Directed by Frank Kramer / Gianfranco Parolini from a Sergio Garrone story, this is a routine Dirty Dozen inspired World War II action / caper film that illustrates what we might, building on the insights of film academic Christopher Wagstaff and screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi, refer to as an example of the “hat movie”.
By this, I mean a film whose genre could easily have been altered by the simple act of changing the characters hats and other paradigmatic details of costume and setting: substitute Nazis with Mexicans and occupied Europe with the US-Mexico border and we would have something close to a spaghetti western like Kramer's Sabata.
Luciano Rossi does his look
We begin with Gianni Garko's always smiling Lieutenant Hoffmann recruiting his hand-picked team of misfits, including a safecracker, a baseball pitcher, an acrobat, a strongman and Sgt Johnny White, who doesn't seem to have any special talents but maybe doesn't need any on account of being played by the man himself, Luciano Rossi.
Their mission, which involves the skills of each member in that typical Parolini specialists and gimmicks way, is to steal the details of Hitler's secret attack plan K to save the lives of 50,000 of their comrades, knowledge of the plan and its location having come through Margaret Lee's undercover agent, Helga Richter.
Lee and Kinski, to the manner born
The challenge is the plans are located in a Wolf's Lair like base guarded by troops led by the arrogant and sadistic SS Colonel Hans Mueller, incarnated with typical disdainful relish by Klaus Kinski.
Only in a Parolini film would a baseball and a trampoline be typical military equipment
A good ensemble cast, a high-spirited if anachronistic score, no-nonsense direction and a general sense of everyone enjoying themselves make Five For Hell worth a look for fans of the stars and auteur, though those with a preference for harder-hitting war action or a more realistic and historical approach would do better looking elsewhere.