Anzio (US title), also known as Lo sbarco di Anzio (original Italian title) or The Battle for Anzio (UK title), is a 1968 Technicolor war film in Panavision, an Italian and American co-production, about Operation Shingle, the 1944 Allied seaborne assault on the Italian port of Anzio in World War II. It was adapted from the book Anzio by Wynford Vaughan-Thomas, who had been the BBC war correspondent at the battle.
The film stars Robert Mitchum, Peter Falk, and a variety of international film stars, who mostly portray fictitious characters based on actual participants in the battle. The two exceptions were Wolfgang Preiss and Tonio Selwart, who respectively played Field Marshal Albert Kesselring and General Eberhard von Mackensen. The film was made in Italy with an Italian film crew and produced by Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis; however, none of the main cast were Italian, nor were there any major Italian characters. The film was jointly directed by Edward Dmytryk and Duilio Coletti.
In the English language version, Italians are portrayed speaking their native language, but in scenes involving the German military commanders, these speak English to each other.
After meeting a general, war correspondent Dick Ennis (Robert Mitchum) is assigned to accompany US Army Rangers for the upcoming attempt to outflank the tough enemy defenses. The amphibious landing is unopposed, but the bumbling American general, Jack Lesley (Arthur Kennedy) is too cautious, preferring to fortify his beachhead before advancing inland. Ennis and a Ranger drive in a jeep through the countryside, discovering there are few Germans between the beachhead and Rome, but his information is ignored. As a result, the German commander, Kesselring (Wolfgang Preiss), has time to gather his forces and launch an effective counterattack.
Ennis is with the Rangers when they are ambushed at the Battle of Cisterna. From there, the film departs from being a view of all sides and levels of the campaign to a story of a handful of survivors making their way back through enemy lines. The men take shelter in a house occupied by three Italian women. A German patrol arrives at the house, only to be slaughtered by the Americans. Ennis asks what makes one human being willingly kill another. Corporal Jack Rabinoff (Peter Falk) replies that he loves it, and his lifestyle makes him live more than anyone else. Rabinoff is based on a real 1st Special Service Force soldier Jake Wallenstein, who ran an illegal brothel of Italian prostitutes in a stolen ambulance. Most of the men, including Rabinoff, are killed in a shootout with a group of German snipers. (in reality, Wallenstein was killed by shrapnel at Port Cros during Operation Dragoon, the invasion of southern France.) It is during this shootout that Ennis is finally forced to kill one of the Germans with Rabinoff's gun. Only Ennis, Technical Sergeant Stimmler (Earl Holliman) and Private Movie (Reni Santoni) survive, and Ennis publicly questions the competence of the Allied commander.
The movie opened to mixed reviews in the US; many felt it did not work as well as Dmytryk's early war films. The New York Times film review was generally dismissive, and describes the film as "a very ordinary war movie with an epic title, produced by Dino De Laurentiis, the Italian producer... who thinks big but often produces small". In contrast, Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert had a more favourable opinion of the film, described it as "a good war movie and even an intelligent one".
Peter Falk thought that the script he read was clichéd and wanted off the film. At the last minute, Dino DeLaurentiis put Falk's name above the title billing and gave him his choice of writer for his character's dialogue. Falk stayed and wrote his lines himself. The production saw DeLaurentiis bring in for the first time another actor who made a debut, Giancarlo Giannini, who would later do international films and would work with director Lina Wertmüller.