Lieutenant Michael Sheppard (George Hilton) fresh out of West Point arrives at his first station in Italy where one of his first jobs is to escort a truck carrying Corporal Brian Haskins (Klaus Kinski) and Private John Grayson (Ray Saunders) where they are due to be executed for murder, one killed a civilian the other an Officer. But as Haskins & Grayson are about to be executed they come under attack by a German squad with Sheppard, Haskins and Grayson escaping together. Whilst Haskins & Grayson have no intention of going back they agree to work with Sheppard in order to survive. But their journey together and what they have to do challenges and changes them.
As 1960's war movies which came out of Italy go "War Fever", or "Salt in the Wound" and "The Liberators" as it is also known, isn't bad. Okay so it is dubbed and feels derivative, imitating what was coming out of Hollywood around the same time, but as a bit of war action and adventure it is okay.
But as I said "War Fever" is derivative and is also sometimes referred to as the "Dirty Two" as we have these two soldiers sentenced to death ending up working together with a fresh out of training soldier boy and in doing so ending up redeeming them selves in the eyes of audience because of their heroics. Even the direction is derivative which in many ways is a compliment as this was director Tonino Ricci's first movie and it is solid if a little forgettable. But it does mean that it is also the sort of movie you can get up and leave for a minute or two and return having not missed much.
What in truth makes "War Fever" worth watching are the three central performances as each our good in their own right. Hilton conveys that by the book inexperience of a soldier who is straight out of training and gets a real shock when he finds himself under attack by the Germans, unprepared emotionally for the death and destruction. Meanwhile Saunders brings out a real element of madness, of a man who for what ever reason can lose it in a blink of an eye and become dangerously irrational. Yet it is Kinski who intrigues us the most as we first see him giving a mad cackle when he is being sentenced to execution but as the movie progresses we realise he is not mad but in fact very smart and in control. It is these three performances and the characters which end up being more entertaining than what actually happens.
What this all boils down to is that "War Fever" is just a derivative war movie which came out of Italy in 1969. But the familiar storyline is made more interesting by decent actors playing interesting characters rather than for what happens.