The Italian cinematography with all its ups and downs is pretty much known around the world, but today I was in a mood for something different than usual post-apocalyptic, horror or giallo movie. Yep, folks, I was craving some war action and there was a time nobody did them better (or worse, depending on the perspective) than our Italian filmmakers.

Macaroni combat movies is a category which doesn’t contain untold amounts of movies to discover. The amount of movies in this niche genre is rather small, definitely under 100 (more-less around 70), but they are vibrant and entertaining inputs into the world cinematography.

Director Alberto de Martino

I start my quest to discover these movies with 1967 thriller/actioner The Dirty Heroes, directed by Alberto De Martino, who, as it was quite customary for exploitation writers/directors, was also responsible for various other genre movies (suffice to mention his entries in peplum in the form of The Invincible Gladiator, Hercules vs. the Giant Warriors or Perseus against the Monsters, spaghettis Terrible Sheriff, Assault on Fort Texan, or Django Shoots First, eurospy flicks OK Connery, Special Mission Lady Chaplin, eurocrime The Violent Four, Crime Boss, or horror Holocaust 2000…).

The Dirty Heroes follow in the steps of successful Hollywood production of The Dirty Dozen (1967). The story is quite formulaic, GIs trying to steal important documents from German army. But to spice things up a little (just not to be a carbon copy of aforementioned Dirty Dozen), we have a little caper side-story here, when our “heroes”, who in the civil life are bank robbers, are after the jewels stolen by Nazis from the Dutch government.

Curd Jürgens (left) and Frederick Stafford (right)

Our actors here are quite a great bunch of exploitation actors one might know from other movies in different genres. The lead male actor is charismatic Frederick Stafford, who is also known from other macaroni combat flicks The Battle of El Alamein and Eagles Over London, but lovers of Italian exploitation movies might recognize him also from eurospy movies OSS 117: Mission For The Killer and Agent 505: Death Trap in Beirut (which I have mistaken for Our Man in Beirut), and others.

Daniela Bianchi

The lead female is absolutely stunning Daniela Bianchi, who is best known for her role as Tatiana Romanova in From Russia With Love, but who’s starred also in other eurospy flicks (for example, the aforementioned movies OK Connery and Special Mission Lady Chaplin). It’s just a pity she hasn’t acted in any other movies past her last one, the 1968 The Last Chance.

But we’re not done yet, friends! Added to the mix is the great John Ireland and I think he would probably deserve a whole section dedicated to him and the movies he starred in, so I will leave it for later.

Curd Jürgens and Daniela Bianchi

I am the first to admit I haven’t known much about the German actor Curd Jürgens, apart from his appearance in OSS 117: Murder for Sale, or his role in The Man from U.N.C.L.E TV series, but those older and wiser than me will remember this actor from many German movies of the era. In The Dirty Heroes he plays a role of German Wehrmacht general Edwin von Keist.

Similarly, I only know of Michel Constantin, here in the role of anti-Nazi German seargant Rudolf Petrowsky, for the Enzo Castellari’s movie The Inglorious Bastards, but a quick look to the IMDB reveals a loads of movies he’s acted in, so there’s some catching up necessary for me. Not that I object, of course.

Helmuth Schneider (civil photo)

The villain of the movie here is SS General Hassler, portrayed by Helmuth Schneider, but apart from his role in Angelique and the Sultan I haven’t seen him anywhere else, although the research shows him in some other macaroni combat flicks (namely, Battle of the Commandos and The Fifth day of Peace), so this is not the last time I’m mentioning him.

Adolfo Celi

But my favourite is Adolfo Celi, here in the role of “Fox of Armsterdam”, Luc Rollman, a thief and a member of Dutch Resistance, who is pretty known in the circles of Italian exploitation movies and casual moviegoers might remember him from Bond movie Thunderball with Sean Connery in a title role. Damn, now I am in the mood of rewatching Bond movies too! 🙂 But Celi is quite known from polittioteschi (e. g. eurocrime) movies, but the versatility of actors in aforementioned Italian exploitation is a known fact.

If you ask – is it worth watching? Well, the movie is little bit of everything (drama, thriller, caper, even with a bit of comedy thrown in) and that might be it greatest weakness, but if you are a fan of war movies which don’t take themselves very seriously, this one has filled one of my lazy afternoons quite nicely. And if for nothing else, for Daniela Bianchi it’s definitely worth a watch.

But all I can see is only an Italian language edition being available on DVD. For English dubbed, well, I am afraid you would need to check some gray market vendors…and I hate to say that, but that’s the fate of many great movies 🙁