PROBABILITY ZERO (1969)
Label: Umbrella Entertainment
Region Code: O NTSC
Rating: M (Mature Audiences)
Duration: 91 Minutes
Audio: English Dolby Digital Mono 2.0
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: Maurizio Lucidi
Cast: Henry Silva, Luigi Casellato, Riccardo Salvino, Ezio Sancrotti, Franco Giornelli, Vittorio André, Marco Guglielmi, Maria Cristina Farnese, Paolo Magalotti, Fulvio Mingozzi, Tony Roico, Pietro Martellanza, Katia Christine, Renato De Carmine, Bill Vanders
In this Italian produced WW2 slice of war-is-hell cinema we have an Allied Spitfire fighter plane going down in Nazi occupied Norway, aboard the plane is a new form of radar equipment utilized by the Allied forces, and the fact that this has fallen into the hands of the enemy poses a threat to the war effort. The Nazis are transporting the wreck of the plane to a underground mountain base in Norway where it will be dissected and repaired, and the Allies must assemble a ragtag brigade to infiltrate the base and destroy the plane before it can give up its secrets to the Nazis.
What first caught my eye about this movie was that the screenplay was written by Dario Argento (Suspiria), a year before he directed his breakout debut crime-thriller The Bird with The Crystal Plumage (1970). It was produced by his father Salvatore Argento, and Dario had been cutting his teeth penning stories for Italian movies for a few years already, including Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) and Cemetery Without Crosses (1969), and a few other spaghetti war movies like Sullivan's Marauders (1968).
The Argento connection might prove disappointing to anyone expecting more than a fairly standard issue WW2 film along the lines of The Dirty Dozen (1967), with a rag tag crew of men assembled by American officer Duke (Henry Silva) who amasses a small squad of mercenaries willing to join his team, sometimes under coercion, for what has been deemed a "probability zero" mission with almost no chance of success or survival. It's fun stuff for what it is, with way more production value than I had envisioned going into it, we get decent WWII Nazi costuming, and some fun action set pieces at sea, on the battlefield, on the mountain, and even some submersible underwater action in a mined river, leading up to a full-on assault at the underground Nazi base, which was action-packed. Along the way there's plenty of small skirmishes, turmoil and tension amidst the group that all adds up to a gritty war film that moves along swiftly.
Henry Silva (Escape from the Bronx) is the main attraction here, a sort of duplicitous bad ass willing to kill his own men if they disobey or stray from the mission, at one point taking out an AWOL member of the brigade with a sniper rifle when it becomes apparent he's heading for the hills. The men that make up his misfit brigade are a good bunch, there's not much depth to any of them but they do what they need to do, getting the mission done against the odds. We have the usual array of miscreants - a mountain climber accused of cowardice, a black market smuggler, an Italian POW with a penchant for torpedoes, and a troublesome frogman/saboteur, plus blond femme fatale (Maria Cristina Farnese, The Conspirators) who is not above using her curvy body to get what she needs from the Nazi scum.
It all comes to a proper head at the Nazi base in Norway, the men crawling through an AC duct, dragging along a rather large torpedo, which they use to blast the Nazi base (and the plane with the top-secret radar system) to smithereens, but not without some casualties to the Allied team, but trust me they take a metric ton of Nazi to the grave with them, ha ha.
The action is pretty damn good throughout, the production value is high, and while I am pretty sure this was shot in Spain through he magic of color grading it does have a certain cold Norway atmosphere, and to be honest I wouldn't know Norway from Spain anyway, so they convinced me at least. The action is plenty gritty, loads of bullets flying, stressful dramatic tension and Argento stuffs the story it with some convoluted story stuffing. It makes for a damn decent WWII flick with plenty of action, I'll definitely be adding a few more of the spaghetti war flicks to my to-watch list, this was fun.
Audio/Vidoe: Probability Zero (1969) arrives on region-free NTSC formatted DVD from Australian label Umbrella Entertainment in anamorphic widescreen, framed in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio The source looks beats to Hell with all manner of blemish, vertical scratches, dirt, fading and blown-out whites - it certainly has a grindhouse feel about it. Likewise the English DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono audio audio is boxy with distortion, with plenty of snaps, crackles and pops, but the whole affair was watchable, and it didn't detract much from my viewing. The DVD is bare-bones, there's no start-up menu, it goes straight into the feature. There are no subtitle options, and no extras.
Fans of Italian-made WW2 films should enjoy this one, plenty of cool scenery and gritty action, a fun turn from Henry Silva as a badass and a simple but action packed war-story that keeps the momentum moving forward.