|The Plot: John Garko plays Lt. Hoffman, who has recently been put in charge of an extremely dangerous mission that will involve he and a platoon of his choosing going behind enemy lines, sneaking into a nazi fortress and gaining access to Plan K. A dangerous and important document that could very well help secure a win for the allies. He picks his ragtag team of soldiers, all with their own unique expertise and vulnerabilities. However, on the opposite side of the playing field is Hans Muehller (Klaus Kinski), a nazi officer placed in charge of watching the very same fortress that Hoffman will be attempting to break into. Muehller is a brutal leader who will acknowledge no weakness. Without his knowing, right underneath him is Helga a spy working with the Americans who will be attempting to assist Lt. Hoffman when he and his crew arrive. Which side will win in this epic battle of good versus evil?|
The Review: The Macaroni Combat subgenre, which to my knowledge was only recently given it’s title, is one that very few can say that they have a full grasp on. It has hidden in the background behind the slightly less obscure Polizioteschi subgenre, and then that hidden behind the almost “popular” (by way of comparison) Gialli and Spaghetti Western genres. I personally have only heard the title within the past few years, but these films do have their own specific style and place in film history. Quentin Tarantino’s recent Inglorious Basterds certainly has its hands in this genre, with many references to these movies as well as taking its name from a very famous entry in this style. Five For Hell could likely be considered an ideal film to show someone who is unfamiliar with this subgenre or what it is supposed to be all about. You could simply place it in front of them with no explanation, and afterwards they’d know the precise style and format that other such films should follow in order to be considered a part of this subgenre. That doesn’t necessarily mean this is a fine example of how great these films likely can be, but it just means that it follows the genre by definition. Especially the “guys on a mission” ideal, that films like The Great Escape, The Guns of Naverone or The Dirty Dozen helped to establish. Five For Hell, well, it really doesn’t do much of anything to break away from genre type. It’s so strung to the cliches of what it’s supposed to be that it never sticks its neck out on the line at any point. However, that doesn’t necessarily make this a bad flick. I’ve said it before, but sometimes there’s a lot of fun to be had when the filmmakers just let go and decide to make a very fun film that simply wants to do things bigger and better than what they’ve previously seen – even if at the same time they’re essentially ripping off every other flick of the same genre. It’s not a sophisticated approach to cinema, but for us film geeks this is essentially the reason we all loved the horror scene from the eighties. Not a lot of invention, but still a great amount of creativity and naive filmmaking that was more in tune with entertaining their audience than re-inventing the wheel.
Five For Hell comes at you from the very start and never relents. The pace of the film is just brutally quick, clocking in at a very brisk eighty-something minutes. The very opening lets you know what to expect, as it rockets us into a “cool” training sequence with various members of our outfit excelling in various parts of their training regiment, while a raucous military score that is far too upbeat for a film of this variety just pounds away in the background. You’ll get used to this little tune because it pops up every time our Americans are on display and for the most part I would say it works. Take note that I say “for the most part”, because there are a few musical cues that feel grossly inappropriate for their respective scenes. Especially in the latter part of the film where some rather serious moments are completely disrupted by this trumpeting and massive soundscape just destroys your ears. Still, it sort of fits the tone of the movie in the fact that at no point does it ever stop long enough for you to really get serious with it. I suppose that’s never the point, as this was apparently made with the idea of the audience simply having a blast. Director Gianfranco Parolini (credited here as Frank Kramer) seems to do well when sticking to genre, and his work in the Spaghetti Western (God’s Gun, If You Meet Sartana Pray For Your Death, the Sabata series, etc.) genre tends to reflect that same mentality.
There’s a lot of camp and gimmickry at foot as you might suspect from a flick such as this one. Things like every member of The Five having their own unique situation. There’s one character who is an acrobat and can flip in and out of any situation. There’s the master safe cracker with the toughguy attitude, who is crucial to the plan. There’s also the Goliath looking strongman who actually rips his own shirts apart while trying on new clothes due to his massive girth. Then there’s the timid member who’s a good shot but is considered a chicken by most everyone else, but has the blind faith of his allies to strengthen him. That just leaves Lt. Hoffman, Mr. Garko, as the leader of the group who can also throw a baseball like no one’s business – knocking out several enemies throughout the film. Garko himself is as good as ever was here, exuding a lot of charisma but not pushed terribly hard here. Klaus Kinski who is probably a major selling point for some viewers almost seems like he’s taking part in a cameo here as he’s in the film for what feels like roughly ten minutes. Regardless, it’s Kinski though so you know he’s bound to be memorable and of course he is. His manic personality all but guarantees something out of just about any role.
Although not making my favorite films list any time soon, I did have a good bit of fun with Five For Hell. It’s an all out action fest with several funny bits in between all of the explosions and shootouts. However, it’s also the sort of flick that starts fading from memory the moment it’s out of your vision. It’s like eating a handful of candy as opposed to a full meal that you might get from something like Castellari’s Inglorious Bastards. For what it attempts though, I have to consider it a success. I give it a three out of five and recommend it to others looking to get into the Macaroni Combat subgenre.