Anzio (1968)

Anzio (1968)
 
 
 

It's No Roman Holiday

Robert Mitchum and Mark Damon in Anzio (1968)

"Anzio" must be one of the most uninspired war movies I have watched, taking a true story and then turning it not only into a typical Hollywood war movie but at the same time an anti-war movie. Yes it does mean it is mixed because whilst we get served a series of cliche war scenes as a group of men ending up behind enemy lines and having to fight to get back we than get tagged on a message about the futility of war and men fight because they want to fight. It wouldn't be so bad if it all of this was exciting but in taking the true story of Operation Shingle and turning it into Hollywood entertainment it ends up ordinary.

War correspondent Dick Ennis (Robert Mitchum - El Dorado) tags along with the US Army Rangers on their mission to land on the beach at Anzio, a mission everyone believes will be thwart with danger but to their surprise their sea landing is unopposed. As Maj. Gen. Jack Lesley (Arthur Kennedy) has the men dig in to the beach and prepare to slowly advance on Rome, Ennis along with Wally Richardson (Mark Damon) and Cpl. Jack Rabinoff (Peter Falk - Robin and the 7 Hoods) take a jeep to scout around and find not only the road to Rome but Rome itself unprotected, news which they report to Gen. Lesley immediately. But rather than act he insists on digging in and when he eventually starts the advance on Rome the German's have been able to prepare.

Peter Falk as Cpl. Jack Rabinoff in Anzio (1968)

So like many war movies "Anzio" is initially based on a true wartime mission as Operation Shingle provides the inspiration for the first part of the movie. But it is only loosely based on the true mission with names and events changed so that whilst we have the element of the Rangers digging in rather than advancing there is not much more fact to it than that. Now that is a disappointment because whilst I am no war historian the actual true story of Operation Shingle sounds more impressive than what is then delivered in "Anzio".

The trouble really is that "Anzio" becomes a typical war movie because once the Rangers do start to advance it's not long before we end up with a small group of men which includes Ennis, Wally, Rabinoff and 4 others caught behind enemy lines and having to try and sneak back to the beach. It is all so typical, we have an escape from tanks, a desperate race to cross a mine field and of course being pinned down by snipers but none of it is ever exciting. Everything about it ends up a Hollywood war movie cliche even when Ennis as a war correspondent eventually picks up a gun to fight having resisted for most of the time.

That brings me to what almost seems confusing because for all this Hollywood cliche action "Anzio" ends up feeling like an anti-war movie. We see men die, leaders taking the loss of many lives on the chin as if it doesn't matter and then to cap it off Ennis suggesting men fight because they want to fight. It ends up being a movie with a mixed message having delivered typical wartime action then a quick moment of preaching to say war is bad.

Now war must take a lot out of people and Robert Mitchum as Dick Ennis looks exhausted throughout the movie, although I don't know whether that was him getting into character or just hard living. But then despite looking tired and finding himself rolling around in the dirt being shot at he typically always looks handsome and smart. It's corny as is the scenes which see Peter Falk as Cpl. Jack Rabinoff singing "Bye Bye Blackbird" with 3 women who works as whores for him. I could go on because there is not a good character or performance in the movie and at best they are just ordinary.

What this all boils down to is that "Anzio" is a disappointing mixed up war movie/ anti-war movie. It almost has the feel of a movie made firstly to give people something to do and secondly because some people like movies on WWII whilst at the same time then delivering an anti-war message.

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