How lucky are we to have filmmaker-in-badassness Damian Lahey contributing reviews for us???
I watched this film when I was very young and I never forgot it. I was about 9 years old. I felt like I was watching something I shouldn’t have been. It was a very violent film in which a soldier led a group of kids on a deadly mission during WWII against the Nazis and some of the children got killed along the way. It was very startling to me and stuck with me for many years, and I had NO idea what the title was but I had convinced myself William Holden was in it. Every few years or so I would ask people about it, do a Google search and poke around in Bill Holden’s IMDB page – but could never find this movie. Then last year I was scrolling through the MGM HD channel and came across this film, selected it and EUREKA!! This was it! After all these years this was the film! How did it hold up after 30 years? Let’s dive in….
‘Hornet’s Nest’ follows a U.S. paratrooper (Rock Hudson) on a mission to destroy a strategic dam behind enemy lines in German occupied Italy in WWII. All of his men are gunned down during an ambush and he is taken in by the orphan children that were left behind after a nazi massacre saw their parents killed. They want the American soldier to train them so they can avenge their deaths. In return, he wants their help in taking out the dam. This film has a great hook and the R-Rated execution packs quite a punch even by today’s standards. Rock Hudson gives an incredible performance. He anchors the film and he knows it and he owns it like only a pro like he can. There’s a couple of narrative hiccups in regards to the female nurse character as played (to the best of her ability) by Sylva Koscina and a couple of over the top beats with Mark Coleano as Aldo, the de facto leader of the group of kids.
This film delivers the harsh message that while war destroys innocence, innocence must sometimes be placed on the alter as a sacrifice for the greater good. This film also sternly shakes its finger at us, making it clear that war is not a game and that guns are not toys. The delivery is a tad uneven but it’s ambitions are commendable.
An Italian co-production, master cinematographer Gabor Pogany (‘Valdez Is Coming’, ‘Pink Floyd at Pompeii’) delivers crisp visuals and Ennio Morricone’s catchy score bleeds into the film as the children often whistle the main theme. Karlson’s direction is a tad clunky and there’s some rather blatant continuity errors in this but he is kept afloat by a the tremendous work of his wonderfully talented cast and crew. This is a daring and incredibly poignant war film.
Directed by Phil Karlson
Written by S.S. Schweitzer
Starring Rock Hudson, Sylva Koscina, Sergio Fantoni, Giacomo Rossi Stuart, Jacques Sernas, Mark Colleano
Produced by Stanley S. Canter
Music by Ennio Morricone
Cinematography by Gabor Pogany
Edited by J. Terry Williams