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  • Leon Klimovsky's LEGION OF NO RETURN (or BRIDGE OVER THE ELBE) is another one of those Italian & Spanish made European genre films from the 1967 - 1971 period when THE DIRTY DOZEN and GUNS OF NAVARRONE were the big formulas to rip off. The film is essentially a Spaghetti Western, as evidenced by Michele Lacerenza's seemingly misplaced musical score, with guys dressed up like G.I. Joe instead of cowboys, driving in jeeps instead of riding horses, and carrying machine guns instead of six-shooters.

    And like any Spaghetti Western worth it's salt we get a name-brand American star (Tab Hunter) collecting some alimony money during the tail end of his career, a stable of familiar looking Euro genre actors hiding under their US surplus military garb instead of peeking out from under cowboy hats (Daniele Vargas, Barta Barri, Claudio Trionfi, Ángel del Pozo), and the scriptwriters were even resourceful enough to write in a couple of roles for some good looking women (Erika Wallner and veteran genre actress Rosanna Yanni) to remind us of what we were fighting for.

    And like a good Italian/Spanish Spaghetti Western, history goes out the window with any sense of realism, which is remarkable since the story is derived from a novel about the incident in question by Lou Carrigan. I've not read Carrigan's novel but the pulp potboiler basics of the story is familiar territory to anyone who may have seen a couple of these Italian produced WW2 films from the late 1960s: A platoon of hand-picked commandos with unsavory pasts & specialized killing skills is sent to try and win the entire Second World War by beating the Russians to an important bridge spanning the Elbe River, which looks remarkably like either a cheap special effects model or a secondary road crossing spanning some irrigation canal in the Spanish countryside, but never mind. The interchangeable plot combines elements of THE DIRTY DOZEN's misfit commando squad formula with THE GUNS OF NAVARRONE's impregnable fortress idea, with the bridge guarded by a battalion of crack German Waffentroops under the command of a brutal crazed Gruppenfuhrer (complete with a "Dr. Strangelove" inspired dead arm strapped to his Iron Cross) who's cynicism about the way the war has turned against Germany is only matched by his single-minded devotion to the order to allow no one to cross the bridge and to take no prisoners. This applies even his own men, since after all War Is Hell.

    Guys scamper around dressed up in army uniforms and pretending to spout off military jargon, with the quirky individual traits of the commando squad being employed in a reverse order of who gets killed off, the most memorable character being a gruff, amoral gunnery sergeant type who brought his pet chicken to WW2 with him. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the film is how Klimovsky and his scriptwriters manage to re-define the obligatory opening montage of WW2 stock footage to set the film up, complete with a doleful sounding narrator who more or less sums up the complexity of the Normandy invasion into a fifteen second sound byte.

    I adore these Euro War potboilers because they resemble more than anything else me & my knuckle-headed brothers, relatives and friends playing Army Guy in the sand pit near the summer home of our uncle off Watchik Lake up in Maine. Nobody in the entire film recites one mundane line of dialog, which is all right out of the pages of "Sgt. Rock" and allows the Yankee squad -- who don't seem to be carrying much in the way of equipment or even ammunition on their commando mission -- lots of time to sit around having Spaghetti Western type discussions out in the open behind enemy lines. The film is a display of sentiment, the prevailing sentiment being an apparent wish by the Italians & Spaniards who made the film to cast themselves on the sides of the Allies and show that while their own governments of the times may have collaborated with the Germans, they weren't as scurrilous or evil as the Nazis. To demonstrate this we get lots of scenes of Nazis strutting around while playing the Shickelgruber role to the hilt, while inflicting unspeakable losses on the implacable allies in extended War Is Hell sequences that are meant to demonstrate that while fun is fun, War Is Hell.

    The two main objections to these films is that they care not one bit about historical accuracy of details like weapons + equipment, and that they try to achieve a sense of being morality plays by having the Hell of war serve as the backdrop for the human dynamics at work in the screenplay. Since it is impossible to deconstruct the insane tragedy of war it's difficult to genuinely object to the formulaic nature of the approach because they celebrate our victory over the Nazis. This one moves along at a brisk pace with a peppy musical score and as such might prove more entertaining than others, and fans of Klimovsky's horror films will have fun trying to spot the recycled sets & locations from his werewolf films with Spanish star Paul Naschy, whom one half expects to see slink out of the background at times to paw at Rosanna Yanni.

    It's disposable plastic cinema, made as inexpensively as possible with the intent being to toss it on a double bill with something more or less along the same lines to sell tickets in a movie theater for a week or two. The following week there'd be something just like them there instead to continue the cycle. The only things that made them unique would be who the starring name brand actor was, or who composed the music. Just like a Spaghetti Western.

