As anyone that can even vaguely recollect their years in school can attest to, kids can be cruel. And Rock Hudson finds out the hard way in Hornets’ Nest, an all-but-forgotten Euro war flick originally released in 1970. Sporting his infamous ‘70s moustache for (presumably) the first time, the Rock stars here as the sole survivor of a doomed American unit dropped behind Nazi lines in Italy during World War II. Nearly killed along with all of his comrades after parachuting in (during footage that was excised from the final cut, and only survives in the trailer), Hudson is saved by a group of Italian children whose families have all been executed by ze Germans.
These boys — led by a very angry and bitter teenage Mark Colleano — are anything but sweet. Having survived the onslaught of the Nazis, the kids have begun to form their own resistance, and are just about to rape a female SS doctor (Sylvia Koscina) when the film’s one and only American actor comes to and saves her — only to force his own self on her later in the film! So, anyway, with his life still intact, Hudson decides to go on with his mission: to blow up a dam that will greatly impact the German army — and the group of orphans he takes on the role of militaristic uncle for might just become the perfect mini-soldiers to help him.
With a music score by the great Ennio Morricone, Hornets’ Nest makes for somewhat decent action/drama fare — though you’ll figure out why the film never became a classic about halfway through. Critics were displeased with the film’s aggressive youngsters when the film first premiered, though their occasionally violent tendencies are the least of one’s worries: the film just doesn’t have the panache many other Euro war flicks possess, and Hudson himself seems to be fairly uninterested with his own part throughout. The most interesting thing for me was to see Italian actor Sergio Fantoni complete with his accent and bleached hair portraying a Nazi.
MGM wisely issues this nostalgic curiosity to DVD-R via the “Limited Edition Collection,” which is their line of Manufactured-On-Demand releases. The film boasts a solid presentation overall, and the original trailer (which presents that missing footage I mentioned earlier) is included as the disc’s sole bonus feature.
Not really recommended, but good for a gander.