Double Bill
RANSOM MONEY. 1970
Director: DeWitt Lee

DESERT COMMANDOS
(ATTENTATO AI TRE GRANDI) 1967
Director: Ulberto Lenzi

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl



Ransom Money A mom (Rachel Romen) leaves her kid Ronny (Randy Whipple, the scriptwriter's talentless son) alone at a tourist look-out at the Grand Canyon, on some moronic pretext. Luckily the little bastard didn't fall to his death screwing around on the canyon edge without supervision.

In Ransom Money (1970), mommy lacks even a token "it's all my fault" scene after the kid is kidnapped. Or I should say "kidnaped" since the credits note that producer Grenade Curran plays the role of "the kidnaper."

The ransom is one million dollars, since our mommy driving through the Southwest is evidently a lot richer than her cheap clothes & rented car would imply.

Direction, script, & editing all bring "Golden Turkey Award" films to mind, & DeWitt Lee seems to have made only one more cheapy before falling into deserved obscurity.

The acting reminded me of 1950s & 1960s cinema house advertisements for the snack bar, wherein cheerful aryan families sing & dance the praises of popcorn & a hotdog. It was not just bad acting but vintage bad acting, & it would've been quite appropriate if they'd all burst into the song, "Let's all go to the lobby, & get ourselves some treats."

In fact the chipper tone of the opening sequences & the abominably upbeat theme song as well as the opening title card which reads $RAMSOME MONEY$ in jolly circusy type made me think this was going to be an intentional spoof. But rest assured, the very few funny moments were completely unintentional.

The "best" parts of the film are when there are no actors shown & all we get str pillow-shots of buildings in Phoenix & Las Vegas circa 1969.

FBI man Joe Medford shows up to help the police. He's played by Broderick Crawford, who I've always liked. He must've been truly hard-up for a film role at the time late in his career. He vanishes from the film before the end & does so quite suddenly. A phone call informs the cops he was murdered. The film's tepid "pay off" lacks the star.

It's my guess Broderick realized what a turd he was in & told them to stuff it up their arses & headed home. So the intrepid crew of this minnow had to write him out of the story fast & head for the surprise ending without a protagonist.

The detectiving consists of investigators standing around or walking around mentioning that they have no clues. Viewers pretty much figured out that the annoying investment counselor Malcolm (Sebastian Stuart) had something to do with it, just on the basis of his weird behavior, which could've been a red herring or mcguffin, but nooooo.

The big scene (with small effectiveness) is when the little boy Ronny is returned to his mom with a bomb attached. Annoying Malcolm gets killed by his partner & the off-screen primary "kidnaper" gets to keep the whole million dollars to himself.

Finally this "kidnaper" is revealed as he heads immediately to Las Vegas to start gambling. [SPOILER ALERT!] However, !!!SURPRISE ENDING!!!!, the money was printed with invisible ink & it fades away before his very eyes. [END SPOILER ALERT]

Add to all this that opening scene's grating, snivelling theme song "My Mom & I" sung by Bob Engemann (one of the original singers in the Mormon pop group "The Lettermen" -- but he sounds just awful without harmonizing with his pals), this film is like eating an icecream sundae that turned out to be made of salted cottage cheese with with an exceedingly old black olive on top.


Double BillRansom Money is half of the randomly & maximumly mismatched film duo on a double-bill dvd, along with Desert Commando (Attentato ai tre grandi, 1967). This is a better film if replacing the olive with a prune on the salty cottage cheese is any closer to an authentic ice cream sundae.

Five nazis disguised as British soldiers are dropped in the Sahara desert, where there's no chance they'll just cook in the sun & die, as it's only a jaunt over to Cassablanca where these nazi commandos intend to assassinate the members of a secret meeting of world leaders including Degaulle, Churchill, & Roosevelt.

Their leader is Captain Schoeller (Ken Clark) a good family man with a little daughter back home in Germany who has already lost her mommy.

Overlook the bad dubbing & the stock footage of the war & you've got a peculiarly Italian "take" on how American style war movies should be made.

What is most striking about the film is that the nazis are the heroes, but then Italy was on Germany's side in that war.

Not surprisingly it did pretty good box office in Germany as Funf gegen Casablanca for its message is exactly what the Germans wanted after the war, agreement that none of them were nazis & none of them knew the least little thing about the greater evil they in no way perpetrated.

Desert CommandosEven Germans didn't have the audiacity to make such a film until Das Boot (1981), so I guess that puts Desert Commands ahead of its time.

So yes this lying story even works in a little speech about the humanity of German soldiers while assiduously avoiding mention that these are nazis, whitewashing them of having noticed any fraction of the holocaust.

If you don't mind a film from the nation that was the primary fascist ally of the nazis pretending nazis are heroes, then there's considerable suspense as the commandos close in on the secret meeting, as well as in the action while the nazis are fleeing through city streets & over rooftops pursued by the bullets of American grunts.

Some like me won't be able to stop thinking throughout "Kill those fucking nazis." But the film wants you to root for them, & many will.

The oasis & Cassablanca settings are so convincing because the film was shot on location. As cheezy films go, this one has much that couild be praised, other than its apologetics for nazism that made it hideous throughout.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl



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