Thu 23 Jun 2016
SKI TROOP ATTACK. The Filmgroup, 1960. Michael Forest, Frank Wolff, Wally Campo, Richard Sinatra, James Hoffman. Screenwriter: Charles B. Griffith. Director: Roger Corman.
What’s better: a bloated high budget war film that reaches for aesthetic and narrative greatness, but completely misses the mark or a decidedly downscale production that doesn’t aspire for greatness, but provides the viewer with a decent enough story and some well choreographed combat sequences?
I ask because the latter is how I’d describe Roger Corman’s Ski Troop Attack, a movie that is by no means an outstanding combat film, but one, thanks to screenwriter Charles B. Griffith, with just enough realistic sounding dialogue to make it a perfectly watchable low budget charmer.
Filmed in South Dakota over the course of ten days, Ski Troop Attack follows the exploits of a group of American soldiers behind enemy lines in snowbound Nazi Germany.
On skis, the men scout out the area and eventually make their way to a railroad bridge that they intend to destroy. Leading the group is the by the book (of course!) Lt. Factor (Michael Forest) who repeatedly clashes with the hot headed Sgt. Potter (a nearly perfectly cast Frank Wolff).
Joining them for the mission are the Southern good old boy Pvt. Herman Grammelsbacher (Richard Sinatra) and the ethnic Yankee Pvt. Ed Ciccola (Wally Campo). There’s tension among the men, of course, but none of it rises to the level of actual deep animosity. It’s more of a friendly sort, exacerbated by wartime. In some sense, what makes Ski Troop Attack watchable is that it is at its core a buddy film.
That said, the film is unmistakably low budget, with no big special effects or gigantic set pieces. But at a running time just shy of 70 minutes, the film nevertheless sort of works as it was surely intended: as temporary escapism. Look for scene in which a completely incongruous jazz score by Fred Katz plays in the background as three of the American soldiers line the railway bridge with explosives. It’s so creatively bizarre that it actually makes this quirky film more valuable to posterity than it naturally had any right to be.