17 February 2006 | Squonkamatic
You Ninnys Are Criticizing A Cartoon!!
OK, enough is enough. Stop talking trash about this movie, obsessing over equipment or uniforms, put down your history of World War 2 facts checklist and PAY ATTENTION:
Simply put, FIVE FOR HELL is a violent, cartoonish Spaghetti Western masquerading as a war film. I once encountered a very heated discussion about FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE where contributors were trying to argue who was probably a better shot in real life, Clint Eastwood or Lee Van Cleef. (Answer: they are both ACTORS, and it's only a movie.) I sense the same kind of desperation in the bulk of the comments made here about this wonderful, stupid, energetic little movie, which has as much in common with reality as a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Italian cult genre cinema is about exaggerations. The events depicted in FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE were no more rooted in history than FIVE FOR HELL. In the same way that DOLLARS just happens to involve cowboys shooting each other's hats, FIVE FOR HELL just happens to be about Americans and Germans shooting each other's helmets. And in the same way that DOLLARS is set in the old west, FIVE FOR HELL is set during the Second World War. Instead of being about two gunfighters who infiltrate a gang of evil Pistoleros to exact revenge & make off with their loot, FIVE FOR HELL is about a squad of commandos who infiltrate a Nazi stronghold to make off with some battle plans, or whatever it is that they are after.
See, it doesn't matter what they are after, because the point of the movie is not to educate viewers about real events that their textbooks didn't cover, but to entertain people with an outrageous story, kinetic stunts, choreographed shootouts, sneering evil Nazi Waffentroops, explosions, goofy physical comedy, and a dash of risqué material involving megababe Margeret Lee. You aren't supposed to be watching it with your textbooks open but with your brains switched off. THE MOVIE IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN, NOT REAL. So all these concerns about equipment, uniform type or whether the Nazis hung the toilet paper on the left or right side of the loo is irrelevant and distracting. With that said, I can understand why a lot of detractors may have a problem with this movie, which is that it dares to have fun with World War 2. You could say the same thing about Italian mob movies getting a thrill out of organized crime or spy thrillers exploiting the cold war for giggles or even Spaghetti Westerns making light of the cowboy experience. I wouldn't advise one doing so, but you could ...
So here is a Spaghetti Western -- with all of the good, bad, and ugly that term inspires -- that just happens to have machine guns, tanks and Klaus Kinski as a Nazi, instead of having six shooters, horses and Klaus Kinski as a ruthless hired killer. His "Sartana" co-star Gianni Garko plays the tough American Lt. who leads the rabble of misfits on their hopeless mission behind enemy lines: Instead of worrying about the make of the machine guns, worry about whether they will make it back alive. Especially Sal Borgese's "Syracuse", because he's so much fun to watch. And worry about Margeret Lee: do you think that rotten Klaus is going to have his way with her? Hell, I would!!
The bottom line is that this is a fantasy, a cartoon, a big colorful ripoff of THE DIRTY DOZEN that for my money is twice as entertaining, funny, and inappropriate as that movie, and about half as long. FIVE FOR HELL is a win-win situation for viewers: you are only diminished by missing it. But for Christ sake it's NOT the History Channel, it was only meant to be entertaining, and the movie is eager to please. Perhaps a bit over-eager, which would be my only complaint, and about as close as you can come to a party movie about war. If that is a bad thing my apologies, but sometimes movies are made to just be watched, enjoyed, forgotten and still leave enough room for another one just like it on a double bill. On that consideration it's a brilliant success, and a great introduction point to the genre for viewers just starting out. You can find it on DVD for a dollar, go enjoy.