    5/10: Relaxingly stupid, and ultimately worthy of it's obscurity.
  • It follows the merciless adventures of a valiant squadron from 101 parachutists , some courageous soldiers during WWII in Germany to destroy a valuable bridge . End of World War II , the allies have reached the Rhine . A tough sergeant is assigned by high command to carry out a risked mission on a bridge that crosses the Elbe river to prevent the Soviets to occupy Germany . As Richard (Tab Hunter) was entrusted with this dangerous assignment . Richard leads a group of motley soldiers on a risked as well as strange assignment , these are the followings : Hinds (Howard Ross) , Doyle (Gaspar 'Indio' González) , Johnny (Claudio Trionfi) , Sides (Óscar Pellicer) Rod (Ángel del Pozo) . The relentless and complex assignment is set against strong training , dangerous adventures and hazardous feats . The volunteer paratrooper commandos , misfits from the American army do not care how its done and will run over anyone who gets in their way . During the night the commando parachuted near the bridge . Along the way the group meets two kidnapped prostitutes (Erika Wallner , Rosanna Yanni) and they free them . As River Elba becomes the East-West frontier .

    Set during World War where starring Richard/Tab Hunter is assigned by the US command a lethal order : they have decided to blow up a bridge across Elba , as the sergeant names five ex-con soldiers who will accompany him to the deadly mission . Thrilling and stirring screenplay by Antonio Fos and Adriano Bolzoni based on a novel by Lou Carrigan . Tab Hunter assumes the character of commando leader in this ordinary wartime movie regularly directed by Leon Klimovsky . This moving film packs frantic thrills , perilous adventures , relentless feats , and buck-loads of explosive action and violence . The noisy action is uniformly well-made , especially deserving of mention the rip-roaring final scenes in which the motley group is really besieged , including some spectacular shootouts and bombing . The first half of the film allows the colorful cast of character actors to have their fun as they get their tails whipped into shape and develop shaky relationship with their leader . The final part is all action , as the brave commando wreak havoc , blowing up the bridge and then run for their lives . Apart from the values of team spirit , cudgeled by Tab Hunter into his misfit group , the film is full of feats , suspense , and thrills . Rough Tub Hunter is leader of the motley pack together thwart the Nazi schemes , he gives passable acting . Hunter was an average American actor , a ¨cheesecake¨ who starred some good war films as ¨Merril's marauders¨, ¨Battle of Bulge¨, ¨PT 109¨, but also performed other genres as Sci-Fi : ¨I Married a monster from outer space¨ , Western : ¨Rooster spurs of death¨, ¨Bad Jim¨ and Terror : Bersek¡ . Hunter is supported by an acceptable cast plenty of familiar faces . As the largely secondary cast formed by a lot of Spanish/Italian secondaries , all of them ordinary from Spaghetti/Paella Western and Peplum , such as: as Spanish actors : Ángel del Pozo , Rosanna Yanni , Óscar Pellicer , Gaspar 'Indio' González , Alfonso De la Vega , Barta Barri ; as Italian players : Daniele Vargas , Howard Ross ; and with special mention for José Guardiola as stiff-upper-lip German commander who defends -in blood and fire- the impregnable bridge . This one belongs to Klimovsky's trilogy about WWII , including tarnishing Hollywood stars , such as ¨Hell's brigade¨ with Jack Palance , and ¨Command attack¨ with Michael Rennie . Atmospheric and functional musical score by Michele Laceranza , adding a catching but repetitive leitmotif . Mediocre cinematography in Eastmancolor filmed by cameraman Mario Pacheco , a perfect remastering is extremely necessary , and as photographer assistant the great Vittorio Storaro . Being filmed on location in Casa De Campo , Madrid , Navacerrada mountains , Colmenar Viejo , La Pedriza , Madrid , Spain . This is a wartime typical vehicle and into the ¨warlike commando sub-genre¨ , in USA style which also belong the American classics as : ¨Dirty Dozen (Robert Aldrich) ¨ , ¨Where eagles dare (Brian G. Hutton)¨ , ¨Kelly's heroes (Hutton)¨ , ¨Tobruk (Arthur Hiller)¨ , ¨Devil's Brigade (Andrew V McLagen)¨ and many others .

    The motion picture titled ¨Bridge of No Returns" or "The Legion of No Return¨or ¨No Importa Morir¨ was middlingly directed by Leon Klimovsky assisted by Carlos Aured as director assistant . This Argentina born but nationalized Spanish filmmaker was a craftsman who directed all kind genres , as Terror for Paul Naschy (Marshall of hell , Rebellion of dead one , Orgy of vampires , Werewolf shadow,Dr Jekill vs. the werewolf) , Warlike (June 44 attack force Normandy, A bullet for Rommel, Bridge over Elba) and Western (Badland drifter , Some dollars for Django , Torrejon city , Death knows no time, Two thousand dollars for Coyote). Rating: 6 , regular but entertaining.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    THE LEGION OF NO RETURN is a stock Italian/Spanish WW2 picture about a squad of American soldiers who are parachuted into enemy territory in order to blow up a bridge that they can't allow falling into the hands of the enemy in the dying days of the war. Tab Hunter is the grizzled former Hollywood star, now playing the lead in a European war flick. I've seen a lot of similar productions like this and this is one of the cheapest, telling the story in a boring and long-winded way. Nothing happens for the whole first half of the film while the battle sequences in the second half are resolutely small scale and lacking in both variety and imagination. The most interesting thing about this film is that it was directed by the great Leon Klimovsky, later to find his steam with a series of stunning Paul Naschy horror flicks.