ambulance.

On June 22, 1944, Dick Ennis (Robert Mitchum), a cynical American war correspondent, lands at Anzio with the Allied invasion forces. Ennis and his pal, corporal Rabinoff (Peter Falk), tell Anzio commander General Lesley (Arthur Kennedy) that the road to Rome has no Germans. But the over cautious Lesley ignores them and has the men build a coastal defensive stronghold. Lesley will eventually discover the Germans have his men surrounded, which leads to the unnecessary bloody four month battle won by the Allies. Heroics are the order of the day, as Ennis, Movie (Reni Santoni), Rabinoff, Stimmler (Earl Holliman) and four other men escape after being trapped behind the Nazi lines. Ennis turns away in disgust after the Allied victory, as he watches General Carson (Robert Ryan) bask in the glory of the victory without recognizing the incompetency that led to so many men dying.