29 March 2011 | MartinHafer
"The Four Days of Naples" is an interesting film in that although it was made in 1962, it looks like it was made just after the war. That's because many buildings show bomb damage. Could they have sat that way since the war or did they blow up a few buildings to add to the realism? I don't know, but the film sure got the look right.
The film is set in 1943. The Allies have invaded Sicily and are on the move northward. In nearby Naples, word arrives that the Italian army has surrendered--and the residents are thrilled as it looks like the war is over for them. However, the Germans go immediately from allies to enslavers and they begin committing atrocities on the Italians. Soon, the Neopolitans realize that unless they fight back, they will die--thus begins four days of bloody fighting between mostly civilians and the German army throughout the streets of the town.
Because this was a battle to save he city, it's made up of lots and lots of separate vignettes all strung together. Some are very compelling--such as the boys of the reform school leaving to join in the fight--even though many look to be only about 10 or even younger. Others are more bizarre as there are TONS of women running about screaming and getting in the way of the fighting. About the only thing that did not ring true in these stories was when they showed a couple people pulling the pins out of grenades with their teeth---something that only occurs in movies and never in real life (you'd lose your teeth doing this).
This film works very well. Of course, much of this is because it was well-directed, but I also loved the neo-realistic style (though most films in this style were made a decade or more earlier)--with non-actors playing the parts of the citizens. While the film could have been like an American epic (such as "The Longest Day")--star-studded throughout, instead the real folks made it all come alive--like we are really watching the battles unfold. Realism--realistic looking deaths, heroism, occasional cowardice--realism from start to finish.
By the way, although it's a very good film, I would really love to see it re-captioned. That's because like many films captioned many years ago, the people doing this didn't feel a need to caption everything the people said or caption it word for word. I dislike this intensely--as would most film purists. I've seen much worse captioning--but also much, much better.
By the way, you can't blame the film makers, but the tanks used in the film were modern tanks like American-built Walker Bulldogs--not vintage German tanks. There just aren't that many Panzer tanks left and they certainly weren't going to risk the few possibly still available making a film.