Churchill's Leopards (1970)

a.k.a. - Commando Attack (UK) I Leopardi di Churchill (ITA)

Richard Harrison leads a team of British commandos in this rather routine Macaroni Combat film also starring Klaus Kinski. Wild East R0 DVD

The Film

Occupied France, shortly before D-Day - a German officer is killed and his place taken by Lt. Benson (Richard Harrison) who happened to be the estranged twin of the German. Meanwhile a British commando team parachute into the countryside and meet up with the French resistance - their objective, to blow a dam that will wash away some vital supply roads towards the coast - Lt. Benson is now in command of the soldiers around the dam and is able to get the details required for the raid, but his SS colleague Captain Holtz (Klaus Kinski) is suspicious of Benson...

Director Maurizio Pradeaux also provides the serviceable but rather uninspired screenplay. A team of commandos sent on an 'impossible mission' has been a staple of the war movie since as far back as the wartime propaganda films themselves and Pradeaux's script brings nothing really new to the table. The idea of the British officer replacing his German twin brother is the only original aspect to the film but seems far too easy - Benson seems to know every minute detail of his brother's life and is able to imitate him exactly - so the potential tension here is lost. Historians would probably welcome the long and violence-free build up, as the British team try to avoid detection while preparing the raid, it is certainly realistic but also quite tiresome - no particular characterisation is built up and there is no real tension of detection at any point. It might perhaps be worth it were the action finalé particularly gripping, but even this is a little slow and certainly not unpredictable.

Behind the camera, Pradeaux is just the same, giving the film a perfectly watchable feel, but never doing anything remarkable - a few nice low angle shots are the only thing that break up the otherwide mundane camerawork. The use of stock war footage to open and close seems to be an attempt to slot the film into the middle of the wartime environment but just come across as rather noisy. All of the sets and costumes look plausible and the locations are fittingly French. There is only a little music in the whole film but when it appears it is a standard, fitting, orchestral track.

Richard Harrison takes the lead role here and certainly looks the part as the military officer while Klaus Kinski is perfectly cast as the local German SS commander. That most versitile of character actors Giacomo Rossi-Stuart plays a British Major (an odd twist on the usual war films where the British actors played every nationality) while the gorgeous Pilar Velázquez is the love interest.

Churchill's Leopards is a perfectly solid little war film but it is simply unremarkable, there is nothing except the cast to indicate that it is a European production and it could easily pass as one of the many low budget 1950s British war films if it was in black and white. Certainly if you are looking for another Inglorious Bastards then this will disappoint, however if you want a sound Macaroni Combat film and a chance to see Richard Harrison and Klaus Kinski giving their all, then this is worth tracking down.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Richard Harrison - imported as a Peplum star he branched out into Spaghetti Westerns and Euro-spy films.
Klaus Kinski - the notorious German actor famous for his collaborations with Werner Herzog.
Directed by anyone interesting? Maurizio Pradeaux - a very little known Italian director who also helmed a pair of Giallo titles, Death Carries a Cane (1973) and Death Walks in the Dark (1977).
Any gore or violence ? Lots of blood
Any sex or nudity? None
Who is it for? Fans of Harrison and Kinski should enjoy this and one for Eurowar fans.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour
The print quality is very good with almost no damage or grain and good colours and detail.
Audio English original mono. Sounds fine and well dubbed although a little on the quiet side.
Subtitles None.
Extras The disc includes:
  • Original Italian theatrical trailer
  • Photo and poster gallery - as a video file with soundtrack backing.
  • English language opening and closing credits.
Region Region 0 (ALL) - NTSC
Availability Only available on a double bill release with Salt in the Wound (1969).
Other regions? Also available on DVD in Italy (as I leopardi di Churchill) - no English options.
Cuts? Cut status unknown - no apparent cuts. The print is Italian language.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 20th July 2008.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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