Anzio was a particularly bloody, poorly planned, utterly botched WW2 battle fiasco on the Italian coast. So it makes perfect sense to start this 1968 telling with a horrible Jack Jones crooned love song called “The World is Yours”. It doesn’t improve after that. Mostly fictionalized, badly staged by director Edward Dmytryk (deep into an impressive twenty-year streak of mediocre to bad movies), the action, characters and situations are all as bogus as the generals who FUBAR’d the real operation.
Robert Mitchum looks bored and plastered (he was both), Peter Falk resorted to writing his own dialog, old vets Robert Ryan and Arthur Kennedy waste their talents. With Earl Holliman, Mark Damon, Reni Santoni, Giancarlo Giannini, Patrick Magee, Arthur Franz, Gene Evans, the always dependable ‘get-me-that-German-officer-guy’ Wolfgang Preiss, and an unsung Austrian actor with the maybe-think-about-consulting-your-agent name of Herbert Fux.
A deserved critical and box-office defeat (a gross of $4,000,000 coming in 70th for the year), it’s the lousiest large-scale war film of its era, a poor movie marker for the 66,000 American and British casualties–and 27,000 German— in four months of 1944 mud and misery. 117 minutes to retreat from.
Eleven years before he would become ‘Matt Dillon’, a 21-year-old G.I. named James Arness was badly wounded at this beachhead. His injuries would plague him all his life. Audie Murphy also served at there (see and/or read To Hell and Back). Later, when he was a movie star, Murphy was visited on set by Gen.John P. Lucas, one of the commanders of the debacle. Protocol required the general to salute Murphy, as the actor had won the Medal of Honor. Reportedly, Murphy returned the salute but refused to shake hands, and walked off, saying “too damn many good men died at Anzio because of that sonofabitch, and I’ll be damned if I’ll shake hands with him”. Much of the blame for ‘Operation Shingle’ can also be laid at the feet of Winston Churchill, who rashly conceived the plan and on the star-spangled shoulders of all-round detested commander Mark Clark, one of the U.S. Army’s supreme egotists.