Tuesday, July 17, 2012

#701. Anzio (1968)

Directed By: Edward Dmytryk, Duilio Coletti

Starring: Robert Mitchum, Peter Falk, Robert Ryan

Tag line: "One of the most realistic and spectacular war films ever made!"

Trivia: Peter Falk thought that the script he read was clichéd and wanted off the film. At the last minute, Dino DeLaurentiis put Falk's name above the title billing and gave him his choice of writer for his character's dialogue. Falk stayed and wrote his lines himself

Produced by Dino De Laurentiis and centering on one of the bloodiest battles of World War II, Anzio stars Robert Mitchum as Dick Ennis, an American war correspondent who tags along with the Allies during their January, 1944 landing at the Italian port city of Anzio. Once the troops are safely ashore, Ennis, accompanied by Corporal Rabinoff (Peter Falk) and Pvt. Movie (Reni Santoni), takes a jeep out to inspect the area, only to find the road to Rome is clear, with no German opposition anywhere in sight. He reports his findings to General Lesley (Arthur Kennedy), who, fearing a trap, decides not to press forward, but instead stay put in Anzio and fortify the beachhead. His hesitation will give the enemy time to regroup, leading to a showdown which will ultimately cost the Allies thousands of men.

Anzio has its weaknesses, one of which rears its ugly head in the opening moments of the film. I’m talking about the ballad that plays during the credits, an upbeat little number titled “This World is Yours”, sung by Jack Jones. Honestly, I felt this tune, despite its lyrics about soldiers and battle, would have been more at home in a ‘60s spy spoof than a war movie, but never mind; it’s a minor quibble, and is over fairly quickly. Another flaw that continually haunts the film, however, is its anti-war slant, which occasionally peeks through in the form of preachy dialogue that never feels genuine. While discussing the objectives of war with General Lesley, Ennis reveals the reason he continues on as a correspondent. “I have to answer a question that’s been asked of me ever since I saw my first dead face. Why do we do it? How can people kill each other?” Mitchum does his best to deliver these lines as naturally as possible, but the whole exchange is mawkish and cringe-inducing.

Anzio makes up for its faults by way of some exciting battle scenes, often accompanied by composer Riz Ortolani's rousing score. There's a tense sequence in which American troops stroll right into a German ambush, as well as a particularly nerve-wracking run-in with some Nazi snipers that are definite highlights. These moments, along with the beautiful Italian landscape and a solid performance from Peter Falk (who, allegedly, was so unhappy with the script he ended up writing his own dialogue), make Anzio a movie that, while not perfect, is entertaining enough to be worth a watch, as well as a recommendation.

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