Join us as we explore the wild and offbeat cinema that played the roadshows, drive-ins and grindhouses.
Following the international success of major Hollywood studio World War II action-adventure films in the late 60s such as The Dirty Dozen and Where Eagles Dare, Italian producers followed a strategy they had used with American westerns. This time they began making war movies with their own unique, operatic panache. The term "Macaroni Combat" originated in Japan and was later brought into popular use by longtime film aficionado, Writer-Director Quentin Tarantino. Like the similar term "Spaghetti Western" it was a mildly humorous, colorful way of describing the stylish pulp war themed actioners that Italy made in the 60s & 70s. This installment of The History of Exploitation Cinema highlights some of the standout entries in the bombastic Macaroni Combat subgenre! Click here to read our article on the history of the genre
Enzo G. Castellari's highly entertaining 1978 men on a mission classic INGLORIOUS BASTARDS is set in Nazi Occupied France in 1944 where a bunch of American soldiers, each of them convicted for crimes (like desertion and murder) are on their way to being shipped home for court martial. When their truck breaks down, they are attacked by a German fighter plane. Many die, including military police that escorted them, and they escape. Seeking a way into distant Switzerland, the diverse group of cut-throats is now on the run, behind enemy lines, chased by the military police. On their journey, they pick up a German deserter, almost get killed by a platoon of Wehrmacht women and struggle with internal conflict, only to end up being mistaken for a team of special forces paratroopers, sent to capture V2 rocket parts from a German armored train. Seeing no way out, they take up this mission. Along with the French resistance fighters, a special forces Colonel and their own sense for survival, they embark on a crazy mission to blow up a bridge and render the Nazis' rockets useless. This film is widely regarded as one of the best in the Macaroni Combat genre.
Gianfranco Parolini's FIVE FOR HELL (1969) offers a spicy mix of story elements taken from Hollywood blockbusters like The Dirty Dozen, Where Eagles Dare & The Magnificent Seven. When hostilities in Italy have come to a stalemate, a bunch of misfits (led by Gianni Garko) are selected for a special mission behind enemy lines. There are rumors about a large German offensive known as Plan K that could change the course of history. Documents with detailed information about the German movements are kept in a safe in castle in the Italian countryside. It's up to the five to steal the plans, but SS Colonel Müller (Klaus Kinski) has turned the castle into an impregnable stronghold, so the mission seems a one-way ticket to hell. The film is full of zany humor and Parolini's trademark 007 style gadgetry and acrobatic antics. A fun action movie that shows what made Macaroni Combat movies special.
Armando Crispino's COMMANDOS (1968) which stars spaghetti western icon Lee Van Cleef, is set in 1942 and deals with a regiment selected for a mission in the North-African desert. They must secure an oasis (held by the Italian army) in advance of the allied landings near El Alamein. The soldiers are Italo-Americans, all fluent in the language of their parents and grandparents who must pass for real Italians while waiting for their allies. The oasis is visited by the German forces on a regular basis, for water and supplies, and the job of the Italo Americans is further complicated by their commander, Captain Valli, who ignores the order to take no prisoners during the raid on the camp. The captives are locked up in a subterranean prison, but they’ll do anything to escape and warn the Germans for the upcoming events. A German officer, present at the time of the raid, was heavily wounded but survived the attack and is now desperately trying to attract the attention of his fellow Germans visiting the oasis.
Enzo G. Castellari's EAGLES OVER LONDON (1969) tells a complicated spy story set in WWII, placed against the background of major historic events such as the Dunkirk Evacuation, the Blitz and the Battle of Britain. The story begins in May 1940, at Dunkirk. Large numbers of British, French and Canadian troops are cornered on the Dunkirk beaches by the German army. They are saved by a hastily assembled fleet in what is known to history as 'Operation Dynamo'. One of the British officers, Captain Paul Stevens (Frederick Stafford), discovers that a group of German saboteurs have infiltrated the British ranks: they have murdered a group of British soldiers and made the crossing by assuming their identity. After he has convinced (not without difficulty) his superiors that the country is in danger he is allocated the assignment to track the saboteurs down, not realizing that his roommate, a 'British' officer he has met at Dunkirk, is one of the men he is looking for.
At this time there's not many classics of Macaroni Combat on BluRay but we do highly recommend starting with Enzo G. Castellari's 1978 action masterpiece INGLORIOUS BASTARDS
Above left:English-friendly, uncut and widescreen DVD release of From Hell To Victory, an epic war drama and among the most underrated and overlooked of the Macaroni Combats flicks. An absolute must! Above right:A Wild East double feature with a mediocre (Churchill's Leopards) and an amazing (Salt in the Wound) entry of the genre, for a great evening full of Macaroni war action, drama and entertainment!
The first thing you'll notice about Alberto DeMartino's THE DIRTY HEROES (1968) is the title that is a direct reference to popular Hollywood WWII action classic The Dirty Dozen. That film in particular served as the blueprint for many of the Italian war films. Set in Holland during the last days of WWII, this film comes fully packed with explosive action and thrills that make it another prime example of the Macaroni Combat genre at its best.