aka THE BIGGEST BATTLE
aka THE GREAT BATTLE
aka BATTLE FORCE
(Italy - 1978)
Directed by Umberto Lenzi. Written by Umberto Lenzi and Cesare Frugoni. Cast: Helmut Berger, Samantha Eggar, Giuliano Gemma, John Huston, Stacy Keach, Ray Lovelock, Henry Fonda, Edwige Fenech, Evelyn Stewart (Ida Galli), Aldo Massasso, Venantino Venantini, Guy Doleman, Patrick Reynolds, Rik Battaglia, Andrea Bosic, Giuseppe Castellano, Luciano Catenacci, Giovanni Cianfriglia, Geoffrey Copleston, Tom Felleghy, Manfred Freyberger, Marco Guglielmi, Fulvio Mingozzi, Giacomo Rossi Stuart, Bill Vanders, Robert Spafford, Olga Pehar Lenzi. (PG, 102 mins)
WWII movies were extremely popular all over the world from the mid-1960s through the 1970s, and journeyman Italian director Umberto Lenzi was no stranger to the genre. He'd already made "macaroni combat" movies like 1967's DESERT COMMANDOS and 1969's BATTLE OF THE COMMANDOS in response to the 1967 blockbuster THE DIRTY DOZEN, but then he moved into gialli like 1972's SEVEN BLOODSTAINED ORCHIDS and really hit his stride with a string of ridiculously entertaining and extraordinarily violent poliziotteschi like 1974's ALMOST HUMAN and 1976's ROME ARMED TO THE TEETH among many others. But between his crime movies and his jumping on the post-CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST gut-muncher bandwagon with 1980's EATEN ALIVE and 1981's CANNIBAL FEROX, Lenzi cranked out two more "macaroni combat" films. Differing from the DIRTY DOZEN-inspired "men on a mission" formula of his late '60s genre contributions, 1978's THE GREATEST BATTLE and 1979's FROM HELL TO VICTORY (which starred George Peppard and George Hamilton, the same year he had a huge hit with LOVE AT FIRST BITE) seemed like responses to the more large-scale, all-star ensemble epics that were being produced at that time, like 1976's MIDWAY, 1976's THE EAGLE HAS LANDED, and 1977's A BRIDGE TOO FAR. Both films had casts of big-name actors who carried significantly more prestige than you'd expect in a run-of-the-mill Italian knockoff, but from the looks of THE GREATEST BATTLE, the entire budget went to paying those actors because for the most part, it looks like how a WWII epic might turn out if it was directed by Jess Franco or Al Adamson.