Salt in the Wound (1969)

a.k.a. - The Dirty Two (UK) Il Dito nella piaga (ITA)

Klaus Kinski and George Hilton are lost behind enemy lines in this curious Macaroni Combat film. Wild East R0 DVD

The Film

Allied forces are pushing into occupied Europe but the pressure is too much for Private Grayson and Corporal Haskins (Klaus Kinski) who are sentenced to death for murder. Fresh out of West Point, Michael Sheppard (George Hilton) is detailed to escort the men and their executioners to the appropriate location, but when the group are attacked by German soldiers, only Sheppard and the two convicts are left alive. They make a run for safety, Sheppard is still convinced that he can get the two men to return for their punishment but the other two just want to escape from the war. They find a small town to hide in and are welcomed as libertators by the townspeople, but when the German and Allied forces advance on the small town they might have to really prove themselves...

From the opening scenes of the film with biblical quotes from Genesis, it is clear that this is not going to be an orthodox war film - we move quickly to a nighttime battle scene in a crashing, gothic horror thunderstorm and later the trio's arrival in San Miguel borders on the surreal. Although the anti-war aspects emphasised at the end are quite typical of the genre, the religious themes that seem to crop up through the film are rather unusual although sadly, like with the surrealism and horror, the script never quite seems to be clear about what it wants to do with all of these different ideas and it never particularly comes together to make a particular point.

Outside of these aspects, Salt in the Wound has a decent if none-too original war-movie storyline - the idea of crooks becoming commandos had been popularised in The Dirty Dozen (1967) but director Tonino Ricci's script avoids becoming a mere clone and these crooks have no intention of becoming heros or even fighting, instead just trying to get away from the American forces who want to execute them. Similarly he doesn't make this into a 'buddy picture' like the better known Inglorious Bastards (1978) and the rivaly and hatred between the leads is one of the best aspects of the film. Characterisation is not particularly strong but we do get the know the trio particularly when they reach the town and by the end we do care about their fate. Pacing is quite slow, particularly in the scenes in the town, but it avoids becoming boring.

Like most of the Macaroni Combat films, the look of Salt in the Wound is heavily inspired by the Spaghetti Western boom and with a change of uniforms and weapons it could easily have worked as a Civil War western. The town is very well done and well populated with extras, while the uniforms and equipment all look realistic - the dramatic climax sees some real tanks getting in on the action. A highlight is Riz Ortolani's dramatic military score which gives the film a particuarly strong backing.

Casting Klaus Kinski as an American GI might seem like an odd decision but it works well, he can pull of the depressive uncaring attitudelike no-one else which is perfect for the start when he is awaiting death, but he does have a sensitive side which comes out later. George Hilton is similarly well cast and looks every bit the 'college boy' soldier. Little known Canadian actor Ray Saunders is cast as Grayson, the other convict and gives a strong performance.

On first impressions, a Spaghetti Western with a Second World War setting, Salt in the Wound is lifted by some rather unusual themes and ideas, particularly the religious iconography - unfortunately it never seems to know what to do with these and the film is certainly not as 'deep' as it could have been. Fans of action packed war films will enjoy the explosive finalé but there is not much action before that. Still, the acting from Kinski, Hilton and Saunders is quite superb and the film is certainly of interest to Eurocult fans.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? George Hilton - one of the biggest stars of the Spaghetti Western boom including Massacre Time (1966)
Klaus Kinski - the notorious German actor famous for his collaborations with Werner Herzog.
Directed by anyone interesting? Tonino Ricci - a little known Italian director who worked as second unit director on Lucio Fulci's White Fang (1973) and its sequel before becoming a director, working on such films as Thor the Conqueror (1983)
Any gore or violence ? Lots of blood
Any sex or nudity? None
Who is it for? Certainly of interest to Hilton and Kinski fans and one of the better Italian exploitation war films.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Colour
The print quality is watchable - generally lacking in detail and with minor damage throughout, there is a lot more damage with missed frames at reel changes.
Audio English original mono. Sounds okay, lacking clarity but the dialogue is always understandable.
Subtitles None.
Extras The disc includes:
  • Original Theatrical trailer - tries to sell the film as an all out action war movie.
  • Photo and poster gallery - as a video file with soundtrack backing.
Region Region 0 (ALL) - NTSC
Availability Only available on a double bill release with Churchill's Leopards (1970).
Other regions? Not otherwise available on DVD.
Cuts? Cut status unknown - no apparent cuts. The print is English language.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 27th July 2008.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

Please contact: