Movie Review: Tank Commandos (1959)

Synopsis: As American forces advance in Italy during World War II, a demolition unit is given the task of figuring out how the Germans are getting tanks across a river. They eventually enlist the help of an Italian boy who is grieving the loss of his parents and knows the location of a secret underwater bridge.

Who's in it? The movie stars Robert Barron, Maggie Lawrence, Donato Farretta, Wally Campo and Anthony Rich.

Review: I wasn't really in the mood for a war movie but wanted something I could watch in a short amount of time after the rest of the family went to bed last night and this particular film met that criteria. After seeing it, my opinion of it was mixed at best.

Overall, I liked the premise of this movie. The demolition squad was given a task it wasn't trained to do and, even if they were, it was a mission that seemed to be pretty much impossible given the fact they had to obtain information with the German Army blocking their way. And, the twist of having a young boy, who doesn't even speak English, eventually help them out was somewhat unique.

The main problem with this movie is, for a film that is slightly more than an hour long, it spends an awful lot of time bogging down the main plot with a lot of extra drama and people standing around having a moral discussion about war. Look, I have nothing against war movies wanting to show the darker side of combat. In fact, I am a big fan of that normally. However, this film seemed to go a bit overboard with it and was getting somewhat dull in parts as a result.

I also have to say, for a highly-trained military unit, there were times when that squad almost seemed like they forgot they were in a combat zone. Yes, the whole point was they weren't properly trained for the mission they were on (and the movie never does explain why they were chosen to do it rather than a unit that was more qualified), but they were having some fairly loud conversations and there were times when they were practically walking into enemy fire. And, I'm sorry, what ultimately happens as the boy, Diano, leads them through sewers on the way to the hidden bridge is completely on them. I saw that twist coming from a mile away.

I will say, when the movie does have some action scenes, they are pretty entertaining to watch and some of the deaths were much more bloody (though nothing exaggerated) than I was expecting from a black-and-white film. Plus, since there was an obvious issue with communication throughout, the danger of death from friendly fire was always a real possibility, adding a little extra suspense. It's just too bad the movie didn't focus more on those parts.

Final Opinion: It's an OK film but does tend to get bogged down by an excess of drama. Again, there's nothing wrong with showing the horrors of war and the toll they take on the people experiencing them, I just prefer to see that balanced out with a bit more action.

My Grade: C+


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