20 February 2008 | bkoganbing
The Reluctant Nazi
Roger Moore is the Austrian commandant of a German POW camp located in the Grecian Isles in Escape to Athena. He's got a couple of favorites among the prisoners, an Italian cook in Sonny Bono, an archaeologist in David Niven and a black GI magician in Richard Roundtree. In addition USO entertainers Elliott Gould and Stefanie Powers are shot down in their transport plane and become Moore's prisoners.
Moore really hasn't got his heart in the commandant business. He's an antique dealer in civilian life and he relishes the assignment only because of the location where he's also involved in Adolph Hitler's looting of Greek antiquities of which there are many in that area. Niven and company aid him because if they didn't they'd be in the hands of the SS. STill they want there freedom.
Which they get when they join with resistance leader Telly Savalas and his mistress, bordello madam Claudia Cardinale. It's rumored there's a lot of hidden loot in a monastery on a nearby hill, whatever Moore hasn't taken for his own private stock for after the war. But Savalas is interested in some prototype V2 rockets located there.
Escape to Athena mixes the plot elements of The Guns of Navarone and Topkapi, but they're not stirred too well. The scenery is quite nice and I'm sure the prospect of some paid time in the Aegean Sea might have been a big inducement for all these people signing on for the movie.
As he was involved with Stefanie Powers at the time, William Holden gets a small unbilled cameo in a brief scene with Elliott Gould. As it turns out Moore's Prison Camp is also Stalag XVII. That might have been part of the package for Stefanie to go to Greece.
It was also plain dumb to make Richard Roundtree a black GI. Americans were not involved in that theater, let alone black soldiers. Now if they had made his character be part of the African colonial troops of the British Empire, it would have made more sense. Then again we couldn't have heard Roundtree call a German soldier a 'cool cat'.
The action sequences are done well enough, but the cast here just collected their paychecks and walked through the parts.