The Battle of El Alamein (1969)

PG   |    |  Action, Drama, History

The Battle of El Alamein (1969) Poster

World war two drama about the 1942 North Africa battle at El Alamein between the Allies and the Axis forces.


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19 February 2014 | Theo Robertson
| A Film Of Two Halves
Oh dear an Italian war film . I had visions that I was going to be watching either a remake of THE DIRTY DOZEN or 90 minutes of hunky Mediterrians waving a white flag shouting " We surrender " in 97 different languages . Sorry if I'm playing up to either cinematic or historical stereotypes but unlike Mussolini I didn't have high hopes . Michael Rennie as Monty ? Well I doubt if this would be getting broadcast on The History Channel . Or indeed anywhere else in Britain

The film did defeat my prejudices , but only in the first half , and it turned out to be a Pyrrhic victory and before the film reached its end titles the victory the film had over me and turned in to a defeat on the scale of Stalingrad . It is undoubtedly intriguing watching a war film from the other side . ALAMEIN isn't unforgettable human cinema in the way DAS BOOT was but does portray all sides in the conflict as being people who have families at home and it's this that is important to the characters rather than the wider politics of the conflict . Okay maybe the " War is hell " statements are overdone but it's possibly in keeping with the Italian mindset during this era . The Italians were badly equipped with obsolete equipment , very badly led and Italy would traditionally through the last couple of centuries side with the British and French often against Germany so Mussolini's pact with Nazi Germany despite being logical from a political point of view goes against the historical grain . Add to this the fact political and military leaders were quickly promoted due only to their loyalty to the Italian Fascist party and you can see why the average Italian conscript might not be too happy getting killed fighting against a democracy , especially if he knows he's probably going to be better fed in an allied POW camp than in his own army . As a battle hardened NCO realises his section is going to be led by a glory seeking officer we have all the makings of a good melodrama

The film then proceeds to blow it by going out of its way to ruin the early potential . Little things such as the anachronistic Italian helmets with their 1960s camouflage patterns you can overlook if the bigger picture is impressive but it's not . The story soon loses its early focus and instead jumps from one half baked thread to another . Rommel starts getting involved in a plot that would lead to the July 1944 bomb plot . Common myth but Rommel had nothing to do with that . British equipment includes 1960s era American APCs and 1950s era tanks and march in to battle playing bagpipes which sound nothing like bagpipes . It's interesting that the film in its early stages portrays all sides as being intelligent but then in the latter stages British tank crews don't notice Italian soldiers as they nonchalantly wander around the battlefield sticking bundles of dynamites on tanks . Tanks that conveniently have straps that you can attach bundles of dynamite to . The macho heroics jars in comparison with the first half of the film that does have an anti-war feeling to it and by this stage it has become a different and much inferior movie

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