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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Anzio (released in 1968) - War film starring Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan and Peter Falk

The film is based on Operation Shingle, carried out in 1944 by the Allied Troops on the port of Anzio on Italy’s west coast, in WWII. Details have been sourced from the book of the same name by former BBC War Correspondent and author Wynford Vaughn-Thomas. Directed by Edward Dmytryk and Duilio Coletti, it is an Italian-American co-production. Dick Ennis (played by Robert Mitchum) is a war weary, yet battle hardened reporter, through whose experienced eyes we see the plot unfold. The film opens with Ennis being dropped off in a jeep, uniformed with purpose-ridden strides; he climbs a flight of stairs and crosses opulent halls, the décor and ambiance reek Italian Renaissance sophistication. But out of the blue, GIs and their girls dot the scene in sizable numbers, one in a bid to defy gravity, hanging from majestic chandeliers, while others egg him on. Just then the Canadian Rangers along with Corporal Jack Rabinoff (played by Peter Falk) enter the chaotic hall, only to be welcomed by some GI-style muscle flexing.
Elsewhere, the sullen and cynical journalist Dick Ennis, enjoys a long swig out of a long necked bottle of wine, and he has for company Technical Sergeant Abe Stimmler (played by Earl Holliman) with the two of them seem wrapped in heavy discussion, as if the revelers never existed! The movie is about American's invasion of Anzio as seen through the eyes of a pacifist journalist (this was like real battle, not the movie style where things move only as the heroes want - read more about the Operation Shingle, the invasion of Anzio). The landing is unopposed, and Mitchum requisitions a jeep and, along with Falk, discover that the road to Rome, the ultimate destination, is open. Rome can be in Allied hands in a few days, if they move fast enough.

It is Ennis’s assignment to do a story about the US Rangers and their strategy to break down defenses of the enemy. Lieutenant General Carson (played by Robert Ryan) is commanding the Fifth Army, and strategizing their move behind enemy lines; news is that the Allied Troops are being hammered by the Germans at the Gustav Line, lead by the almost invincible Monte Cassino. Maj. General Jack Lesley (played by Arthur Kennedy) orders a drive inland to the Alban Hills that provide a vantage point, from where the beachhead (discovered by Ennis to be virtually trouble-free) provides direct access to Rome. However, Lesley is way off the mark since he realizes he lacks the resources needed to march and capture Rome.
The German commander Kesselring (played by Wolfgang Preiss) re-musters forces and ambushes the Allies, at the Battle of Cisterna, the Germans won hands down. Almost 400 American POWs were captured by the Germans, in real life. The movie is about Ennis’s battle to escape alive from behind enemy lines; however, most of the men are killed or captured, whilst a few escape, after a near brush with death in the guise of a minefield.
Dick Ennis questions, then, publicly the decisions taken by the higher command, to gamble away the lives of the American and Allied Troops - he questions why humans fight one another? The New York Times review remarked that Anzio was “Standard War Fare” - a fair view considering that the battle at Anzio was bloodied beyond belief, and was avoidable, the film seems to allude to the genre of usual ‘good guys beat the hell outta the bad guys’ ploy - but it fails miserably, as in reality, the good guys were outnumbered and out maneuvered.

Anzio (released in 1968) - War film starring Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan and Peter Falk

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