Jan 10, 2011

Commandos (1968)

Every Jan. 9 is Lee Van Cleef Day at the lounge, to honour the birthday of the G-Man's favourite actor. (My friend Mike shares his birthday, and sometimes gets a card from me with Colonel Mortimer or somebody on it.) While Van Cleef was enjoying a career renaissance in Italy starring in many spaghetti westerns, he would also appear in other action-adventure films. Commandos is one the innumerable WW2 action movies produced in Europe during the late 1960's (likely to cash in on the success of The Dirty Dozen) in which our hero plays Sergeant Sullivan, who whips together a troop of Italian-Americans to infiltrate a camp in North Africa run by the Italian army. Along for the ride is Capt. Valli (Jack Kelly), who periodically locks horns with Sullivan. In fact, how many war movies feature a battle-scarred sergeant clashing with a superior officer who doesn't know dick about combat? Well, Ski Troop Attack for starters…

To be fair, Commandos has lots of action, but it is all routinely directed by Armando Crispino. It is always amusing to see how even the slightest of screenplays in European genre films had several contributors: this one boasts four writers (one of them is Dario Argento!), based on a short story by future Cannon exec Menahem Golan! However, this routine, by-the-numbers affair gets a few shots in the arm from our main man Mr. Van Cleef, who admittedly overacts the sweaty borderline-psychotic Sullivan character. (Watch the scene where he lunges at a soldier's throat in a lineup!)

To date, I've seen Commandos three times- and I always have trouble remembering it the next day. Despite that it's a welcome change of pace for our hero, the movie is rather routine. But will I see it a fourth time? Hell, yes!

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