Italiani Brava Gente aka Attack and Retreat (1964) Needs to be remastered

I was wondering the other day (since I’m in the middle of reading Elsa Morante’s La Storia aka History) if there were any Italian war movies on the Italians on the Eastern front. Purely accidentally I found this movie Italiani Brava Gente aka Attack and Retreat, an Italian-Russian co-production.

Italiani Brava Gente depicts the unsuccessful and tragic Battle of the Don. The Italians role during WWII wasn’t exactly glorious (I’m not talking of the Resistance!) and this movie seems to bear testimony of this.

There are bits and pieces of it on YouTube but, as you will see, in very bad condition. This is deplorable as the movie looks very interesting. If ever a movie needed to be remastered, I think it’s this one. And yes, you see correctly, Peter Falk is in it.

Has anyone seen this or any other Italian war movie (apart from Roma, Open City aka Roma, Città Aperta)?


15 thoughts on “Italiani Brava Gente aka Attack and Retreat (1964) Needs to be remastered

  1. warmoviebuff says:

    I am vaguely familiar with it. It is in my Brassey’s Guide to War Films and gets a 4/5. I am aware of no other WWII Italian army films which is not surprising. Even the Italians would not want to relive their pitiful performance in that war. Here’s a joke I heard as a kid: “Did you hear about the new Italian tank? It has four speeds – one forward and three in reverse.”

    This movie sounds intriguing and I would like to see it someday.

    • There seem to be far more Italian war movies as I found out meanwhile. I did a search on Italian sites and there were loads. I’ll have to have proper look.
      I think this one might be worth watching.
      I had a feeling they did a lot of running on the Eastern front. Back home that is. Who can blame them? The Italian people were far less fascist than the German people were Nazis.

    • Tonio says:

      It’s more about wanting to forget to have been of the wrong side than “not wanting to relive a pitiful performance” when an army is badly equipped and led. And there are more WWII Italian Army films, though not many. They include “El Alamein – The Line of Fire” (which is very good IMO), “The battle of El Alamein”, “The War is Over”, “Phantoms of the Sea”, “Heroic Charge”, “Hell Raiders of the Deep”, “The Patrol of Amba Alagi”, and others.

      Meanwhile, in real life the Italian tanks of the Ariete Division fought till they were completely wiped out by fairly superior British armour to cover the retreat of the Afrika Korps at El Alamein. And I’m not event talking of the battle of Bir el Gubi…

  2. TBM says:

    It is so depressing how many movies are deteriorating. As a history person and a movie lover, it breaks my heart.

    • You mean the bad quality, right? Yes, I agree, one can hardly watch this. But some of the remstered movies look quite good. The problem is, if nobody wants to watch it, they will not do it.

  3. beb says:

    This is very late but I ran across your page as I was looking for information on the movie. I saw this as a kid in either the late 60s or early 70s. I remember it as being riveting and unlike anything I’d ever seen before. It was the first movie I’d seen that portrayed war as bleak and ugly, without any of the glory that I was used to with the typical fare on TV and at the theater. There are images that are seared into my brain and for years I’ve wondered what the title was so I could find it again. Well I finally did figure it out through googling and the one scene that was so effective is mentioned in the description.

    It is on youtube now but without English subtitles. Of course I would rather see it as a good print but I’ll be happy if I can just find a copy with subs. I live outside the US so I don’t have the typical netflix options.

  4. Jean says:

    I saw this movie in 1971 or 72 at a small theatre near the University of Washington, Seattle. It made an indelible impression on me, and over the decades, off and on, I’ve made a few attempts to find a copy of it. I don’t believe any movie I’ve seen since has made such a lasting impression on me, and I would love to see it again to see what it was that affected me so deeply. I left the theatre with a feeling of genuine awe that the will to live inspires in people who are in mortal danger. I would like to know if some 40 years later I would still find it as compelling. For some reason, this movie came up in conversation again recently, and I made another attempt to find it. I was delighted to find the entire, original movie on U Tube, but alas, I don’t speak Italian. There is an English-dubbed version of it, Attack and Retreat, but from what I’ve read, this version is considerably pared down from the original. It might be better than nothing, though. It is not available through Netflix, but can be purchased. I would love to see this one remade, but I’m afraid it is too obscure

    • Thanks a lot for your comment. I should really make an effort and try to watch it. People who saw it, always think very highly of it. Seeing it in a cinema must have enhanced the experience, not like watching it on YouTube. From what I saw so far, it loks very grainy, very far from the usuall glossy looking war movies. I’m afraid that excatly this quality would be lost in a remake. I’m not sure whether there is a huge difference between the dubbed and the Italian version but I could imagine. Subtitles on older Italian and French movies are mostly quite shabby too.
      I hope you can find it somehow.

    • nem baj says:

      Yes, I guess we’ll have to wait, or watch out for screenings at a Film Library near you.

      The Italian version on youtube is from the TV/VHS short edit, and so is the US DVD. Mosfilm, the Russian co-producer, has a much better quality transfer of the long version (you can see that on youtube also, as well as on but it is over-dubbed in, well, Russian.

  5. Kevan Simon says:

    I saw this movie in Paris in the mid 60’s under the title Le Bataillon Perdu. I was moved by the film’s story line and images. In the mid 80’s I wanted to find the film and eventually located a vhs version under the title Attack and Retreat through a business called Hollywood’s Attic. Interest in this film is well founded. It stands out both filmically and as a stark condemnation of facism.

  6. Elizabeth says:

    I was lucky enough to see this movie, Italiani Brava Gente, screened at Middlebury College in the early 1990’s when Giuseppe De Santis was in residence at the Italian School. It made an indelible impression on me even though I’ve only seen it once. I have not seen the English version, Attack and Retreat, but I think it would be worth watching in the original Italian with English subtitles.

    • Thanks for your comment, Elizabeth. I had almost forgotten about this. I’m glad to hear you liked it. I would want to watch it with subtitles. And I really should watch it.

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