"Here's your problem! You had a knife in your spleen!"
It's World War II
. In the Italian
village of Reanoto
, the SS
, under the command of the cruel Major Taussig (Jacques Sernas), massacres the entire adult population while a group of children look on from nearby. Not long afterward, a group of American soldiers led by the stoic
(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 von Hecht
(Sergio Fantoni). Only Turner survives, and barely. He's found by the kids from Reanoto, who are led by the borderline psychotic Aldo (Mark Colleano).
The kids nurse Turner back to health aided by a beautiful
captive German doctor named Bianca (Sylva Koscina). 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 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, whom he knows is alive.
If the movie has a fault (its 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) 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 fun adventure
or as a 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.
Tropes used in this film: