Sunday, October 18, 2015

Bridge To Hell (1986)

Yugoslavia broke up officially in the early 90's. That's too bad because it was a helluva country. It gave us the Yugo, which was a fine automobile, when the hatchback wasn't blowing up. Yugoslavia also gave us a fine collaborative cinema effort with Italy, and I happen to have found a copy.

First of all, the action portrayed on this cover art is spactacular. Fire everywhere, muscular macho dudes with guns, armed helicopters, trains careening through infrastructures. None of this resembles the movie in any way. Obviously, this art was meant for another movie altogether and it was slapped on this box. The guy in the foreground has a mustache. The main guy in the film does not have a mustache. Hell, the art was meant to get you to rent this movie anyway, and it would have worked on me.

Bridge To Hell is an Italian-Serb co-production released in 1986 under the title Un Ponte Per L'Inferno. It was directed by Umberto Lenzi, who was the man behind such titles as Nightmare City and Eaten Alive! The exploitation film was his forte, and he was a forerunner in that genre. Italian cinema is a goldmine for those looking for ultra-violent cult films that are rarely ever seen in North America, and Lenzi is a man behind many of them. 

The movie stars Andy J. Forest as "Lt. Bill Rogers". Andy can be found in such films as The Sicilian Connection and Lambada. Remember that dance craze? "The forbidden dance". But yet the only ones that did it were drunk aunts and uncles at wedding receptions. Carlo Mucari stars as "Sgt. Mario Espozi" or "Pazilbo" to his friends. Carlo can be seen in other respectable films such as Night of the Sharks and Tex and the Lord of the Deep. Then there is Paky Valente as "Blinz". He has had a small career in Italian TV and films, and his filmography is pretty much all in Italian, so I'll spare you his highlights. He gets killed in this movie anyway, and it's glorious, which I will touch upon shortly. Finally, there is a female in the movie, and it's Francesca Ferre as "Vanya". Her acting credits are also short but I did notice that she played "Assistant to Chemical Specialist" in the European TV movie Big Man - The False Etruscan. So we got some big guns in this one!

Rogers, Espozi and Blinz are all running from the Nazis in the films opening scenes. They have escaped from a prison camp and are trying to make their way to neutral territory. Thanks to a priest and helpful young lad named "Igor" (who does not appear to be deformed in any way, so why you would name your kid Igor is beyond me. You're really setting him up for a lifelong career as a lab assistant or a bell ringer) the guys find themselves befriended by a group of resistance fighters. The resistance includes Vanya, who is a former nun, but still insists on remaining chaste, much to the chagrin of that Italian charmer Espozi. The resistance seek their help in attacking some Nazis, and they just happen to have a couple of old biplanes that they insist on using for the attack. Now, the battle scenes are a tremendously bad, as hundreds of German soldiers are held at bay by about a dozen resistance fighters, and the biplanes are used to drop bombs, by hand. I mean, literally, the guys in the biplanes are leaning over the side and dropping small bombs on them. This proves to be effective, because we all know that German soldiers are bumbling idiots, or else they would have won WWII, right? After the fighting is done, how does the resistance celebrate? With the leader raising his arm and yelling "YAAAY!". I'm not kidding. 

Along the way, the three soldiers hear about a cache of golden chalices that is being hidden in a nunnery that may be worth millions. They plan on stealing it and making their way to Italy. The idea of hidden WWII treasure is intriguing, but unfortunately, it's not played up and nearly forgotten until the end of the movie. Finally, in order to prevent the Nazis from advancing, a major bridge needs to be blown up. This is the "bridge to hell" mentioned in the title. So two people fend off hundreds of advancing German soldiers, while two guys set out to lay the explosives. I'm telling you, I don't know how WWII lasted six years when two people can hold you back. The hilarious part is that they go down like dominoes. In the ensuing attempt to rappel the bridge, Nazis finally do something right, and kill Blinz while climbing back up the bridge. The best scene of the movie is "Blinz" falling to his death. I always enjoy dummies replacing humans, and this was a good falling dummy scene. So the rest of the movie comes down to destroying the bridge, completing the mission for the resistance, and trying to leave with the stolen treasure to freedom and riches.

I enjoyed the film overall, but there was a bit of a slow pace in the middle where not a whole lot was happening. The action scenes were hilariously over the top. The villains, the Nazis, were not very interesting . The subplot with the treasure was not fully explored. So there were some marks against this movie. I'm going 2.5/5 with this one. 

I'm quickly becoming a fan of the Italian b-movie culture and should be exploring more in the future. These films can be hard to find. 

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