[[quoteright:333:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/stabbing_a_nazi_7580.jpg]]
[[caption-width-right:333:"Here's your problem! You had a knife in your spleen!"]]
It's WorldWarII. In the Italian village of [[DoomedHometown Reanoto]], the [[ThoseWackyNazis SS]] under the command of the cruel Major Taussig massacres the entire adult population while a group of children look on from nearby. Not long afterward, a group of American soldiers led by [[TheStoic the stoic]] Captain [[AntiHero Turner]] (Rock Hudson) are to parachute in for a top-secret commando mission, but are waylaid by German forces led by the stern, no-nonsense Captain [[TheVonTropeFamily von Hecht]]. Only Turner survives, and barely. He's found by the kids from Reanoto, who are led by the borderline psychotic Aldo.

The kids nurse Turner back to health aided by a [[HospitalHottie beautiful]] captive German doctor named Bianca. In return for Turner teaching the kids how to load and fire machine guns, Aldo and the gang will help Turner complete his original mission, filling in for his dead team and [[BigDamPlot blowing up the supposedly impregnable Della Norte Dam]]. Turner clashes with Bianca over what is best for the boys, whilst Aldo begins disliking the American taking over leadership from him, and, in the meantime, von Hecht is hunting for Turner, who he knows is alive.

If the movie has a fault (its [[RapeAsDrama rape scenes]] aside), it is that it is a little on the unrealistic side when it comes to the battle scenes, and also can't quite seem to settle on a tone or moral. We have (essentially) [[ChildSoldier untrained kids]] mowing down countless Nazis left and right, and it can't quite seem to decide if it wants to show war as a [[WarIsGlorious fun adventure]] or as a [[WarIsHell grim reality]] with tragic psychological tolls that come with children becoming killers, and its efforts to have it both ways leave it feeling a bit disjointed.

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!!Tropes used in this film:

* ActionPrologue: The massacre of Reanoto and the botched American landing.
** The {{Novelization}} has its own ActionPrologue in the form of a bit of AdaptationExpansion where Turner and his team prepare for their mission by attacking an Allied-held dam under the supervision of a guy named Major Darcy, with American troops standing in for German ones.
* AdaptationExpansion: The {{Novelization}} begins with a unique chapter depicting Turner and his team training for their mission and reporting to their superior before heading off.
* AllGermansAreNazis: Aldo thinks so, anyway. The film itself actually goes to great lengths to avert this trope, showing most of the German troops as just regular guys with no particular love of the regime they serve. Only the SS are presented as truly hardcore Nazis.
* AllThereInTheManual: Some of the more [[LostInMediasRes inexplicable elements]] of the film are [[AdaptationExpansion expanded upon]] in the {{Novelization}}.
* AntiVillain: Captain von Hecht is mostly a Type I. A ruthless but honorable German officer unhappily serving an evil regime (some shades of Type II).
* ArcWords: "Everybody pays." And boy, do they ''ever''.
* AssholeVictim: [[spoiler:Major Taussig, who ends up getting shot by von Hecht in a fit of pique.]]
* AsskickingEqualsAuthority: This seems to be why the kids have accepted Aldo as their leader instead of Dino.
* AttemptedRape
* BadassMustache: Turner sports one.
* BigDamPlot
* BreakTheCutie: And nothing is better for that than watching their parents getting massacred by the SS.
* ButtMonkey: Carlo is this for Aldo, who mistreats him often [[spoiler:and ultimately kills him]]. Then there's Silvio, who seems to have the most bad things happen to him out of all the kids. [[spoiler:He eventually [[ShootTheShaggyDog dies]] at the end.]]
* TheCassandra: Captain von Hecht spends half the movie trying to convince his boneheaded superiors that Turner's target is obviously the dam, with a list of good reasons why he thinks so. He ends up needing to go rogue in an ultimately doomed effort to stop the American from succeeding. May also classify as IgnoredExpert, given his experience in dealing with partisan activity.
* ChildSoldier
* ChildrenAreInnocent: This movie doesn't so much avert this trope as brutally strangle it to death, then shoot its twitching corpse just to make sure.
* ColdSniper: Scarpi.
* DespairEventHorizon: [[spoiler: Aldo suffers a particularly heartwrenching one at the end when the enormity of what he has been through - what he has done and what he almost did - finally takes its toll on him.]]
* DiedInYourArmsTonight: [[spoiler:A fatally wounded Silvio dies cradled in Turner's arms.]]
* DoomedHometown: Reanoto.
