Thursday, January 08, 2009


William Tecumseh Sherman once said “War is hell”. Apparently, he never trained under the watchful eye of Lt. Hoffman (Gianni Garko billed here as John Garko), a gum-chewing, softball “throwing” GI charged with assembling a team of crack soldiers for a deadly suicide mission… as if there’s any other kind.

In the flick’s goofy pre-credit sequence, Hoffman rides through the training fields, watching soldiers prep for what must be an upcoming war against Cirque du Soleil. They swing past trenches on parallel bars, acrobatically dispatch enemy combatants, and even spring over treacherous barbed wire thanks to handy trampolines.

Hoffman hand picks his suicide squad and ends up with the acrobatic Nick (Aldo Canti), musclebound McCarthy (Luciano Rossi), safecracking Siracusa (Sal Borgese), and Johnny White (Sam Burke), an explosives expert whose glasses and mousy nature make him a natural for the nickname “Chicken”.

Their mission? Break into the Nazi stronghold at Villa Verde and get a look at the documents for Hitler’s devious “Plan K”. With the Allies blocked “at the foot of the Gustav line” details of the plan could save the lives of 50,000 soldiers.

After a dry run that tests all of their trampoline-bouncing, softball-throwing, safe-cracking acumen, the team assembles in their barracks and dances around far more than I suspect was really going on during WWII.

But that’s about as far as the lightheartedness of this action-comedy goes and FIVE FOR HELL – directed by Gianfranco Parolini (billed as Frank Kramer) – quickly shifts gears and turns into a surprisingly gritty, tense mission flick.

Helping the squad in their mission is curvy double agent Helga Richter (Eurotrash icon Margaret Lee, VENUS IN FURS), a cold and conniving member of the Villa Verde staff who isn’t above covering her own ass or exposing it, depending upon the situation.

As if this wasn’t enough, FIVE FOR HELL (aka FIVE INTO HELL) features the great Klaus Kinski in a meaty supporting role as the sinister SS Colonel Hans Muller. Kinski, who was born to star as a sinister Nazi, lights up the screen as the evil and suspicious colonel who butts heads with General Gerbordstadt (Irio Fantini), the Villa’s commandant, and desperately wants to get into Helga’s pants, even though he suspects her of being a spy who framed her lover for murder. Kinski infuses Muller with an almost giddy charm as he pursues Lee, finally tightening the noose around her neck until she has no options left.

Though it’s a bit of a stretch to buy the obviously Italian stars traipsing around in German uniforms – a fact the script actually addresses in one standoff with SS guards – the screenplay by Parolini and Renato Izzo (from a story by Sergio Garrone) keeps the action moving with enough gun battles, chases and explosions that you’re more than willing to suspend your disbelief. By the time the 42% Dirty Dozen begins their assault on the villa you won’t care that only two of the members of the squad speak Deutsch (which makes the others wonder if they’re spies) or that Garko throws like he’s having an epileptic fit.

Thanks to a nerve-wracking villa assault, a willingness to kill any member of the cast, an action-packed finale and great performances from the always reliable pair of Garko and Kinski (who starred together in two SARTANA flicks and the excellent THE PRICE OF DEATH) FIVE FOR HELL totally delivers.

FIVE FOR HELL can be found in many cheapo WWII DVD packages. An anamorphic widescreen version is available from the fine folks at Xploited Cinema.

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