* EgomaniacHunter / TheHunter: Von Hecht. He sees the lone American commando running around as a challenge he ''must'' accept.
* EverybodySmokes: Half the cast is seen puffing away. Even the kids.
-->'''[=Turner=]''': [''as Aldo offers him some Lucky Strikes''] I see you smoke my brand.
* EveryoneCallsHimBarkeep: Turner never divulges his name to anyone until the end. Throughout the whole movie, everyone just calls him "Soldier."
-->'''Bianca''': [''after calling him "Soldier"''] I'm sorry... they don't call you anything else.\\
'''Turner''': Soldier's good enough.
* FreeRangeChildren
* FailedASpotCheck: This is what gets Gunther killed. Coming in, he doesn't notice Turner standing directly to his right, allowing the American to disarm him and [[NeckSnap break his neck]].
* FascistItaly: The {{Novelization}} has a few Fascist Italian soldiers show up in a few scenes, but they're absent from the film.
* GiantWallOfWateryDoom: When Turner blows the dam.
* GoKartingWithBowser: There's a few surprisingly cute scenes of the kids and the Germans interacting, particularly the bit where Carlo and Paolo trade two guards some candy for their cigarettes.
* GrayAndGrayMorality: There are very few wholly good and wholly evil characters in this film. Mostly, everyone is just emotionally and psychologically messed up.
* HeelRealization: Turner suffers a minor one following [[spoiler:the rape scene]] (or seems to, anyway), but he shrugs it off. After [[spoiler:the death of Silvio]] however, he suffers a full-blown one. Aldo also suffers a delayed one at the end [[spoiler:over accidentally killing Carlo]].
* HairTriggerTemper: Sometimes it seems like the ''slightest'' thing will set Aldo off.
* [[HeyYouHaymaker "Hey, You!" Gunshot]]: [[spoiler:Von Hecht kills Taussig this way.]]
* HollywoodSilencer: Averted. Turner's suppressed handgun makes the correct noise for a silenced firearm, and isn't entirely silent, since the noise ''is'' shown to attract attention.
* HospitalHottie: Bianca.
* InMediasRes: How the movie begins.
* InTheBack: Turner's preferred method of dispatching unsuspecting Germans. This is also how Bianca attempts to kill him at one point.
* InfantImmortality: Averted in the first few minutes, with the SS machine-gunning nursing mothers and their babies. Then played straight up until [[spoiler:the deaths of Carlo and Silvio.]]
* KillTheCutie: Poor [[spoiler:Carlo]].
* KilledMidSentence: [[spoiler:Major Taussig]].
* LaserGuidedKarma
* LastNameBasis / NoNameGiven: We never learn Turner's first name.
* LaResistance: The Partisans.
* MaleGaze: Aldo when picking Bianca out as the doctor to kidnap.
* ManlyTears: All over the place.
* MercyKill: One possible reason Turner finishes off a German who'd already been shot.
* MookLieutenant: Schwalberg.
* MyGodWhatHaveIDone: For the most part, Turner doesn't dwell on the fact he's arming preteen kids and teaching them how to kill. It's only after [[spoiler:Silvio]] dies in his arms that he wonders if he did the right thing. [[spoiler:Carlo's]] death results in him taking away the kids' guns and breaking them all in a rage.
* NamedByTheAdaptation: All of Turner's doomed squadmates, Scarpi's second in command and a German soldier at the dam.
* NeckSnap: Unleashed by Turner on Gunther.
* NominalHero: Aldo. Although he claims he has the other boys' best interests at heart, he reacts violently to ''any'' challenge to his authority, real or perceived, and tends to fly off the handle when he doesn't immediately get what he wants. As the movie continues, it becomes clearer and clearer he [[SanitySlippage enjoys killing a little too much]].
* NotSoDifferent: Turner at one point says he understands the boys' need for vengeance, explaining he lost his father in an oil fire and spent most of his childhood fantasizing about destroying every oil rig he could find.
* {{Novelization}}: A rather pulpy one by Michael Avallone.
* OutOfFocus / WhatHappenedToTheMouse: Schwalberg. Although seen with von Hecht as his SatelliteCharacter for basically the entire film, up towards the end, he just sort of vanishes.
* PayEvilUntoEvil
* PetTheDog: Von Hecht is nice to Aldo and even literally gives him a pat on the head at one point.
* ThePoliticalOfficer: Gunther.
* PunchClockVillain: Most of the Germans, but especially von Hecht and his men.
* PunctuatedForEmphasis: "Where! Are! The Partisans?!"
* RapeAsBackstory: Aldo mentions that the Nazis raped his mother and sister.
* RapeAsDrama: Aldo and some of the older boys try to force themselves on Bianca when she won't treat Turner because he's an enemy soldier. [[spoiler: Turner saves her, but later it's very strongly implied he rapes her himself. The scene cuts away, though.]]
** It's worth noting that in Michael Avallone's {{Novelization}} [[spoiler:the sex is consensual, albeit a bit rough, of the SlapSlapKiss variety]]
* RapeDiscretionShot: [[spoiler:When Turner forces himself on Bianca, it cuts away]].
* RatedMForManly
* RareGuns: A silenced Polish Pistolet wz. 35 VIS stands in for an M1911.
* ARealManIsAKiller: Aldo insists this.
* RebelLeader: Scarpi. Aldo styles himself one, but is too violent, impulsive and incompetent to really succeed.
* RedOniBlueOni: Aldo and Dino. Aldo is the Red one, violent and impulsive as described above; Dino is the Blue, the quieter and more thoughtful boy who prefers thinking things through.
* RefugeInAudacity: The scene where one of the kids distracts a German soldier by walking up to the guy and taking a piss in front of him.
** The kids later distract the Germans at the dam by skinny dipping in the reservoir.
* RevengeBeforeReason: The kids don't care that blowing up the dam will flood the valley, drowning thousands of Nazis, including the ones who now occupy their old town. They want to ''personally'' kill their parents' murderers. This is understandable, but as Turner points out, is not at all practical. For the other kids, wiping out the SS is enough to satisfy their need for payback, but not for Aldo, who keeps right on wanting to kill Germans until Turner manages to knock some sense into him (but not before [[spoiler: Carlo]] has paid the price for Aldo's private war).
* TheRevolutionWillNotBeCivilized
* RoaringRampageOfRevenge: With Turner's help, the kids essentially do a drive-by on SS headquarters and [[ShootEverythingThatMoves kill everything that moves]].
* SanitySlippage: The film is basically one long road towards this for Aldo.
* SmokingIsCool
* SmugSnake: Taussig. Aldo also has some elements of this.
* SoundtrackDissonance: Ennio Morricone's score makes frequent use of a jaunty whistling tune.
* StuffBlowingUp
* ThoseWackyNazis: Averted with the regular German soldiers and played totally straight with the SS. They're stereotypical goosestepping, Sieg-Heiling fascists, although considering the movie begins with them massacring a whole town, they aren't really all that wacky.
* VillainousBSOD: Taussig suffers one when he returns and finds all of his men slaughtered.
* TookALevelInBadass: Bianca spends much of the movie as a meek civilian blind to the Nazis' crimes, trying to avoid confrontation and letting herself get walked all over by Turner and the boys, even sexually assaulted by them. [[spoiler:However, when Silvio dies defending her and the younger children from some attacking German soldiers, she grabs up his gun and mows all of her countrymen down in a fit of rage over the boy's death]]. Even Turner is shocked. She even gets some small revenge against Turner by reminding him the Nazis can just rebuild the dam.
* UnscrupulousHero: Turner, who unhesitatingly arms children and trains them to kill and even [[spoiler:commits rape at one point]]. He comes dangerously close to being a NominalHero. However, his intentions are good, and he has enough PetTheDog moments and a good enough HeelRealization scene to avoid being completely nasty.
** Scarpi. [[spoiler:He vengefully shoots a captured Partisan who sold them out, even though the guy was obviously ''forced'' to talk.]] He too floats between being an UnscrupulousHero and a NominalHero.
* WarIsGlorious: Until RealityEnsues, anyway.
* WarIsHell
* WhatMeasureIsAMook: Turner spends the entire movie knifing and shooting nameless Nazi {{Mooks}}, but [[spoiler:prevents Aldo from killing an unarmed Captain von Hecht, taking him prisoner instead]].
* WhatTheHellHero: Bianca repeatedly calls Turner out on his reckless use of the kids as replacements for his dead men.
* WhatTheHellIsThatAccent: Most of the "Germans" are played by [[FakeNationality Italian actors]] speaking English while trying to do a German accent.
* WorthyOpponent: Von Hecht sees Turner as this.
* WouldNotShootACivilian: Von Hecht doesn't kill civilians and dislikes the murderous SS. However, he considers Partisans fair game and isn't above using the threat of being turned over to the SS to entice Italian civilians not to harbor or aid them.
** Averted, of course, with the SS. Killing civilians seems to be all they're good for.
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